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How To Cut Paving Slabs By Hand

How To Cut Paving Slabs By Hand

There are lots of reasons why you might want to cut that garden slab or those set of paving slabs you’ve bought for your garden.  The most common one is that they simply don’t fit in their ready-made size.  Or maybe you want to create an effect or a style where something other than square is needed.

Whatever the reason, there are a few ways to cut paving slabs by hand, depending on the material of the slab.  Let’s look at the options and how to go about doing the job.

Cutting with a hammer and chisel

This is the oldest way to cut patio slabs and slabs to be used for paving and paths.  It is the simplest and also ideal if you don’t have a source of power for those power tools.  You do need to be a little patient and purposeful with it.

This technique works best with natural stone and Indian stone paving.

What you will need:

  • Tape measure
  • Chalk or pencil
  • Hammer
  • Sharp tipper breaker chisel
  • Rubber mallet

Then follow these steps to cut the paving slabs:

  1. Measure the perimeter of the space that the slabs are due to fill with the tape measure
  2. Draw the cuts you need to make in the pavers with a pencil or chalk based on those measurements
  3. Use the hammer and chisel to cut a shallow channel in the stone, usually 1-2mm deep
  4. Hit the slab with the rubber mallet and the scored line with allow it to crack in the right place.  If it doesn’t crack, make the channel a little deeper
  5. Use the hammer and chisel to chip away messy edges then lay the slab in place

Cutting with a power saw

While the hammer and chisel method is perfect for things like natural stone, it doesn’t work as well with other types of paving stone.  This is where you need a power saw to get the job done properly.

This technique works with porcelain paving, granite paving and concrete paving slabs.

You will need:

  • Tape measure
  • Chalk or pencil
  • Workbench
  • Four C-clamps to keep the slab in position
  • Power saw or an angle grinder with a diamond-tipped blade designed to cut stone or masonry (other blades will dull almost instantly)
  • Rubber mallet

Then follow these steps to cut the paving slabs:

  1. Measure the perimeter of the space that the slabs are due to fill with the tape measure
  2. Draw the cuts you need to make on both sides of the pavers with a pencil or chalk based on those measurements
  3. Secure the slab to the workbench with the clamps so that it does not move
  4. Use the power saw to cut at the market line for about 1cm into the slab. 
  5. Remove the clamps, turn over and repeat on the other side until you cut all the way through
  6. Lay the slab

Cutting with slab splitters

If you look at professional landscapers, they will have a slab splitter to handle the job of cutting up paving slabs.  But you don’t need to buy one, you can simply hire one if it is the right tool for the job.

There are different types available including electrical powered and even hydraulic powered.  The simplest is a lever press that just squeezes the slab until it snaps.  This is often the best option if you need to cut dense types of paving slabs.

This technique works with concrete paving and other heavy-duty types of paving.

You will need:

  • Level press slab splitter
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk or pencil
  • Rubber mallet

Then follow these steps to cut the paving slabs:

  1. Set up the slab splitter somewhere with level ground and enough room to operate.
  2. Ensure the space that the stones need to fill and mark them accordingly with chalk or a pencil
  3. Lift the handle of the splitter and place the slab in it so that the chalk line is at the cutting point
  4. Lower the handle and press until it splits
  5. Lay the paving slab, using a rubber mallet to push into place if needed

Can you cut slabs in curves?

Straight lines work for many projects but there are times you need or just want to have curves.  So can you cut these by hand?

You can and there are a few ways to do it.  The easiest way to cut a curved shape into a patio slab is to use the power tool method.  That’s because you can simply follow the curved line, moving the saw in the right way.

The other main way is to make a series of small, straight cuts.  This does result in a rougher, more rustic look to the paving slab but if this fits in with the look of the area you are creating then it will work.

Can you trim small amounts from a slab?

Sometimes you don’t need to remove a whole section of the slab but simply trim it down at one end.  The hammer and chisel method is often easier for this but you will want a couple of different chisel types to do the job.

To trim very small amounts from a slab, a pitcher works best.  This is a chisel with one flat side that pushes force downwards and out but only from the shaped side. 

Otherwise, a bolster is the best option and this will involve trimming on the top and bottom of the slab, a little at a time until the excess section can be removed.  Then it can be used to tidy up the edge and make sure it looks smart.

Creating the patio you want

By mastering one of the techniques to cut a paving slab by hand, you can give yourself the flexibility to create the patio, path or paved area that you want, without being stuck with what square slabs can create.  You can easily hire some equipment to help with the task and for just a few slabs, the hammer and chisel work perfectly.

 

 

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