Perhaps the most basic implement in any mason’s tool box is a chisel. These implements are little more than metal rods with flattened, sharpened heads.
Chisels are an extremely ancient tool, pre-dating mankind’s use of metal. Chisels can be made in various sizes, and for a variety of purposes. Larger chisels are meant for basic rough cuts, whereas smaller chisels are meant for detailed cutting.
Chisels can be made as general purpose tools, or they can be specially made for certain types of materials such as granite, concrete or sandstone.
The last, and possibly the most famous masonry tool is of course the hammer. Made of a rectangular cube of metal placed on a wooden handle, a hammer is usually used to transfer force from the mason’s swing to a chisel or wedge. Hammers can also be made so that they have one side that acts as a chisel by itself, cutting out the middle man of using a separate chisel to carve stone.
A wedge is a simple triangle of metal which is used to help split stone along naturally occurring fault lines. The narrow end of the wedge is placed into the fracture or crack in the stone until it can’t go any further. Then the wedge is struck with a hammer to drive it in deeper to split the stone apart. The force used on the wedge often affects just how the stone split. Harder force leads to a more immediate split, but gentler force might be necessary to guide the wedge along a specific crack. A wedge only works to enlarge and enhance naturally occurring cracks; it isn’t used like an ax to chop through smooth stone.
Another old fashioned masonry tool is a simple metal wire. This wire works much as a saw does with a wooden log. The wire is pulled back and forth across the stone and as the wire rubs across the stone it digs in to create a groove. This groove gets deeper and deeper, eventually going deep enough to cut through the stone. Since the wire has no teeth sand is added to the surface of the stone to act as grit. The sand then acts as the ‘teeth’ of a saw, and the wire provides the directional guidance for the teeth to cut.