Stone Sculpture  the Pneumatic Air Hammer

A pneumatic hammer is a fantastic tool that will make your stone sculpture or stone carving job easier; you will be able to create more stone sculptures in less time, a great advantage over just using a hammer and chisels.

The pneumatic hammer was invented not too long ago by William Holden of Barre, Vermont in 1888. The Trow and Holden partnership was created after Willam Holden invented a small air hammer. In 1888, he introduced it to the Barre stone cutter business. They saw increased demand when the East Coast experienced an increase in building construction using stone.  A lot of stone came from Barre, well known for all the granite quarries. With this new tool, the production of stone carving or stone masonry increased again to fulfill the demand after war world II.

Stafford and Holden did good business in agricultural tools until, with the advent of Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaper, farms became mechanized. This nearly ended the pitchfork business, so they needed a new product. William Holden’s new invention, the pneumatic air hammer came to the rescue.

The hammer was a grand hit in 1893 at the  Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Later, one of its first large-scale monument applications was for Daniel French’s Lincoln Memorial. With this small tool, the stone carving and stone mason industry rose to another level that you see today. Trow and Holden company provides excellent air hammers and chisels to this day.

This great stone carving tool contains a  chamber, usually one inch or an inch and a quarter; there you will find a piston that moves up and down by air pressure about 3498 to 3596 times per minute. Every manufacturer has its own calibration. This property creates the right vibration that is carried to the stone carving chisels, with the ability to break or cut the smooth or rough surface of the stone into a beautiful  stone carving.

The action of the piston back and forth is called blows per minute or BPM.

This term is used to describe the number of times (cycles) the piston goes back and forth (reciprocates) within the air hammer. The lower the BPMs  the harder it hits the chisel. In other words, a lower BPM results in more impact or cutting power in the tool.

The pneumatic air hammer works with air pressure. It needs about 70psi to 90psi to work properly, so you need to consider the size of your compressor. If it is too small like one and a half horsepower or even two horsepower, it will not produce enough air. You will need a minimum of about three horsepower and up.  A five horsepower single face works very well; that is the type of air compressor I use in my shop.

There is a great variety in the market: just get the one that will fit your needs. Don’t  purchase below the three horsepower, as it will run out. Your air hammer will request a lot of air, and a small compressor  will over work and finally stop working for good. It is not worth the investment for stone carving to buy one under 3 hp.

List of what you need to Start Stone carving

  • Pattern or designs 
  • Stone for carving
  • Carbon paper
  • Pencil 
  • Masking tape
  • Stone Carving Chisels
  • Pneumatic  Hammer
  • saw 
  • Sanders 
  • Files
  • sand paper
  • work table 
  • air compressor 
  • A lot of desire  to learn stone sculpture 

The Best Way To Start A stone Carving Is to START...

When you have in front of you a great piece of marble waiting to be transformed into amazing sculpture just grab your hammer and chisel and bring the stone into LIFE.

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Best Types of pneumatic Air Hammer for stone Carving

Watch this video and see everything you need to know about pneumatic  hammers.

 why should  You used a Pneumatic  Air Hammer 

You will be able to produce more sculptures in less time and time is money; the air hammer will help you carve about three times faster than the hammer and chisel. For example, if this type of air hammer were available during  Michaelangelo’s times, he probably would have been able to create more than double the sculptures in his lifetime, without question. He was a great master of Carrara marble; he was able to create amazing art pieces that are standing true history.  His work is magnificent.

If you are interested in becoming a Stone Sculpture you should study all the great artists like Michaelangelo, Bernini, Canova., and many more. They say that Michaelangelo worked everyday for hours. Being a sculptor is a hard job.  I know by experience that when you grab a hammer and chisel and sculpt for twelve or fourteen hours a day, five or six days a week, your body will feel the agony but you will be satisfied with the results. It is magical to see an image come to life out of white  Carrara Marble like what Michelangelo did.

So it’s a great idea to use a pneumatic  air hammer: you will see better results and you will probably work less to create the same sculpture  using the hammer and chisel. You have to keep in mind that you are going to need air chisels and a compressor, so your investment is more than just the hammer and chisels..

You can learn more about stone sculpture  

Stone carving Pitti tondo

The hands of Michaelangelo creating the Pitti Tondo

How to used a pneumatic
 Air hammer 

What is the best way to use the pneumatic hammer? It is very simple. You will connect to your air supply, and with one hand hold the chisel with the air hammer in the other, and with the 70psi you will able to carve very nicely (I will post videos of how in the future)

There are a few companies that manufacture stone carving pneumatic hammers, like the Italian company Caturri. They produce one of the best air hammers in the market. Their specialty is a pneumatic hammer for marble, but you could use it for limestone or any other stone.

The Caturri pneumatic  hammer manufactures ten (10) different  models. The models are from small to large:  D, P, E, A, V, U, T, S, R, Z The Z is the largest model and has a powerful  ability, especially when you are taking a lot of stone out. It will work very fast and aggressively. The model D is the small one most carvers used for small details. You could have the same results using  a hammer and chisel.

Before you decide  what  Pneumatic  is best for the job just take a look of the pro's and con's of the cuturi Pneumatic Hammer in this blog.

 Life size sculpture  in Indiana  Limestone for St peter the Fishermen Wisconsin 

Another company that produces great air hammers is Trow and Holden.

This manufacturer is in the USA. They have eight different models, four in short strokes and four in large strokes. The short stroke is the Type B pneumatic hammer that is designed to run very smoothly at all power levels. This type is less aggressive and is more for details carving in stone or your stone masonry jobs. The Type D pneumatic tools provide the maximum power per size ratio available.  This stone carving tool is the most aggressive and for that reason is mostly used for shaping the hardest types of stone or to remove heavy materials fast. The one inch and two inches are suitable for larger roughing jobs, the 1/2inch and the 3/4inch are perfect for detail carving in your sculpture.

What air pneumatic chisels
are the best for stone carving 

Air Hammer  Are Great Tools To Created Stone Sculptures

As with the air hammer, you are going to need some stone pneumatic chisels.

There are many types of air chisels to choose from, manufactured in France, England, Italy and the USA. Arl tools those are the ones I use the most. You can find Italian companies like Benzo Milani, as well as those made in the USA by Trow and Holden. Any of these manufacturers are great. The tools will provide good results, and  you will use them for a lifetime.

the Cuturi Pneumatic Hammers

The air hammer is very noisy, and produces a lot of vibration, as well as a lot of clouds of dust, but the stone just crumbles from the edge of the air chisels, creating great results in short periods of time.

In conclusion, the use of an air hammer is a great benefit for any stone carver, providing you the satisfaction of a lot of work done in one day.  You can probably produce 3 times more sculpture in the time that you would need with hammer and chisel.You will feel great, because the stone in front of you will crumble into your masterpiece.

The pneumatic hammer is dangerous in some ways. You need a mask to prevent consuming too much dust.  It’s a good idea to know how dangerous the type of stone is that you are going to use, for example:

The Sandstone has silica as the main ingredient.  When you are exposed for a long period to a lot of dust it can affect your lungs with a disease called silicosis.  The lungs are not able to break the dust particles down and they will affect your respiratory system. So if you are working with sandstone, it  is a good idea to wear a mask at all times.

Limestone is a great stone to use. The ingredients are calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral calcite, which does not affect you too badly, but if you are producing a lot of dust always wear a mask.

Marble is great to work with. It has almost the same properties as limestone. It’s best to protect yourself using common sense, especially when you are cutting the stone with a dry sawo, the type of tool that produces the most dust. Air hammers will not produce in that quantity.

Stone Sculpture created by Bernini.

Other equipment to used with Air pneumatic hammers

You will need anti vibration gloves, created specially to absorb the shock or vibration of your pneumatic hammer. They are usually made of two layers of leather and in between, they have a thick layer of silicone rubber that will absorb the vibration of your tools and protect your hands from harm.

This equipment will prevent you front having a white finger syndrome that consists in bad circulation in your finger after using your pneumatic hammer for long periods of time without anti vibration gloves. This equipment is crucial, and you should not work without them! I did for almost two years, not having the knowledge of how necessary they were. I use them all the time now and my hands are great.

You are going to need ear protection because the pneumatic hammer produces a lot of high pitched noise that can injure you hearing. Use good equipment.

The pneumatic air hammer is going to break stone pieces very fast and those pieces of stone will fly into the air in all different directions. Your eyes are the windows of your soul,  and they are very important. Get some eye protection to prevent any injury to your eyes.

Just be safe and create amazing sculptures or architectural carvings or mason work.


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About the Author Ruben

Colombian Artist
I am a working artist since 1987 in the mediums of Stone Sculpture, Wood Sculptures and Oils painting...

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