Stone Carving

Stone Carving orStone Sculpture tecniques

All You Need To Know About Stone Carving!

Stone carving is the art of telling a story in a block of natural stone. The artist discovers the image that has been covered for ages in the natural elements of the stone. With the help of many small carving tools, the artist starts his journey in this difficult and complicated adventure of days or months of hard work with a hammer  and chisels, uncovering the mysterious images compressed by time in the middle of the calcium or sand that give the form of the natural rock...

Carved In Stone using Indiana Limestone for the Carnegie  Mellon in Pittsburgh Fine Art project

 

The prehistoric  artist had a very difficult time figuring out how to carve in stone. The artist probably threw one rock against another and one broke into a fine shape, suggesting a mammoth. That is what he was thinking of; he probably continued to strike  with a small rock to perfect his piece. His family probably thought he was losing his mind; he probably was very hungry...

In the beginning of humanity, people were illiterate; therefore, sculpture was used as an element to spread knowledge, explaining to others concepts, events, and stories in the most attractive way possible.


sculpture will stand for ever

How stone carving chisels were Created: true history? 


True history: natural stone has long been one of the mediums for sculpture. The artist learns what type of stone is better than others, what will polish better, or what colors will go well with another, as well as what type of stone will be best for outdoor  or indoor projects...

The art of stone sculpture  has declined in the last 80 or 100 years.  With new technology, it may continue to be replaced by  different materials like epoxy and metals. But stone sculpture can never be replaced completely, because  the action of creating an image out of simple stone is magical. History has proved this since the cave dwellers and today we are still attracted to this amazing  medium.

Art will stand the test of time


The art of stone carving has gained the nickname  of the “lost art” because there are not many stone sculptors in the world. The main problem  is time and money. Time, because everything is moving at a fast pace and creating a hand carved sculpture will take weeks or months.  The customer is unlikely to be interested in spending a high sum for a product that could be replaced by casting or with a simple, more economical one. The industry  is developing new technologies and new ways to create amazing sculptures by CNC(what do these letters stand for? Computer something carving?), so the need of stone carving has declined and with that the desire of becoming  a carver as well. 

It is great is to be part of the high status society of stone sculptors. You share the feeling of the great stone sculptors like the classical, Renaissance and Baroque artists. They created an amazing  amount of work standing today in most of the museums in the world. Just think about the action of transforming a solid rock into a beautiful three dimensional image, fulfilling your life and your dreams.

​how the great artis of the pass created stone sculpture


The great artists of the past created sculptures in beautiful  white marble, taking the time and patience necessary to tell the story in a solid piece of stone. They created this beautiful artwork that gives you  the desire to touch to see if someone has been petrified. In the movies, for example, the wicked queen in Narnia transforms her enemies into amazing stone sculptures. The movie director  had the same vision as you when you stand in front of beautiful marble sculpture.

In a sculpture created  by the great sculptor Antonio Canova, "Ugolino and his Sons" you see the drama. The father  is in the center and he is surrounded by his sons in the midst of waiting for a painful death. This is a very dramatic sculpture that in a glance will give you all the emotions expressed by Jean Baptiste Carpeaux Canova Can’t find Canovas’s version. It’s Carpeaux at the ​Metropolitan  Museum  of Art in New York. Canova did many, many classical pieces!) with his hammer and chisels. This piece helps us imagine how this great sculpture was rendered in stone long ago by Antonio Canova with hammer and chisels. Using his art and being a skilled sculptor, he “discovers”  the completed scene standing right in front of you in the New York Metropolitan Museum.

Canova transformed one simple block of white marble cut from a solid mountain into a jewel to your eyes, giving you many emotions and telling you the dramatic story of Ugolino.

That is what stone sculpture is, the imaginative and skillful interpretation of experience in an esthetic object. It has played important roles throughout history, as humanity attempts to master and enjoy the environment and to liberate themselves.

To be a stone sculptor is a privilege  that few people are able to handle.


Metropolitan Museum

Ugulino and His Sons the Pisan traitor Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, his sons, and his grandsons were imprisoned in 1288 and died of starvation. Carpeaux's visionary statue, executed in 1865–67

The Best Types Of Stone For Stone Carving

  • Alabaster
  • Limestone
  • Marble
  • Sandstone
  • Granite
  • Soapstone
  • Travertine

Saint John the Baptist  ​ Indiana Limestone Two River Wisconsin ​​​

I have read that the ancients, when they had produced a sound, used to modulate it, heightening and lowering its pitch without departing from the rules of harmony. So must the artist do in working at the nude. "Antonio Caova"

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How Difficult  Is To Carve In Stone

How much hard work it takes to created a stone sculpture? 

The new artist wants something that could be done in a few days or hours; we are losing the art of patience and  also to give the best of ourself to create something that will stand forever like the art pieces created by the great sculptors of the past...

The new artists  are not much interested in hard work spent with a hammer and a chisel, creating an art piece to tell the world their story. They don't want to take the time to discover  the images hiding in this rough block of stone.

We could say that new artists don't have the opportunity to learn the art of stone carving. There are not many stone classes available: some are in private shops and they could be expensive because the artist may need to travel or spend money on hotels.

The internet is a game changer and new doors are open to learn the lost art of stone carving.

How can you learn stone carving?

Now you can  learn all the basics about carving  in stone for free, in the comfort of your home, in your own  time.

You want to learn all the secrets of the grand masters, how they create amazing  stone sculptures you see in special .

 Join  me in this Free Videos Course of how to carve stone and you will have knowledge about the materials, tools, and most importantly how to start  carving in stone.

Stone carving has been part of culture  since the beginning of time and is something  that we should not allow to vanish.

The art of stone carving could re-born, but we need a few Michaelangelos or Berninis that will take  the challenge of going into battle with a hammer in one hand and in the other a chisel, to dominate  the heavy, cool stone and bring it into new life that will stand forever in the midst of the world.

If you think you don't have the desire  or availability to become a sculptor, you may be one because  you are reading this blog. You have the heart for it, and all stone sculptors  need people like you to support and help us in this battle of creating beautiful art out of stone.

​carving a Fish in stone

How to carve in stone


It is not that complicated, but is hard work as I said before. If you study and practice  you will be able to master the process.

To carve in stone you are going to need some material  of the best type for the sculpture you going to create.

You are going to need some tools: I dedicated  a separate Post to pneumatic stone tools. 
 In general, stone carving tools include special hand tools. This second blog will help you have knowledge  of all the tools available and the best for stone sculpture. 


The video is about all the tools necessary to start carving in stone.

Hand Stone Carving Tools

 

You need to select a block of stone; some artists select the block of stone at a stone company, but that is difficult  if your stone suppliers are miles away. Most stone companies check all the stone before they sell to you. In the past I worked with a few stone companies in Alabama  and it was their practice to inspect the block or slabs for cracks before they were sold.

Things  to consider: one of the obstacles of stone carving is the weight of the stone. Limestone  weighs about 120 lbs per cubic foot, marble around 150 lbs per cubic foot. You are going  to need a forklift, a crane or like in Michaelangelo’s time a lot of friends and workers and many horses to pull the stone in place to start carving.

My favorite sculptors that I study day after day are Michaelangelo, Bernini, and Canova. They stood in front of a beautiful  block of marble to develop a story to share with humanity. They believed these moments of expression were the magical way to preserve the story of humanity.


Birnini

Steps necersary to Start Carving in stone

 Handling  Stone You also need to remember that even though this material is hard, since it is rock, it can break very easily.  I have seen slabs of stone broken in pieces through mishandling. You can also injure yourself, so be careful when it’s time to move any stone. This is serious business.

After we take care of that step, let’s go to the carving process.

What you need to carve You  will need stone carving tools and techniques  you will find out in this blog stone carving chisels

Design  So you are going to need a design. Remember that prior to your purchase of your stone, you have a design or idea in order to know the dimensions  of your stone.

It’s best to have a clear idea of what you are creating. You could  make a few drawings or even make a clay model. When you create a clay model, you will resolve problems  before you start carving or purchase your stone. You should make a clay model first even if you are studying your sculpture. 
 The past great sculptors like Antonio Canova. He was able to create amazing hyper realistic stone sculptures out of marble by creating models and copying them into a block of stone, using a pointing machine.  

Watch this video of how to use a pointing machine  

  

Pointing Machine  

Pointing Machine
A pointing machine is the best tool to transfer your clay or plaster model onto your stone block. This video will show how this device  works and how you can make your on.


A pointing machine is a great tool created to take measurements of your clay model to transfer onto your stone block in order to create the sculpture. With the clay model you resolve  all the problems like proportion, composition, action and how the sculpture will appear to the public. Some artists think this is kind of cheating but it is not. Your model is your own creation. The clay or plaster model is a study to create you masterpiece, the same as when an oil painter creates a  sketch or study of the piece he is going to paint.

You can see in the original  models of Canova that the final sculpture  may change and become 10 times better, so it is not cheating, just using the  resources available to you to create better art for generations to come.


canova pointing  study

how to transfer your design into the stone

Now you know all about creating  models and using pointing machines. Let’s go over how to start carving.

You transfer your design using a pencil or permanent  marker; sometimes you could use acrylic paint. To start, it’s best to use a permanent  marker. Don't worry about the surface; the marker only penetrates a little, and you are going  to carve away the surface any way. I used a plastic sheet to make my drawings because they will not be  destroyed by moisture or tear apart like paper. You can use permanent marker to draw your design like I do.

You will use a saw to cut large sections to be removed by your hand tools.

What Kind Of Saw Do You Need?

Makita 16 Inch Circular  Beam Saws. F​​​​or your Carvings in a Stone or Wood Carvings  watch this Video to find out how great it works.

If you have a simple 7 inch  circular saw it will do the job. You will need a diamond  blade or a masonry cutting blade. The sides of the blade will determine  how deep you cut into your stone. There are many types of hand saw on the market from gasoline-powered engine to a chainsaw for stone. You need to ask yourself for what task you need this saw. For example, if you have a large slab and want to cut a straight edge the free hand saw will be a challenge. You will not be able to cut a straight edge with a 90 degree angle, so the best choice is the circular  saw or a skill saw that can cut 6 inches in depth. You need a straight edge; the simple way to create the straight edge is using a 2x4 lumber clamped to the stone. This circular saw is great for straight edge or free hand cuts.

After you cut away the materials, you are going to remove more excess  stone you don't need. For this job, you need a hand set stone tool which will break large chunks out of the stone block or slab by striking it with a four pound hammer .

You can  rough out your sculpture faster by using a point chisel. They are great tools, considered hard workers because  they take care of the big stuff fast; it is the main tool to use for stone sculpture.

Hand chopper stone carving tools

Hand Chopper  to created straight  edges in your stone. 

Hand Chopper 

The hand chopper is a great tool to create a straight edge in any type of stone when it is struck with the proper  size hammer. This type of tool is preferred by most of the stone masons when they need a nice clean edge on any job. This stone tool can be used for regular flat stone surfaces or polished  surfaces.

You apply the stone carving chisels in the smooth, flat surface only so the blade is placed at a slight angle and then struck with the desired size of hammer. If you prefer three  to four pounds remember the bigger hammer is going to transfer more power through the head of your hand chopper and with it you can break bigger pieces or a long straight edge.

Hand Tracer stone carving tools



Hand Traced   You Will Created Straight  Lines In Your Stone

Hand Traced  Stone carving chisel

Hand tracer:  the main function of this tool is to create a straight  line across the surface of any type of stone and with the help of the strike of a hammer you will  break the desired piece off. It is also used to mark a line across the large stone block to use as a guide for drilling holes for the purpose splitting the stone with the use of feathers and plugs.  The stone should split following the line from the hand traced stone mason tools.

With these types of handsets of  stone carving tools you are able to quickly rough out the big amounts of stone you don't need in your project. After  you remove most of the stone using this type of carving chisels, you go to the next type of stone carving tools to work the surface to the next stage.

Hand Point stone carving tools

Hand Point are the hard working tools you could rough out the entire  sculpture

Point Chisels. After  you take the most of stone using the stone mason tools now you need to move to the next type of stone carving tools that are  the most traditional tools. Great artists like Antonio Canova, Bernini, Michaelangelo cleaned the entire sculpture with this type  of stone carving tool, not an electric power tool, or fancy grinder or saws to get the job done. These great artists used the point tool do the work.

The hand point chisels are the master of the stone 

The point chisel or punch is the tool that does the hardest work. You can remove  a lot of material quickly with the right size point chisels, as they come in different  sizes from 3/8" to 1". The 1" is a great size because its feels great in your hand and will resist the impact of the four pound stone carving hammer. The best is to get as long as the manufacturer can make it.  Trow and Holden will custom make an extra long chisel that works fantastically for marble or limestone. 

The four  pound hammer against your point chisel is going to mushroom the head  toward the point. If you are going to use it day after day it’s recommended  that you get the extra long and purchase more than one. The tip can break with hard work and you don't  want to wait 4 to 10 days to get another one. It has happened to me.

The point stone carving  tools are manufactured in carbon steel as well in carbide steel; the carbide is recommended as  best for granite but you can use them on any type of stone.

The point chisels will give you the chance  to sketch the entire sculpture. Remember that if  it is too close to the finished surface, especially in white marble, it  will leave a white mark called bruising of the stone so you need to dress up in the finishing steps of your sculpture.

You can also purchase  a pneumatic point chisel for your pneumatic  hammer. I have used a pneumatic 1/4" hand chisel  that I filled with extra bracing to create the shape of a bullet. It changed the straight edge for a real curve bull nose and will break true the stone surface like limestone or marble very well.

Claw stone carving tools

The claw stone tool is created to break true the stone surface very well due to many points on the cutting  edge.

Claw stone Chisels are the cleaning machine. Imagine that they are multiple point chisels together so they break the stone true very well, they are used most after the rough surface created by the point chisels or the hand sets.


The Claw Sone Tool 

 

They come in different  sizes and styles: you can find them  with a small claw or with a large claw. The larger claw  shape has a fine point that will break the stone true. This is  fantastic, due to many points in the edge that will get in contact  with the stone. Usually the carbide will resist more hard work than the carbon steel, so the larger and more pointed the claws are,  the faster they will take away large scale pieces of stone, However, they will create a rough surface, which is why the next type with a less pointed or a flat edge will help you to get close to  the final surface of your sculpture.

 They are available for pneumatic  hammer, for a steel hammer and as well for a nylon or wood mallets.

The wood mallets or nylon chisels have a larger head that is round to prevent damage. You will have minimum damage with the long period of use that is normal.

This tool comes in different  sizes from very small like 1/4" to 3 1/2". You  can purchase these tools in carbon tempered steel or carbide steel, the latter holding the cutting  edge longer and having a longer life if used properly. Carbide is a hard steel but it can break as well. Some manufacturers guarantee  the tools for life.

Flat stone carving tools

Flat Chisels create a smooth  surface in the stone sculpture that can be the final stage of your project.

Flat stone tools are the surface creator, bringing the sculpture  to life.

This tool will clean  the marks of the claw chisels or point chisels and give that final look to your sculpture. You could leave your sculpture  with the finish of the flat chisels, depending on what type of stone you are working with. If it is marble or granite, you can give it a very polished surface using a water grinder with polishing pads that come  in different grit from 40 grit up to 4000 or 6000 grit.


This type of chisel is also manufactured in different  sizes, available in carbon tempered steel or carbide. Some manufacturers, especially the Italians, will make this tool extra long. The flat chisels are made as well to  use with the pneumatic hammer, and for nylon or wood mallets.

Bull Nose stone carving tools

Bull Nose Chisels are designed for creating any type of curves in the stone surface like a gouge.

Bullnose chisels will replace the job of a gouge chisel in wood carving,  but you can also buy gouges for stone carving. For some reason it’s easy to use the bull nose in stone and more traditional than the gouge. The name was given because it resembles the look of the bull nose that is flat and round to the side. 

These chisels are designed for creating curves on the stone surface; you could also use gouges, but most of the time the bull nose is  used instead. They come in different sizes and different curves as well. If you need to create a bullnose you can use a flat chisel and create the arc with the grinder.They are manufactured  in carbon steel or carbide as well.

Gauge stone carving tools

Stone Carving Gouges to create any type of arc or curve on the stone surface.

Stone carving gouges are created for the same type of  job as the bull nose, to create any type of arc or curves on the stone surface. There are not too many on the market, mostly due to the difficulty of giving the carbide the shape of the curve of the gouge. It is difficult  to find different sizes.
If you need some, there are sculptors who use wood carving gouges for stone carving; you will lose the sharp cutting edge created for wood carving, but they work very well for stone, especially soft stones like limestone.

Fishtail stone carving tools


Fishtail stone tools are created with a special cutting edge in the shape  of a fish tail. Their main purpose is to help clean or work in areas that require using the corner of your chisels.  They are manufactured in different types and styles in claw chisel and flat chisels as well.


Bend stone carving tools

Bent Stone tools’ main purpose is to reach difficult areas where the straight  chisels can’t 

Bent stone tools are created to carve areas that need special reach not possible  with regular flat or claw chisels. There are not many on the market, but you can make your own by using a torch to heat the body of the tool in the desired spot to be bent. You need to consider that the temper of your tool is going to be lost, so you need to re-temper again, make sure you choose a long  chisel to start with.

Carbide may resist the heat, but don't cool off the chisels after bending. Don't dip in any cool liquid, as the carbide will break or crack. Sometimes you will not notice until  you are using it, when a piece will come off. This is also true for sharpening; don’t cool the chisels in any liquid if the tip of the chisels is carbide. If it’s carbon steel you need to dip in a cool liquid; if not you will burn or lose your temper edge. 
Power chisels like pneumatic  air chisels are available in many different sizes and styles. This type needs an entire  blog so you get the best information about it. This blog is dedicated to this type of tools click in this  link to learn more about Pneumatic Stone Tools where you will find what kind are available  and how to use them in this video below.

Pneumatic  Stone
Carving Tools

Pneumatic Stone Carving Chisels are essential for  Stone Carving they will make the process more enjoyable

Types of stone for stone carving

Limestone 

Limestone is a great stone to use. The main ingredient is calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral calcite and it does not affect you too badly, but if you are producing a lot of dust, always wear a mask.

This natural stone is a fantastic stone to create  any type of stone sculpture. Is the easiest to work with, fantastic  for construction in building churches or any type of architectural application. It’s  also recommended for any interior design applications like fireplaces, counter tops, any ornamental  carvings and floors.

There are many types  available in the market  some are softer than others. Also, there is a great  variety of colors.

In the USA you will find:

Indiana Limestone

Kansas Limestone

Minnesota Limestone

Texas Limestone

 Alabama Limestone

The Indiana  limestone is quarried  in three different colors:  you can purchase gray, a cool gray color is one of the most  popular, useful for any architectural application with an economical cost.

The variety gray is a combination  of gray and buff colors. You will find a mix of this type of colors is not that popular because of this characteristic. It is very economical as well.

The select buff this is great limestone, more dense and light  in color, the best for stone sculpture. You can obtain a smooth  surface, but you can't polish it. Most limestone will not polish. This type is less popular  because the price is higher, but for carving it’s worth it. You have to consider the colors. If your project uses all gray, you have to see if the color change  affects the design of the final product.

Kansas Limestone  

The most attractive of this type of limestone is a warm yellow ochre color with  a gray mix.

Creating a stone sculpture  is fantastic due to the soft surface. Sometimes you have to be aware of clusters or holes, so keep that  in mind.


Marble

Marble is great to work as well,with almost the same properties as limestone. It’s best to take care of yourself, especially when you are cutting the stone with a dry saw without water or using the type of tool that produces the most dust. Air hammers will not produce a lot.

Sandstone 

Sandstone’s main ingredient is silica; when you are exposed for a long period to a lot of dust it can affect your lungs with a disease called silicosis.  The lungs are not able to break down the dust particles and it will affect your respiratory system. If you are working with sandstone, it is a good idea to wear a mask at all times.



Ruben
 

Colombian Artist I am a working artist since 1987 in the mediums of Stone Sculpture, Wood Sculptures and Oils painting...

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