First let us talk a bit about some misconceptions regarding stone carving and sandstone wall art that I have run across. One of the biggest misconceptions about sandstone is that it is a soft stone. On the contrary it is very abrasive and if the wrong tools are used it will eat up your equipment very quickly including tools coated in tungsten carbide and even titanium carbide Wood Carving. Another misconception is that soaking a piece of sandstone in water will make it softer and more easily carved. Not true, what water will help with is the life of your bits and chisels and keeping the dust down.
Now here are a few things that I have found work. One of the best tools for the initial stabilization of each stone is a hammer drill. All though it is truly amazing to watch the stone wear down the steel chisels of the hammer drill to a mere nub. The stabilization process is completed with a plain, old fashioned, putty knife and yes they get worn down, too. It is always great feeling when I wear my tools down to their handles. During these steps it is helpful to keep your stone moist just to restrict the dust. As for carving the final images in the stone wall art I have found nothing works better than diamond tipped chisels, bits and burrs. Now here is where the water really comes into play. You must keep your diamond covered tools cool. If you do not the adhesive will over heat and all your diamond chips will fall off whatever surface they have been adhered to making your chisels, bits or burrs useless.
I have covered briefly some of the tips and techniques that I discovered work well for hand carved stone wall art particularly if you are working with sandstone. As you can see it is not a highly technical field and can be entered into with a variety of low cost tools. It takes a lot of heart and a bit of determination but with the right equipment and a vision of what you would like to accomplish hand carved stone is a very rewarding endeavor. Never be afraid to try different tools and different techniques as this is how we learn what works and what we should stay away from. I know I will be trying new things and will keep everyone posted of my discoveries.
Ron White, stone carver and entrepreneur, has been carving stone since 1993 and is shown in more than 40 galleries across the US. Prior to beginning his work with hand carved stone Ron has worked extensively with leather, wood cabinetry and even jewelry. Learn more about Ron White, his work, or purchase your own selection at
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