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Which trim/slab saw to buy?

Hello, Well, I’m back for advice again. I am looking for a
not-too-big or terribly expensive saw that I can use for trimming
slabs and for slabbing small (up to 2") agates. I would be
grateful for any advice on this matter. I have the April 1996
issue of Rock & Gem which gives an extensive listing of all types
of lapidary equipment but does not previde much as far as
recommendations or ratings. Lastly, is getting a saw for both
slabbing and trimming a bad idea, and will I end up with a saw
that is not great for either? Thanks in advance for you time
and thoughts. Regards, Elizabeth

I bought a 4" trim saw and regret it. Of course you will find
beautiful chunks of petrified palm ect you will want to slab and
then cut. A little saw just cant do it. It takes forever and
vibrates and won’t saw anything bigger than 1/2 inch thick. Im
not an expert,do mostly cloisonne, but that is my experience.

Elizabeth. The best advice is to buy the biggest saw you can
afford. You always! want to cut a bigger and bigger rock. And,
yes, getting a slab saw is different from getting a saw to trim
rocks on. Trimming can be easily done on 6" saws and smaller.
Slabbing is easier on 14" and up.

Check out your local lapidary shop for used equipment – always
the best way to start out.

Jan MacLellan
Mountain Gems
Burnaby, BC

Elizabeth -

Arrow Springs sells a small (4" diamond blade) trim saw for
about $150. I can’t vouch for its quality, nor do I know how it
compares with other lapidary equipment on the market. I purchased
one recently because of its small size, but don’t know if this
blade would be too small for you. Arrow Springs is a supplier for
glass workers who do torchwork; they are one of the biggest
suppliers for glass beadmakers. A small family business, very
friendly, reliable. They have a catalogue. Phone # is 530/
677-9482. (9 to 5, PST)

Hope this helps.

I cannot recomend a specific brand of saw, but I think what you
are looking for is something with some speed control and no
vibration in the blade. It all depends on what kind of material
you want to cut.For the size mentioned ,I would suggest a 6 in. (
at least) blade. Personally, I use a Highland Park (long out of
business) 6 in. combo unit with a .006 blade for valueable
material, .012 for less valueable, and a .025 for slabbing. If
you can find a rock shop with several saws set up, perhaps you
can try a few trial cuts to see which feels best to you. MTR
p.s. where are you located? perhaps I can recommend a good
shop.(off list please)

Hi Elizabeth,

If there’s a local lapidary/rockhound/gem & mineral club in your
area, check with them. Sometimes members have used equipment for
sale. If not, maybe you can take a look at some of the units they

Since you intend to use the saw for slabbing as well as
trimming, the slabbing requirement pretty much defines the what
is needed in the way of a saw.

For slabbing the saw should have a a vise to clamp dopped or
undopped material in a fixed position. The vise should be
adjustable (left/right, similar to a meat slicer) to the blade,
so the material can be repositioned for repetitive cuts without
the need for loosening the material in the vise. The vise should
also have some means of automatic feed. Some machines use a motor
driven lead screw & others use a cord with a weight attached to
feed the material into the blade.

For cutting 2 inch diameter material, a 6 in. blade is required.
Blades are available in several thickness’ & plated or sintered.
The thinner blades are subject to warpping if the material is
forced into them. A good general purpose blade is aprox. .025 to
.035 in. thick. Percentage wise, there’s not a big difference
between the price of a 6 & 10 in. saw. In addition to being able
to cut larger material, the 10 in. will cut faster than a in. The
cutting is done by the outside edge of the blade (circumference).
The circumference of a 6 in. is 18.84 in., while that of the 10
in. is 31.41 in. The 10 in. will cut 60% faster when run at the
same rpm as the 6 in.

2 mfgrs. of saws are: Raytech & Gemstone Equipment. There are
probably others, but I’ve used both of these saws in the past. A
10 in. saw from Raytech is in the $600 range & is available from
many different suppliers. A 10 in from Gemstone Equipment is
about $475. The Gemstone Equip address is: 750 Easy St., Simi
Valley CA, 93065, 800-235-2275. They have a catalog with lots of
lapidary tools.

I’ve got no connection with either company, just a satisfied
user of both companies products.

FWIW: I run the saw room for our local lapidary club, we have 5
saws from 10 to 36 in.


I would highly recommend an 8 or 10" saw. They’re big enough to
handle a variety of work, yet still relatively inexpensive.
When you go 12" and up, the saws and blades start to get real
spendy in a hurry. Auto-feed is a matter of personal
preference. I personally feed by hand. It’s messy, but I don’t
trust my stones or blades to automatic except in my big (18")
saw. 4 and 6" saws are okay for very small stones and already
slabbed material, but are very slow for any type of slabbing. As
far as brands go, I’m not too particular. A saw is just a
motor, an arbor and a box. As long as it runs true, it’s good.
Saw blades are another matter. Lot’s to choose from. I
prefer fairly thin blades (around .020"), with continuos (not
notched) sintered diamond rims. They cut smooth, fast, and if
you don’t push or abuse them, they can last a very long time. Of
course, for every lapidary, you will probably get a different

And I’m still working on that sandblasting post… Got a
couple of jobs to do, though… and one of them is

Mark Williams,
Stone Broke Custom Lapidary

Elizabeth, Kinda depends on the extent to which you are going
to be involved with lapidary. I have been cutting/polishing some
of my stones for years and use a 6" trim saw for both slabbing of
small rough (about 2 3/4" max.) and for trimming slabs which are
less than appx. 7" x 4". Anything larger than this is too deep
to go through the blade or too big to fit flat on the 6" table.
For me this is adequate and I am careful not to purchase rough of
bigger dimensions. Mine is a Raytech which lists for around $170
(motor included).

A 4" trim saw would be a good second saw for inlay, but cannot
cut slabs from stones that are bigger than 2". It would be fine
for slicing small tumbled rocks. Then, of course, there are the
big guns - 10" and up for serious lapidary folk.

Do you know about Lapidary Digest (To subscribe to the Lapidary
Digest, send a message to, with the word
SUBSCRIBE DIGEST as the subject of the message.) and the Eclectic
Lapidary Ezine ( )?

Nancy <@Nancy_B_Widmer>

Bacliff, Texas US where I actually had to turn on the heat yesterday! Yeah!!