When I first started into stone a mason friend helped directed me to purchase the following carbide chisels- Tracer, Pointer and a Set. When I started into my journey with stone I began to use my handy carbide chisels. They worked great. The benefit of carbide is the strength of the metal helping to keep the edges sharper longer. I purchased my first ones from Bon Tools. This was a great place for me to start with. Later I learned about Trow and Holden who actually make the tools.
One of the first workshops I went to by Dan Snow w/ Andrew Pighills, in 2008 at the Mohonk Preserve NY. I had noticed both Dan and Andrew when they picked up any tool this was the hammer of choice for this workshop. Andrew seemed to like the Fiberglass. Dan had the wood. Dan's hammer was a little different. ( 3) Trimming $182 - 2.5 lb )
I decided if both guys used this type of tool maybe I should try one on for size. I liked it. I found once I started using this hammer I rarely pulled out the chisel's. What I liked about the Trimming Hammer was it saving me one step. I didn't have to stop what I as doing to pick up a chisel. I was able to trim on the go. Keep in mind most of the stone I use in my area is very hard to shape. Butler stone really cuts down on the life spanned of the blades forcing me to sharpen them more often than other stones.
The key with purchasing the right tools. You have to first come to realize:
1) Not like A Superman Costume you will not become the best stone shaping master by buying a tool! Taking a workshop along with practice will help guide you to success.
2) One can easily become obsessed with tools, like I did when I first started learning a new craft. With the help of a good instructor - I was asked to focus on the natural beauty of the stone unbeaten. Moral of the story. Shape what you need to but don't waste time doing it. PUT THE HAMMER DOWN! Step away from the wall. (ok sorry I was thinking about cops and robbers)
3) Know your stone! Different hammers/chisels/tools will fit your needs based on style, stone harness.... Yes let's not forget your budget - just be sure to make a choice based on long term use. A Carbide tool is 2x + then a non carbide. Is it worth it? Depends on how invested you are? For me YES.
4) If you make the investment YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO SHARPEN AND MAINTAIN your tools. See my YouTube video listed below or others.
These are my Carbide tools back in 2012. I still own and use all of them and have added only a few more. The Pink duck tape helps me find them faster. I spray paint all of them to keep them from rusting. (Update 2017- Rust is no problem! A great New safe product called Metal Rescue can do magic on anything that has rust.)
Left to Right
1) Rock Pick $121 - 1.5 lb Carbide blade and 16 tooth bushing head. I use this a lot on some of my softer stone such as sand stone ( PA Blue stone ) great for taking off edges without running the risk of the stone splitting into layers. Down side it does leave its mark.
2) Trimming $192 3 lb w/Concave carbide double edge's both sides. Great when you need a little more weight behind your swing.
3) Trimming $182 - 2.5 lb w/Concave carbide double edge's front and single back. My Favorite for a little of everything. This with a brick hammer and I'm good to go.
4) Hand Tracer $76 - 1" Stock 1" 1/2 Blade. Great for splitting stones. Tracer Video
5) Rocko $82 - 1" Stock 1" 1/2 Blade $82 Great for shaping stone edges. Keeping the energy of your hits direct and kicking out. ( Rockin Walls Blog review ) Rocko Video
6) Hand Point $47 - 5/8" stock. Used for taking of high points Point Video
7) Hand Set $109 - 1" 1/8 Stock with 3" Blade. Used for trimming large stone edges. Works best with flatter stones. ( I have yet to use this chisel) Set Video
My favorites in order
3, 4, 5, 2,
Trow and Holden - Vermont USA
Starter Tool Set
Video How to Sharpen Carbide tools.
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