Lapidary Tips: Fast Inexpensive Lapidary Slab Saw

Lortone 14 Inch Oil Cooled Slab Saw

 After finding or acquiring lapidary rough the work has just started in terms of cutting high quality slabs for cabbing.  Cutting rough into slabs can be time consuming especially using expensive slow cutting self feed diamond saws with oil lubricant like the one shown here.  Investment for diamond saws like these exceeds $1500. Using oil lubricated diamond saws may be necessary for cutting specimens, display slabs, or large rough because the slab surface is smoother for polishing. But for cabbing slabs, it’s simply too expensive and time consuming because of slow cutting speed and surface oil removal from the slabs before cabbing.   

If you want to reduce cost and improve productivity, start hand cutting rough using a water cooled tile saw.  It’s at least 10 times faster because cutting speed is much faster and it eliminates all of the steps for cleaning oil from slabs.  Also, hand cutting allows you to see the rocks cut surface immediately so that you can flip it around if the pattern is not what you want. It’s possible to cut a 5 inch diameter piece of rough into 5 slabs in less than 15 minutes.  Finally, with water you are not breathing and handling oil so it’s environmentally better.     

Modified Lapidary Tile Saw

Hand cut  slabs may not be perfect dimensionally but they will be good enough for cabs. One downside is that saw blade wear is faster but the upside is that the investment required for a tile saw is significantly less. Harbor Freight sells a 10 inch 2.5 horsepower tile saw for about $250.  

 
 
 
 
To make the saw usable indoors you can:
  •  mount a removable modifed plastic storage box over the frame to contain water mist
  • mount a splash shield and light at the end
  • hook up a water feed tube and drain
  • start fast low cost slab cutting
This may appear dangerous but I have cut thousands of slabs with no problems. You can cut hundreds of slabs using a $40 ten inch Ridgid diamond saw blade from Home Depot.  Always wear a face mask to avoid breathing silica carried by the cooling water mist.  
Here’s a summary of the advantages of hand cut water cooled tile saws versus automatic feed oil cooled lapidary saws:
 
  • 5x lower diamond saw investment
  • 10x faster slab cutting
  • No messy oil to remove from slabs
  • Quickly flip rough around to cut the best pattern
  • Environmentally safer water versus oil  

Silver and Stones is always looking for ways to improve safety and be more efficient.  Could you share your tips on increasing productivity, lowering cost, and making it environmentally safer for cutting lapidary slabs?

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