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Breaking and Stabilization: First Two Steps in Stone Carving
By Ron T White

Breaking and stabilization are the arguably two of the most important steps when carving stone. I will describe in the following paragraphs the process that I undertake to break each stone to its proper size and then the techniques used to stabilize each piece. This is a fairly labor intensive process and the consequence can be devastating if the steps are not done correctly. If mistakes are made at this point in the game you can end up trying to carve a stone that is flaky and unstable.

The first step is obviously breaking the stone down to size. This seems pretty simple but can get a little tricky. I use a piece of an iron I-beam that used to be the front bumper of my old Ford Ranger Pick Up. I try to find second lives for all things and this one has sure come in handy. I pick up a large piece of sandstone and strike it across the edge of the metal beam breaking it along the stones natural fault lines. There are times when unseen cracks or faults result in a wild break but generally if you read the stone correctly you will end up with correct size for your use. Next you give your broken piece the once over deciding which edge is suitable for a bottom and which side is going to be the front of the piece where the design will be carved.

There is no doubt the next step is one of the most difficult in the stone carving process. Stabilization is very messy, time consuming and tiring. It is done with a variety of tools. I like to wet the stone down in a bucket of water before working on it to keep the dust down and help spot layers and fissures. Working with sandstone can be tricky when trying to peel off the different layers to get to a stable even carving surface. If there are large layers to be removed a hammer drill with a metal chisel attachment can be your best bet. This is loud and can be tiring but is very effective at breaking through the different layers. For the finer work I like to use putty knives of all shapes and size. When they start getting worn down and dull a quick turn on the grinder will get them into fine working condition once again. Finally to smooth out the broken edges of the sandstone I prefer to scrape it against another piece of stone. This same technique is used to smooth each corner and give the whole piece a finished look and feel.

This has been a brief overview of the breaking and stabilization process. One should take the time to complete these steps carefully. As I stated before these processes could easily be considered some of the most important steps in creating your hand carved stone wall art. If breaking and stabilization are not done correctly it could jeopardize the quality of your artwork.


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