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Cutting oil

Hello all, I picked up a used 20 saw and I am having trouble finding
oil for it. I went to a local dealer and has a medium grade hydraulic
oil for sale. The price is right and can get it in 5 gallon pails. The
saw has a cover so I am not overly concerned with misting. I would
like opinions from those in the know. I realize I can get oil made for
saws, but I need 10 gal. at a time so price has a lot to do with it
and the oil mentioned is priced right. I just need to know if the oil
will work well in the saw, or do I need to keep looking? Thanks, Larry
DURNINGS Rings & Things

Larry ! I have been using Kerosene mixed with 10w motor oil in all my
slab saws for over 30 years. 5 gals of kerosene to 2 qrts of 10w oil.
Bill D.

Larry, Texaco ALMAG oil is the standard oil used for many years. I do
not know the present cost, but two years ago it was about $1.75 per
gallon. I use ALMAG in all my big saws and have never had a problem.

Gerry Galarneau

Larry, I have a friend who has a couple of the 20" saws so I just
called him and he uses an oil made by Shell that is called Pella, or
one from Texaco called Almax. Both are cutting oils and should be
available at a local lubricant supply company. They come in 5 gallon
pail and cost about $6.00 a gallon here in Arizona.

Jimmy Eriksson
J. Eriksson Gallery
Scottsdale, Arizona

Larry - The very best lapidary cutting oils are food-grade hydraulic
oil, so you shouldn’t be far wrong. You need to check the flash point
of the oil at the very least. (unless you are in an area which gets
cold, in which case you need to know what the oil does cold too).
Even with the closed container you might want to buy some “Mist
Killer” additive like Raytech makes. Also be prepared for strange
behavior - the last batch of oil I bought doesn’t clear of rock dust
as quickly, and tends to remain murky for long periods.

Jim Small
Small Wonders

Hello Larry, In my opinion it is better that you use the right oil for
the job. Misting can affect you when you open the hood to move or
remove your rock. Your face will be right in the oil when you open

So buy the right stuff. To be economical you can add bricks to the
side of the tank to take up volume of oil. This way you will use
less. Oil can also be filtered through brown paper bags when you
think it is too dirty. It is difficult to face that first purchase.

Texaco makes Almag oil. Shell makes Pella oil. There are others as
good. If you plan on cutting harder materials it is best to use an
oil like these instead of the synthetic or water diluted
concentrates. Steve Ramsdell


Of course, the old standby used to be kerosene, but most have long
ago given that up for esthetic/health reasons. I state that only to
give you an idea of what is probably the appropriate viscosity.
Almag or Shell Pella oil was once recommended. I got some Pella from
an optics shop (eyeglasses) which bought it in bulk and was willing
to sell me five gallons. I don’t know whether the hydraulic oil is
the right viscosity or whether a variation from the recommended
viscosity would make that much difference.

Don’t breathe any of this stuff and watch the mist, as some of the
oils have a low enough flash point to be dangerous. A soluble oil
coolant in one of my old references is “Laurelton LT 60.” Maybe you
could get in contact with a saw manufacturer or dealer on the 'Net.

HTH, Roy


I’m not real sure if hydraulic oil will serve the purpose or not, but
here’s what I did. I live out in the middle of the cornfields
(literally) in Iowa. For me to order cutting oil for my saw from a
lapidary supplier such as Alpha, I would have had to pay a fortune in
shipping. So I called several of the local oil companies to see what
they had available. Lo and behold, both Shell Oil and Amoco Oil did
carry a “cutting oil.” However, Shell Oil only had it in 55 gallon
drums, but Amoco Oil did have it in 5 gallon pails for right around
$6 a gallon (compared to around $15 a gallon from Alpha). Since they
were local, it was no problem for me to pick it up myself and save
the shipping charges. You do need, however, to call their bulk oil
plants or main offices to find if they carry what you’re looking for.
Just a thought.

Rick Stutt
Wire Wrapping Etcetera (& Lapidary)

Larry, I was mistaken on the price of the oil. My wife says we paid
between $5-$6 USD per gallon. She pays the bills, so she must be

Gerry Galarneau

Hi Larry,

Hydraulic oil should work in a saw used for slabbing rocks. However,
on porous material, e.g… sandstone, turquoise etc., you might want to
use water. The porous material may soak up some oil, changing the
color or making it difficult to finish.

Probably the easiest way to remove oil from material removed from the
saw is to bury it in a box of kitty litter (the dustier the better)
or oil dri that’s used in automotive shops. A quick rinse in a pan of
warm water containing some dishwashing detergent completes the clean

Here’s a way you might reduce the amount of oil needed. It’s an idea
I had, but haven’t tried yet. Since oil is lighter than water & oil &
water don’t mix it has the potential for reducing the amount of oil
needed in the well of a saw. It also has the potential for a big mess
if it doesn’t work.

Fill the saw with water to about 2 inches below the normal oil level.
Fill the remaining space with oil. When cleaning the well of the saw,
siphon off the oil 1st. The whole concoction could also be poured or
drained & the oil decanted.

No matter what way the saw is cleaned, it’s still a dirty job.


Water is an adequate lubricant for small pieces of Turquoise and
other porous materials, but 1. How many of us have any un-treated
Turquoise? ( resin impregnated Turquoise is not porous) and 2. Most
saws are vulnerable to corrosion damage when using water and it is a
pain in the rear to switch back and forth. 3. You can avoid oil
absorbtion in porous materials by soaking the material to be sawn in
water for several days prior to sawing. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos,

I went to a local dealer and has a medium grade hydraulic
oil for sale. The price is right and can get it in 5 gallon pails. The
saw has a cover so I am not overly concerned with misting. I would
like opinions from those in the know. 

Hydraulic oil may work if you can determine its flash point.
Texaco’s Almag oil is formulated for cutting and has a flash point of
146 C. Pella, another cutting oil produced by Shell has a flash point
of 136 C. Kerosene has a flash point of 44 deg C, way too low to be
completely safe. Diesel fuel oil’s flash point is 60 deg C. The
Lapidary Digest archives has a number of threads regarding cutting oil
and can be found at

Since many harder stones can produce hot sparks while cutting,
savings by using an oil with a low flash point come at a high risk.
Many folks cut the expense of cutting oil by filling all of the saw’s
interior but the cutting well with bricks.

John McLaughlin Glendale, Arizona @John_McLaughlin

Hi Folks,

Nope - don’t try mixing oil and water in the saw. The blade
constantly agitating oil around will act much like a milkshake machine
to emulsify the oil and the water. You risk ending up with mayonnaise
in the tank.

Another caution is don’t use vegetable oils. Having run out of oil I
once tried an emergency mix of olive oil and mazola. Not only did the
stuff generate an amazing fog inside the saw case (theatre fog-effect
machines use -or used- atomized oil), but it also dried into the most
obnoxious thick sticky varnish all over the inside of the saw that
took hours and hours of scraping to remove.

I presently use Shell “Pella.” It’s thin, runny, slightly thicker
than kerosene and has just a bit of odour but not much. I actually
prefer Shell “Tellus” which is marginally thicker, about like cooking
oil, and has even less odour, but the difference is minimal, the
prices are about the same, and the dealer didn’t have it in stock when
I needed it.

Unless you’re cutting stone on an industrial scale, what you’ll save
in improvising with cheaper cutting mixtures is not likely to be worth
the bother and complications that may ensue. If you want to economize
on oil put a brick in the reservoir.

Cheers, Hans Durstling Moncton, Canada

Hey, y’all-- The studio I teach in has an old slab saw that I fool
with occasionally. It is always used with plain water, and is full of
rust. Since it is not used regularly, would it be best to leave well
enough alone, or should I put oil in it instead? Can the oil just sit
there for lond periods? Would I need to clean all that rust residue
off? If so, how? Thanks for all the great input! --Noel

Noel – first, if you use water in your saw, it really needs to be
emptied out each day (or each day you use it) and dried off so it
doesn’t rust to begin with. Yes, the rust needs to all be cleaned
off, and not allowed to return. this is the first thing you need to
take care of. Although from the sound of it, it may be more-or-less
beyiond redemption by now. Since you describe it as a slab saw, it is
probably a fairly good-sized saw, and should not be used with water
anyhow, as that greatly decreases the life of the blade. And since you
probably don’t want to have to drain it and dry it off each time you
use it, oil would probably be your best solution.

Yes, the oil can just sit there for long periods (as long as you
don’t do something dumb like putting a vegetable oil in it, which will
make a great mess that is next to impossible to clean off. It needs to
be a mineral oil; probably Almag or Pella would be best; these are
light mineral oils that have a high enough flash point that you don’t
have to worry about fires. Do not use anti-freeze, or kerosene, or
things like that!!! Cheers!

I have a Pixie cabbing machine, an all diamond system that uses water
as a lubricant, so I have no personal experience with cutting oils.
However, in the course of editing my rock club’s newsletter and
scanning other clubs’ newsletters for interesting items, I came across
the following tip which I hope someone finds useful:

"An excellent rock cutting lubricant, which is odorless and
considered non-toxic, is “Amber Light Mineral Oil.” Its product
ratings are as follows: fire hazard - 1, health hazard - 1,
reactivity hazard - 0 (on a scale of 1 to 4 with 4 high). It also
costs about 20% less than Almag, an old favorite of many rockhounds.
“Amber Light Mineral Oil” is available from a lubricants distributor,
Dion & Sons, at 1543 W. 16th St., Long Beach, CA, (562) 432-3949."
From The Rockhounder 2/99 via The Rock Bag 6/99.

Hey Beth!!! This is Nancy Camden sitting at Larry’s computer while
he finishes up some work. I said to Larry is this “our” Beth
Rosengard? He said, “that’s her.” I have your sis’s number. Looking
forward to meeting her and lunching with you. Nancy