Cutting slate with limited or the wrong tools can be nerve-wracking for your fingers and the material. If you don’t have much in the way of tools, there’s no need to worry.
For all of you homegrown crafters and DIY enthusiasts, anyone can cut slate at home and with limited tools to get the job done, for instructions on how to manage that, this article will cover how to cut slate for crafts at home using tools you already have around the house, with a couple of extra steps for the Dremel and grinder owners among us.
In a hurry? Here’s the quick guide:
Using a firm and level surface, position your slate to hang over the edge and either clamp it down or hold it firmly to the surface with one hand. Using a trowel or something with a thick, straight edge, break pieces off using short, precise motions.
For the complete step-by-step guide, keep reading!
Table of Contents
How To Cut Slate By Hand
If you don’t have power tools, it can feel intimidating to look at a piece of slate and wonder how you’re going to shape it without destroying it. Thankfully, there are ways to do this without investing oodles in tool money or using what you already have around the house.
Remember, no matter which way you choose to cut, start with the thicker edge and cut with the grain of the slate as much as possible. This will save you excessive breakage and unpredictable cracks.
What to Use to Cut Slate
First, the materials. You can use any of the following tools to cut slate for crafts,
- Trowel or straight edge
- Brick or flat, level surface
- Claw hammer
- Slate cutter
- Slate guillotine
- Angle grinder
- Dust mask
The Trowel and Brick Method
To cut slate using the trowel and brick method, use the trowel to break pieces off in a straight line. Hang the slate from the side of the brick and use short, precise motions to tap the slate with the side of the trowel.
With this method, you either want to be kneeling on the ground if holding the slate by hand, or if using a work table, clamp the slate to the surface.
If working on the ground, you can put your weight on the slate to hold it to the brick, so it’s hanging off the side in the shape you want to cut off. It might help to lightly mark the underside of the slate with chalk or with a sharp edge and have this side facing up.
Line the straight edge of the trowel with the side of the brick. Use short, precise chopping motions along the edge of the brick to get the broken pieces to fall in a straight line.
If you use a higher surface, every step is the same, you’ll have both hands, and you won’t have to worry about leverage.
The Claw Hammer Method
To cut slate with the claw hammer method, position the slate between the prongs of the hammer and twist the pieces off. Use the prongs to guide the line where you want the break to occur, and don’t get greedy—only twist-off small chunks at a time.
Mark the underside with chalk or a sharp edge, then using the forked end of the hammer, put the slate in-between the prongs and gently twist small pieces off along the edge. As you get closer to the line you drew, you’ll align the edges of the prongs with your chalk or marked edge and twist, so the pieces fall off in a straight line.
After the excess is gone, you can run the edge of the hammer along the edge of the slate or tap it a few times to knock loose the excess and give it a more finished edge.
The Slate Cutter Method
Cutting slate with the slate cutter method is as easy as positioning the slate in between the blades and squeezing the handles of the slate cutter. Thicker pieces may require two hands, but for the most part, with this tool, it’s just point and cut.
After you mark your slate, you can hold your piece aloft as you align the slate cutter and cut along the edge just like you’re using scissors.
This method will only work with thin slate, so for the thicker stuff, you’re going to need some more heavy-duty materials. For the genuinely zealous among us, there is something called a slate guillotine that roofers and construction workers use. If a slate cutter isn’t going to cut it, a slate guillotine might help.
How To Cut Thick Slate
While you may be able to chip away at a thick piece of slate using the trowel and brick or the claw hammer method, you’ll probably regret having tried it after a few hours. There are much easier ways to cut the thicker slate, but it may take a more significant monetary investment to get the tools you need.
Cutting Slate Tile with Dremel
To cut slate tile with a Dremel, you’ll attach a 3″ diamond wheel and use short, smooth sawing motions to dip deep into the slate. If you can’t get all the way through, take a pair of pliers and break the pieces off along the score lines.
At this stage, make sure you’re wearing a dust mask and, ideally, a pair of gloves and goggles.
Attach a 3″ diamond wheel to your Dremel.
First, mark your slate. Next, clamp it down with the marked side facing up. Along the edge that you’ve drawn, you can dry cut the edge using a smooth sawing motion. If you can’t get through the slate, use a pair of pliers to break the edges off in alignment with your cut.
How To Cut Slate Tiles With An Angle Grinder
To cut slate with an angle grinder, use a 9″ dry diamond blade in smooth dipping motions and cut all the way through in one, or make an indentation and score the tile over and over again until the blade breaks through and the piece falls off.
Using an angle grinder can be several levels more dangerous, so make sure you’ve got a guard facing you to protect you from cuts and debris and that you’re following all of the safety instructions.
Warning: If you haven’t used an Angle Grinder before, you should seek professional help who knows how to use it safely!
As usual, mark your slate, and clamp it down, so the edge is hanging off the work surface.
Using a 9″ dry diamond blade, you can either use smooth, dipping motions to cut through the slate, or you can use one smooth motion to create an indentation, then repeatedly cut along the same edge until you’ve broken through.
Whatever your project is, you’ve probably got what you need to cut slate at home with a minimal amount of adrenaline and damage to the stone. Hopefully, you learned how to cut slate tiles for crafts with just a few materials from your backyard or toolbox using the brick and trowel, claw hammer, slate cutter, or power tool methods.
The cutting doesn’t stop here, though, as we have another tutorial about how to cut aluminum cans for crafts that you might enjoy if you want to keep using tools!