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Wire saws for faceting boulders

Does anyone on Orchid have experience with wire saws? I have a
boulder which has a face which is approximately 6x18x13x19 (sides and
in feet). I was looking at the Husqvarna diamond wire saw and
wondering if it could be used to cut a facet of this size.

If I had to solve your problem id do as follows.

  1. Identify the type of rock your bolder is

  2. Look at the Husky wire saw specifications to see if the throat
    size, ie wether the cut you want will fit between the drive wheels.

Diamond will cut just about anything, tho wether its worth your
while only you know.

  1. consider asking a graveyard headstone maker to do it for you. You
    need to find a way to get vthe bolder to him, If your dimensions are
    in feet!! then you bolder will weigh over a hunded tons.

Not really practical to move it about.

  1. If its soft rock, you could cut it with a tungsten carbide hand
    saw for stone.

  2. Or use traditional stone masons tools,hammer and chisel. They will
    do the job.

Please clarify your dimensions and stone type.

You have a 4-dimensional boulder? Don’t facet it; make it into a
Klein bottle.

Thank you, Ted. This is very helpful. The boulder will not be moved.
Much of its finished value will be because of its scenic location
(next to the Canada Trail etc.). “Location, location, location” as
they say in marketing. It is of course irregular in shape but the
biggest face (longest circumference) measures 18x19x13x6 (in feet).
So that is 56 linear feet for the wire to get around. I suppose a
diamond chain saw could cut a groove across the middle if necessary
but that might spoil the appearance. After the cutting, we need to
then find an engraving machine which will allow us to “write” on the
facet. It is 12 feet high so the top is an excellent viewing point.
The rock hardness is about 6.

As for final value, that depends on a number of factors other than
location. Artistic merit is the big one. Faberge eggs are complex
jewelry pieces and may sell for millions because of the complex and
high value artistry. How much value can we add by artistically
integrating other materials, eg metals?

I note what you say about tombstone makers. I tried the funeraries
and was surprised to be told that nobody in BC custom makes tomb
stones any more. I do not know where they get them but if anyone
knows a State close to BC where they do this, it might be worth a
drive south of the 49th.

You are right that it is > 100 tons. Some is also hidden below
ground level and I estimate 150 tons. If we cut it down 50% that
leaves a lot of chips. Then there is a secondary issue as to how to
carve the chips. If the 100 ton stone becomes a famous tourist
attraction and valuable, 50 tons of chips increase in value. How do
we carve them, eg to make small replicas of the original?

Earlier on Orchid we discussed robotic arms and You Tubes showing us
the carving of Beethoven’s bust etc. As I recall we were told that
robotic carvers are like those robotic surgeons who surpass the
"human equivalency" test (Moravec expression).

They are more accurate than humans. Do I ask for too much then to
look for a 3D scanner which will scan objects with great accuracy and
feed those designs into a carving machine? How is Giacomo scanning
The Pieta? Will the copy be made larger or smaller? How would the
Chinese make copies of Quianlong’s famous jade bowl today?

Suppose for example, we use wood or clay to make a number of
palm-sized models of the finished boulder in an artistry competition.
The winning model gets turned into the final stone in the field.
Replicas of the palm-sized models get scanned. The scans may be
increased or decreased in size depending on what the buyer wants. I
would call that “CAD”. The CAD code then gets fed into a carving
machine which may be desk top sized or much larger depending on the
final size.

I have cc’d a few experts who may be able to comment on the public
aspects of this project though most of it is “top secret” (haha).
After all, if DeBeers had revealed “Diamonds are Forever” and
"Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend" in advance, they would have lost
their marketing plan.

I’d suggest talking to the operator of a quarry which produces
dimension stone. I know that they use at least two techniques, wire
saws and abrasive water jets. The traditional drill, blast, chisel
methods are too coarse for what you’re proposing. You can do some
research online by searching for “dimension stone cutting” and the

If your rock is big enough, you might research the history of Mt.
Rushmore :slight_smile:

Al Balmer
Pine City, NY

You raise a no of issues.

  1. how you will achieve your project will not be clear, until you
    have done lots of research.

so amassing all the relevant technical and cost /time details first,
is a must.

  1. You might just as well start by opening a dialogue with the
    local, if you have one, husky dealership.

as looking on line at their diamond wire products lacks the simplest
technical details. ie, width of cut, cost of wire per meter/yard,
total possible length, and wether its oscillating or rotating, fuel
for the power supply and total machine cost.

Also if you boulder is rounded, youll have a problem starting the
wire cut. You will need to cut a starting groove first.

  1. Another reply mentions talking to a quarry that cuts big stone
    blocks. Was going to say so meself.

Here our quarries now use circular diamond saws, but in the past
they had reciprocating saws with sand as the cutting medium.

Also they would drill down the depth of the block, with Compressed
air rock drills, then put steel wedges in each hole and drive them
in. It would split the stone between the holes. Research Carrera
marble quarrying, and look for pictures of their use of wire for
cutting with sand and water…

if your cut off piece of stone is big and heavy, ie tons, you may
need to do this drilling and splitting first, then a cleanup cut with
a d wire a 2in wide.

  1. Next, engraving the lettering. The way Id do it is to get a laser
    profiling shop do the DXF file and cut this into a 8 by 4ft sheet of
    steel. Use that as a router guide running a 90deg diamond cutter.
    Will have to be 110 V as youll be using water as a lube and cooling

  2. All off cuts could be crushed into say 1/4in sized pieces then
    mixed with a similar colour cement or resin and cast in moulds
    replicating the boulder shape. Suitably polished. Again the logistics
    of moving tons of off cuts to be crushed need to be sorted.

I hope you have a deep pocket.
Theres no cheap solution to this idea.
Keep us posted how you get on.


Diamond chainsaw might be worth looking into. Polish facets with
angle grinders/diamond pads…

While I appreciate Peter’s enthusiasm for his monumental project, I
have my own thoughts about his chances, which I will not share. Good
for him if he can make it work. Since this has popped up more than
once, I’ll say it more than once - he is working in nephrite jade.
None of the tooling used in quarries is going to really work - well,
diamond saws are standard. But using wire saws and sand will take
years, ask the old chinese jade carvers who used bamboo and sand. I
suspect that their sand was probably emery, too. It’s like suggesting
that you can use woodworking tools to work steel, and it just ain’t
gonna happen. Jade is tough stuff and it’s a bear to work on a large

Diamond chainsaw might be worth looking into. Polish facets with
angle grinders/diamond pads... 

Thank you. That might work. Then lettering/pictographs on the
facets. Does anyone else have experience with diamond chainsaws?
Ted’s advice on field-portable diamond wire saws is also appreciated.
The biggest face of the boulder is 50 linear feet. That may be
practical for a field use wire saw if we want it as one facet. Or it
could be grooved and the face would become a number of stone pages
for the message.

We have very accomplished people here who do wood chainsaw art.
There is certainly a broader issue in this project which has to do
with the extent to which there is transfer in artistic abilities. The
wood carver who can do great things with cedar may not do so well
with stone. A canvas artist or sketch artist may not be able to carve

The finished product of a stone cutter/carver always makes a
statement. Mount Rushmore makes a statement. BTW what kind of stone
is it? Do visitors go there because of the mineralogical features of
Mount Rushmore? Transformer stones in local Aboriginal
cosmology/philosophy/religion have to do with exactly that,
transformation. And, as the Sto:lo Atlas says, these people try to
transform the world for the better. So the idea is to cut and facet a
100 ton boulder in an aesthetic way and behind that there is a rock
face of the same material which is about 200 feet x 60 feet. So you
see how this can snow-ball. If the boulder looks good, people will
say, what can be done with the rock face?

Success in an artistic sense and a marketing sense on the macro
scale leads to the same on a micro scale and vice-versa. Leaming
describes a 14 ton stone carved into a Buddha which led to a lot of
chips (300,000) sold as amulets at $20 each. The raw stone has little
value compared to the finished product. And in this case too, the
chips may end up having greater market value than the larger carving.
But I am still puzzled over those videos we saw on Orchid of robots
carving replicas of Beethoven’s bust etc. from scanned images and
doing so with greater acuity than any human.

  • Was that bogus or can we expect the same of smaller
    robotic/automated carving machines?* (lost a few days of emails so
    maybe I missed the answer).

Let’s make a logical leap to the likely truth of the matter. Judging
from the hardness of the stone, location and hints at value, this is
a request for on how to cut a large nephrite jade
boulder. Nephrite isn’t particularly hard, but it is very tough. I
wouldn’t use a wire saw for the job because wire tends to wander a
bit as it cuts. After it finishes the cut, you have to grind down
the face to make it flat. This step could be even more work than the
initial cut. I would use a drag saw.

A drag saw is a straight, flat band of metal that is drawn back and
for th across the stone. Usually free silicon carbide grit is used to
cut the stone. The problem is that as you cut, (and this is true
with a wire saw too) the width of the saw decreases. you make a
slowly tapering saw cut into the stone. The saw blade will wear out
and you will need to replace it. When you replace it, the new blade
will jam into the cut made by the thinner, older blade. I suggest
that you make a diamond drag saw to address this problem. Put
diamond grit in a bronze tube and braze it onto the edge of your
drag saw. Now you will have a saw that does not decrease in
thickness very much as it cuts. Still, your saw will wear out and
you will need to braze new diamond and bronze onto the edge to
continue cutting. Now you will have to invent some mechanism to hold
the blade away from the very end of the groove so it can be made
wider to accept the replacement blade.

The fact that you are cutting nephrite is important because it tends
to wear out cutting blades.

Of course, you will have to design and custom build this drag saw at
the site where the boulder is located. I have watched your posts for
a long time now Peter. You expect a turn key answer and in this case
none exists. You will have to get your hands dirty and do real work
if you are to accomplish what you want. Don’t expect a free meal
from us when it is not possible to be given one.

After you have finished cutting the flat face and polishing it, you
will need to “write on the face”. I suggest sand blasting with
silicon carbide grit.

he is working in nephrite jade. 

When was that conclusion reached? Peter thinks that the value is
primarily the location, and we know from past postings that he’s
alert for any mineral value, no matter how remote.

Al Balmer
Pine City, NY

I haven’t been following this as well as I could have, so I am not
sure if you have already discussed suppliers (such as Granite City
Tools) that make wire diamond saws that are used for just this sort
of purpose. This is how large quarry stones are cut from the mountain
sides. My ex-father-in-law used to manage a company that cut British
Columbia Jade in huge chunks, and they used diamond saws, just like
the rest of the industry. I have also seen wire saws used in a
documentary to quarry marble in chunks that may have been in the
thousands of tons. Obviously jade is a great deal harder than marble,
but some granites can run into 6, or 6&1/2 on the Mohs scale (jade
being closer to 7), and granite is cut the same way. Sounds like you
are re-inventing the wheel. There are companies that have traveling
motors with the appropriate diamond cable, that custom cut large
stone like this.

Thomas III

From the website: Over 90% of Mount Rushmore was carved using
dynamite. Dynamite blasts removed approximately 450,000 tons of
rock from the mountain. 

And Mount Rushmore is granite, Peter, an entirely different animal
from nephrite. Granite has a ready cleavage and a granular texture,
perfect for blasting. Jade (of both kinds) is more like a woven
rope, so to speak. Un-blastable unless you want to fracture the whole
thing at once. As one Calvin also said today - you need to deal with
reality. Saws, drills, grinding and sanding to final polish are ~the
only things~ that are going to do the job. You want to use robotics
and I think that’s going to be a dead end, ultimately, for reasons
that have been stated. You’re going to need a whole CNC CAM driver
system based on your specific tooling - there’s a quick hundred
grand. And no matter whether it is human or robot you are going to
saw an inch an hour and that’s just how it is. Maybe two inches, OK.
The trade off in abrasives with hardstone is that you think using 20
grit is fast, but then it takes twice as long to get rid of the
scratches than using 80 grit to begin with would. It’s not “Look how
fast this cuts!”, it’s the total time from gind to polish. It’s
going to take decades to turn that boulder into anything and it’s
just not optional. Abrasives only cut as fast as they cut and no
more. Push harder, raise or lower the RPMS from optimum, they still
cut at the same rate, no matter what. Grinding your 500 foot long
face at 4mm/hr is… Well, you figure it out. And that’s not
even polishing. Good luck, though. Hopefully you have done some
cutting by now, this has been at least six months…

You want to use robotics 

-J&J Donivan

Yes I do, but not so much for the boulder faceting. Diamond chain
saws may do it in concert with a Husqvarna wire saw and then angle
grinders. Also there is the matter of what to do with the chips. The
finished value of the boulder determines the value of the chips.

Do you remember the videos we watched here on the robotic arm
carving the bust of Beethoven etc? I think Livick (who is a
roboticist) was one of those who assured us that machine acuity
surpasses human acuity or as Moravec the robotics prof at CMU calls
it, “human equivalency”. This procedure goes from scanned image of
the original to the carving robot which seems to do the job in one
continuous operation without changing of end-effectors (tools). I was
also hoping Giacomo (Torart) could tell us how he plans to scan and
replicate The Pieta for Vatican which is an extremely complex

Now I have been assured off-list from a source I trust that the
acuity of a desk top machine matches that of a large robotic arm. And
I see no reason why in theory the scan -> CAM operation cannot be
done on a smaller machine as well as a large robotic arm. Indeed, I
posted to say that the Mach 3 controller (SW) on a desk
top unit works with some scanners. The question is “works - how
well”? But this kind of unit seems to be what is needed to process
the chips from the boulder. Slow? Yes. But if we need rapid mass
production at some stage then we turn to companies like ATS
(Automation Tooling Systems) in Ontario.

IMO the problem is just that this is cutting edge technology (no pun
intended) and the desk top unit technology has not caught up with
the robotic arm technology. As an aside, it does not seem
unreasonable to expect some day that robotic arms could go right into
the 200 ft x 60 ft rock face and carve a bust of _______ just as they
would in a factory.

Now if somebody can sell us a Scan -> CAM desk top unit which works
as well as those bust-carving robots worked within a budget as
reasonable as that for De Armand machines, we make a deal. Somebody
will first fly there to test the machine whether it is in India or
Italy or Illinois.

Sounds like you are re-inventing the wheel. There are companies
that have traveling motors with the appropriate diamond cable, that
custom cut large stone like this. 

We may be reinventing a First Nation industry, Thomas, using
technology appropriate to this era. The other day I was looking at
some stone arrowheads, very finely made of various stones and also a
jade chisel. All were locally found and although that does not mean
they were carved locally Dr McHalsie tells me they did work jade,
shale-slate etc. locally and that it is a lost industry like the wool
industry and the now extinct Sto:lo sheep dog (used for wool). So the
question is, what equipment do they need to get started on a
quarrying and stone carving industry here? That is why I have put
these topics out for discussion on Orchid.

I will personally get involved in cutting/carving amulets as soon as
I find the correct Scanner -> CAM equipment because that is a good
retirement project for me. But I expect this work will go on long
after I am no longer living. So even if an engineering company came
along and offered a great deal on the job, it would likely be turned

I have posted here on books I’ve read in the past year on the
broader aspects of stone work: Leaming on Jade; Levy and Scott-Clark
on Quianlong’s jade bowl; Zoellner on diamonds; Peterson on stone
work in Ancient Mexico, the Xinjiang book and now “Salt” by Kurlasky.
“Salt” starts off with the author buying a salt crystal from a mine
in Spain and goes into its fascinating global history. Wars were
fought over this mineral and its social-political history is rich and

The First Nation “transformer stones” are literal objects of art and
also metaphor. We transform stones and they transform us. Leaming
says the Chinese seem to call just about anything jade so I went to
some trouble and expense to get the Xinjiang book and I think I came
to understand in part anyway why the Preface tells us there are “44
kinds of jade”. The answer is social, political, philosophical and it
is similar to the answer as to why Emperor Q waged a disastrous war
with Burma over a “new jade” which his wise advisor said was not even
real jade (the tremolite-actinolite variety). Was all that expense
and trouble over “just another pretty stone” or was the stone an
excuse for keeping the states of Indochina in line? Would Q have done
the same for “just another pretty face” in his large harem of wives
and concubines? Apparently not because the book says a lot about his
romantic life.

There is a lot more to the value of a precious stone than beauty,
rarity and durability. On the psychiatric research list I put
forward the proposition that jade may have been the first projective
test and nobody laughed. Q carved his “Song of the Jade Bowl” into
the stone and wondered if jade has feelings. So I started a new web
site to put out some ideas on what the Mexicans and Chinese and
others really started they became stone workers. What would you say
it should talk about?

I mentioned that I had not been following this discussion from the
beginning, but I had no idea I was stepping on a dream. My life has
been (and hopefully will continue to be) interesting and exciting,
and though I am winding down, my dreams have been what kept me
moving. I simply had the bare info I put forth in hopes of lending a
hand. I have dealt with a couple of companies that sell the sort of
diamond cable and various sizes of motors that can be transported to
remote spots to cut for quarries. You obviously have a long term
plan that I didn’t know about, I’ll get out of the way for the rest
of you to have at it.

Good luck! Thomas III