How to cut stone

How to cut stone

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How to cut stone

There are two prominent theories of complex technology for stone cutting and shaping in ancient Egypt. Christopher Dunn : http://www.gizapower.com/ proposes some form of acoustic / vibration drill. and a number of authors propose a form of concrete, or geopolymer.

However, both of these complex technologies have too many flaws in their arguments. We have located many, if not all the quarries, and the quarry surfaces show that limestone was cut out with saws, and granite would normaly be split out using wedges, but there is some evidence in the quarries of sawn granite faces, and there are round holes drilled out and we have cores from these drillings. Why go to the trouble of cutting and drilling if you have a concrete alternative!

We also have monoliths remaining in the quarries - some like that of Baalbek, beautifully sawn stone.

We have huge granite boxes that show all stages in construction from rough cut blocks, to the polished finished article. Thus we have all the evidence that the ancients were able to work with solid granite and finish it to fine tolerances.

We have no evidence at all of granite geopolymer - in fact the opposite. The ancient Egyptians were very proficient in lost wax casting in gold and copper. If you are casting stone, you would first make a full size model in wax, exact and finished in every detail. Then you make a mould round the wax using casting sand. Then you dry and then warm the mould to remove the wax. Then you pour in your casting matrix. You would cast to the exact size and shape you wanted. The shapes used by the Egyptians show shapes designed to be tackled by cutting, grinding and polishing.
They don't show shapes that would be possible using casting.

All the stages of granite construction that we have show that these were not cast.

Neither do we need complex machine tools to shape granite. As Christopher Dunn says on his own site, his theory is totally dependent on scratches on a granite core that form a double helix. I have had drills stick before now and keep a lever to hand to twist them out. This action applies enormous force on the grit stuck in the drill - and produces helical scratches on the walls or core of the cut!

Working granite is a slow but steady process. First you drill access holes in the quarry face, or you wedge out blocks much bigger than your final requirements. Then you saw out the block. This, if you are carefull gives you a nice rectangular block of granite. Or you cut an angled prism if that is what you require. You cut with your saw running between wooden guide rails, so that the finished blocks is close to the exact size you require.

You polish down to size using grit and water, and another slab of granite as the polishing quern. You use coarse grit until all the saw marks have been polished out, then you use fine grit until all the marks from the coarse grit are polished out, then you finish with tin oxide which will give you a mirror smooth finish.

Provided your polishing block is reasonably flat, and you rotate the polishing block as you move it in circular paths over the block you are polishing, you will automatically end up with an absolutely smooth surface on both blocks in contact. There is nothing magical in achieving this precision, just years of apprenticeship and care.

Cutting internal shapes requires cores to be drilled out first, until just webs of granite are left which are knocked out. The rough surfaces are then taken down with pounding balls until the coarse polishing starts. Internal corners would be polished out using stone or wood blocks cut to the required profile to apply the abrasive grit - so they will all end up with exactly the same profile if that is what you require.

My guess is that they would drill out cores on the corners and then use sinew cord with abrasive grit and water just as we use cutting wires today.

A bronze or iron saw, or a length of sinew is a very effective cutting tool when combined with grit and water. There is no need to invoke anything more complex.

These long saws are shown on carved panels, examples have been found in tombs - what more do you need except to see it for yourself :)

Beer Quarry Caves

For anyone who has lost touch with traditional quarrying techniques, pay a visit to the quarry caves at Beer in Devon, UK

These are caves that have been in continuous use as stone quarries since pre roman times! and the methods have remained much the same for 2000 years.

The smooth limestone is cut into large blocks using simple saws.

When freshly cut the limestone is quite soft, and it can be delicately carved for all manner of decorative building work. Once the stone carving and shaping is finished the stone is taken out into the open air, where chemical changes naturally occur and the stone becomes hard and durable.

This stone forms the delicate white tracery of windows in many of Londons churches, cathedrals, and in many buildings in western Europe.

Internal shapes are created by drilling out corners, cutting with thin saws or cutting wires, and smoothed into shape with abrasive.

Next continue up onto the granite moors of Dartmoor, and examine the quarries where granite has been quarried and shaped for hundreds of years. Some of Londons old bridges are built with polished blocks of dartmoor granite. They fit exactly together without using complex machine tools.

Underground Quarries in Egypt

There are extensive labyrinths of underground quarry caves in Egypt, where the limestone probably exhibits the same properties as Beer caves. The stone would be shaped and carved while still soft within the cave. Not on the site of construction.

Ajoining blocks in the pyramids will fit exactly because they would have been separated by a saw cut from the same rock face, and kept in the same relative position in the construction - far easier than measuring and cutting to an exact size

Stone vases

To see stone vases produced go to the BlueJohn mines and museum in Derbyshire. Complex machine tools are not required - see this example Images from   ancients stonecutting.html http://www.neales.co.uk/images/may2/1255.jpg blue john vase made 1790s

This information is copyright Peter Thomson 2001-2004