A Look at Stone Cutting Through the Years

Stone is one of the earliest materials used by man. Natural deposits of granite, marble, slate and other stones have served a wide range of applications, from practical to artistic.
The stone cutting process consists of two broad steps: extracting stone from the earth and then treating and shaping it for its desired purpose. Over time, a number of different tools and methods have been used cut stone.

Early Stone Age

The most primitive method of stone cutting involved simply hitting a soft stone with a harder one. This process dates back to, appropriately enough, the Early Stone Age.
At the time, stone was used primarily as a weapon. Early “tool kits” included hammerstones, which were used to do the work, and core stones, from which smaller flakes were struck to provide cutting edges.

Ancient Egyptians

Ancient Egyptian civilizations constructed pyramids, obelisks and some of the more stunning examples of stonework found in history. The Egyptians’ quarrying technique consisted of digging a trench around a block of stone, then cutting beneath the stone and pushing it out.
Once the stone was extracted, workers cut a series of holes with a hammer and chisel. Water-soaked wooden wedges were inserted into the holes, where they expanded and split the rock. Bronze tools were used with limestone and other softer rocks.

Stone Saws

Saws have long been a traditional tool for woodcutting, so it was inevitable that man tried to use them on stone as well. Unsurprisingly, saws made from the hardest materials available were still of little use on anything but the softest types of stone.

Marble Cutting and the Helical Wire

Marble cutting techniques took a huge step forward in the 19th century with the development of the helical wire. A continuous loop of steel wire was attached to a pulley moving five to six meters per second.
The abrasiveness of the wire cut through marble, allowing a greater degree of precision than had previously been possible. Helical wire cutting was refined in the mid-20th century, when diamond dust was embedded into the wire.

Modern-Day Quarrying

The quarrying process today begins with surface stripping, in which crawler tractors remove material covering the stone to be extracted. Sometimes blasting is done by drilling holes into the earth and packing them with explosives.
With CNC stone cutting machines, there are almost no limits to the objects that can be produced, from flat countertops to intricately-cut architectural pieces.

Tricks to Determine Which Natural Stone Is Right for a Project

Photo Of A Stone Cutting Machine - CMS North AmericaWhen it comes to stone machining, it can be difficult to decide whether natural stones, such as limestone, are right for a new project. Here are some issues that can sometimes arise with natural materials, which will help determine the best type of material for a stone machining project.


Erosion can happen due to weathering, as described below, or it can happen due to poor handling or excess exposure. One way to combat erosion is to use the stone in areas that are shielded from harsh winds by bushes or other landscaping.

Peeling and Crumbling

Peeling means that the stone is coming apart in layers. This can be either a defect or a result of the coating products used. Crumbling can occur if the stone itself is weak, but regular maintenance to preserve the material can prevent this from happening.


Weathering is an effect that occurs due to natural environmental patterns, such as rain, wind, snow, and heat. Most natural stone is extremely durable; however, unlike metal, it does absorb water easily, which can cause issues. Little can be done to prevent weathering, but it would be wise not to use certain stones, like limestone, where water will be consistently in contact with it.

Chipping and Cracking

Chipping can happen due to use or vandalism at the edges of the stone. A skilled mason can repair chips. Cracking, too, can sometimes occur with natural material. Minor cracks aren’t always an issue, but major cracks have to be repaired through either patching or total replacement.

While natural stone has worked as a valuable and durable material throughout history and across many different industries, it’s important to consider the placement and usage of the finished product when determining the right type of stone material. Stone machining can create intricate architectural elements, functional interior design pieces, and more using the right materials.