Tips for Cutting Stone Slabs
Fabricators cut stone slabs using a number of machines. Much of the work they do is similar regardless of the machine the fabricator decides to use. However, there are variations as well. Characteristics of the stone you are cutting impact the way you cut it. In this article we will look at some popular natural and engineered stone materials. We will consider the common aspects of cutting all types of stone. Along the way, we will also look at specific qualities that certain stone types have and how that affects the cutting process.
Cutting Natural Stone Slabs
The first main group of stone that we will examine is natural stone. Before we delve into how to cut natural stone, let’s define what we mean by “natural stone”. Natural stone as we use the term, does not mean “any material that contains natural minerals”. Rather, we define it as stone slabs that are taken (quarried) directly from the ground and cut into slabs with no significant engineering.
Natural stone surfaces range in hardness and in composition. So cutting stone slabs will vary to a certain degree. Both the hardness and the composition can impact the needed equipment and cutting procedure. The basic steps for cutting natural stone are:
- Select the proper diamond blade for cutting the targeted material.
- Set up your saw for cutting the stone slab.
- Measure the slab or set up your template for performing the cut(s).
- Turn on the water used to cool the stone and blade.
- Make the cut following the procedures laid out in the documentation for the saw and the stone.
In addition to performing your cuts using the proper procedure, you want to be sure your stone saw is maintained and in good working order. Inspecting it on a regular basis can reveal potential safety issues that could cause damage; or worse, injury.
Because marble is such a soft material, it can be tricky to cut if you do not have the proper blade or enough water to keep the kerf free of debris that will build up and make it more difficult to cut. Using a blade designed to cut marble can be a key to getting the best results.
Cutting granite is a bit of different story than that of cutting calcareous stones like marble (or limestone, travertine, onyx, etc.) because of its hardness. Granite blades need to be designed to cut in just the right way so that the blades wears “evenly” and gives you the best results. Additionally, you need a high quality bridge saw that can accommodate the granite blade you choose. If you have the right quality tools, you will get the best results. Selecting the best Achilli USA Saw for the job and working with a good granite blade like the Grey Leopard would be a successful combination.
Quartzite is just as hard and even harder than granite and when you cut it you need to use a blade that is designed for cutting hard materials. A blade that has segments designed for cutting hard materials is you best choice as far as blades go.
One diamond blade that cuts quartzite extremely effectively is the White Lion by Weha. The White lion offers a German silent core for a smooth and quiet cut. And the patented segment design speeds up the cutting by 35%.
Cutting Engineered Stone
It may seem like cutting stone slabs that are engineered surfaces would be basically the same as cutting natural stone. However you might be surprised to find out that there are some engineered materials that require more time to cut because of the nature of the material. That means that your shop may have to accommodate for this. For example, you might hold all the engineered jobs that take longer to cut until the end of the day. Or, you might have specific machines set up for only running those materials. We won’t get into the details of why these materials take more time right now, but we will in a minute. First though, let’s start by looking at an engineered material that is fabricated in a similar way to granite.
In many ways, quartz is cut very much like granite. This is because quartz is hard like granite. In fact, quartz has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale. That is equal to the harder granites, which range from 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale.
One thing to keep in mind though when you cut quartz is that the composition is different from that of natural stone. True, there is natural material in it. However, there is a high level of resin in the sheet (or slab) that you are cutting. This has an impact on the way you cut the material. How so?
The resins used in quartz surfaces cannot withstand extremely high temperatures. This means that when you cut quartz, you must keep the stone & the blade cool during the entire duration of the cut. Otherwise, you could cause the material to overheat. As a result the stone can discolor form the heat. Using a blade that is designed to dissipate the heat and/or keeping the stone and blade cool with water are both effective when cutting quartz.
This engineered surface material is also very hard. In fact it is harder than granite and quartz. As a result, it takes longer to cut porcelain slabs. In fact one fabricator said in an interview that it can take as much as 3 times longer to cut porcelain and sintered stone (which we will get to shortly) projects than it takes to cut typical natural stone projects.
Besides the need to have the time to make the cuts on porcelain, using the proper blade can help too. If the proper blade for cutting porcelain is not used, you run the risk of chipping as you make your cuts. A popular blade for cutting porcelain is a continuous rim blade. “Continuous rim” means the blades don’t have segments. As a result, the rim is in constant contact with the stone and does not hit the edge of the stone with segments as it is making the cut.
When you cut a hard engineered material like sintered stone, you need to have a blade that will not chip the material. Much like porcelain, sintered stone requires a blade that is designed to resist chipping. The DEKTON® blade from Weha is made just for that purpose. This is a great blade for cutting sintered stone and many other extremely hard materials.
The DEKTON® material is a very hard material like those mentioned above and it too can be cut using the blade referenced in the previous paragraph. This diamond bridge saw blade works very well for cutting ultra-compact surfaces. There are other blades that cut DEKTON® too. Following the guidelines provided by the manufacturer and/or supplier will yield the best results.
As we have seen, there are different blades designed for cutting various materials. Which blade you choose, will depend heavily on what material you are going to be cutting. Having a basic understanding of the different kinds of blades available, will help you find your favorite blades for all each material you regularly cut.