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How to Cut Stone with Hand Tools

Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough demonstrates various techniques for cutting stone with hand tools.

Steps for cutting stone

1. Mark first demonstrated how to cut stone using a feather and wedge system:
a. Start by drilling holes in the stone along the line you want to cut.
b. Place the feathers on the outside of the hole and the wedge in between them.
c. Gently tap on the wedges using a hammer. Listen carefully and pay close attention to the vibrations in the hammer to ensure the rock is splitting slowly and carefully. This step should take some time.
d. Keep tapping on the wedges as needed until the stone splits.

2. Mark then demonstrated how to cut stone using a hand tracer:
a. Identify the line for the desired cut.
b. Place the hand tracer straight down on the line and tap the end of it with the hammer.
c. Slide the hand tracer along the line, tapping it with the hammer as you go. The goal is to create a channel for the tracer to eventually slide into.
d. Continue to slide the tracer and hit it with the hammer along this line until the stone splits.

3. Finally, Mark explained how to smooth out edges and cuts using a hand point:
a. Point the hand point along the bottom edge of any bumps.
b. Gently tap the hand point with a hammer and try to get underneath the bump.
c. Continue this process slowly and carefully until the bump separates from the stone.


Mark demonstrated a variety of stone cutting tools, including feather and wedges, a hand tracer, and a hand point. These can all be found at home centers and masonry supply stores.