Laying out a patio or walkway yourself can be a big job, but it can be very satisfying once complete. If you are laying pavers, you’ll probably need to make some cuts to fill the space and keep a consistent pattern.
The first things to consider are safety and then material efficiency. Following some proper guidelines can save materials and time. There are several ways to get the job done when it comes to cutting pavers, and today we’re looking at the chisel, a tried-and-true method used for many years.
Is a Chisel the Right Tool for Cutting Pavers?
Power tools such as an angle grinder or a circular saw with a diamond blade could be used to save time. However, in some cases, they may not be available options. If you don’t want to invest in power tools or specialty blades, or perhaps you are working at sites without electricity, chisels may be your best bet.
There are several types of chisels, and usually, a combination of chisel types will give you the best results and make the job easier.
Cold chisels or masonry chisels are perfect for scoring. These types have a narrow blade edge and are usually not as sharp. They are, however, made of tempered steel, very hard and durable. The narrow blade allows for more workability as you score the paver surface.
The brick chisel, otherwise known as a bolster chisel, is used for breaking the paver after the scoring is complete. This chisel has a much wider blade tip and can be slightly sharper. It will spread over a greater distance of your scored line and produce a cleaner break in your paver.
How to Cut Pavers Using a Chisel
Now, let’s go in detail over how to get the job done.
Step 1: Safety and Preparation
First, don’t forget to wear eye protection when chiseling stone, cement, or other such materials. It’s common for the materials to chip as you work. Getting a piece in your eye could stop you before you make progress.
You will want to measure and mark your paver to the size needed. Not just on one side, however. You will want to mark all four sides of the paver section that you are cutting. You will be scoring completely around the paver to ensure the cleanest break possible.
Step 2: Scoring the Paver
After marking your paver, you’ll begin the scoring process. This is best done thoroughly, with patience and care to avoid uneven or random breaking.
Hold the cold chisel at an angle to gently dig into the paver along your lines as you tap it with the hammer. Go lightly at first until you get a feel for what it takes for the chisel to cut into the surface.
You can carve out a shallow channel to begin. Then you can make several passes through if necessary, deepening the channel up to approximately 1/8-inch deep for a good solid break line.
The hardness and density of pavers can vary, as will the depth of your score marks required to get a clean cut.
Once your scoring is finished completely around the paver, you’ll be ready to make the final break.
Step 3: Final Cut
Now it is time to make the final cut. For this you will want to use the bolster chisel or brick chisel. The wider blade will cover more area and give a better break.
Starting on the outside edges, place the bolster chisel into the scored groove squarely, and tap firmly with your hammer moving along the score-line. Eventually, the piece should break at the desired points, and your cut will be complete.
If the remaining edge is jagged and rough, you can use the chisel to clean up and straighten the edges. Just be sure to go gradually, so as not to make an unwanted break.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
One of the most common mistakes while cutting pavers with a chisel is attempting to make the final break before adequately scoring.
If you fail to score the paver deeply enough, it may break unevenly. It is crucial if you have limited material and may not be able to replace a paver that doesn’t break properly. So, be sure to take some time while scoring along your lines. It will save time and material in the end.
It is helpful to keep your paver on an even, soft surface. If it is resting on a solid surface, it may prematurely crack as you tap it to create the score. Perhaps you could use some cardboard, a piece of carpet or rug, etc. Doing so will keep the stress point along the lines on the surface instead of other portions of the paver.
If you are cutting a corner out of a paver or cutting a shape into the paver to fit it around something, keep in mind that you’ll want to score deeply into your interior edges where two lines meet.
The point where two lines meet from different directions will be the place most likely to break unevenly, so paying extra attention to those areas will be greatly beneficial.
There may be some trial and error as you begin, but once you get used to the method, you will get a feel for what angle to hold the chisel while scoring, how hard to tap the chisel, etc.
The quality of your chisels can make quite a difference in job efficiency. The sharpness of chisel blades and the durability of steel can have an effect on how much time and effort the task will take.
This method of cutting pavers may take some time and effort, but taking the time to do it right can yield fantastic results. And, the traditional work style can be enjoyable. For those fond of classic construction methods and traditional tools, this could be the perfect project for you.
Putting care and detail into each piece of a home or garden feature like a patio, terrace, or walkway can create lasting memories, an attractive space, and provide good conversation for years.