Montoya Stone Carving

Montoya Sculpture & Supply has been serving stone carvers and sculptors since 1973. We stock Italian and domestic hand and power tools for stone carving along with tons and tons of soapstone, alabaster, wonderstone, marble and limestone. Located in West Palm Beach, Florida. Please visit my website for tools and supplies.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Alabaster Arrived 10/20/06

A few days ago we recieved a large shipment of alabaster. This is an example of our Red Rasberry Alabaster. Its on sale untill November 11 so the price is very good. Go to to see some other sale stones or to purchase on line.

Ask Sgt. Rock

This is a new topic which comes form our nearly monthly eNewsletter. It helps address questions regarding stone sculpture and stone carving. Be sure and write me if you have any questions you would like me to address.

A reader asked.
“I have heard people say not to date your sculptures. Why is that?”

SGT. ROCK answers:
I have heard this said also. Some people do not date their work because they believe that a potential client or purchaser will be dissuaded from the purchase if it has; say a date of August 2003. They may wonder “well why hasn’t this work sold already” or “is there something wrong with it that I have not seen” or they might try to bargain a better deal figuring that the artist has had it a few years and may be willing to do better so that they don’t have to lug it round anymore. I always recommend dating the work. You do not have to engrave it on a bronze plate on the base, or on the bottom of the base. You could scratch it into an inconspicuous place near the base of the sculpture. I recommend dating it for several reasons. First of all if you turn out to be a sculptor of some standing and recognition a date will help place your work within the body of all your works. Secondly I like to think that long after we are gone perhaps some of our sculptures will remain within out family and a name and date on the work will help insure its significance to future generations. Think of it this way. What, in all of your possessions, do you have that your great grand parents owned, or better yet, that they made? I envision two or three generation after I am gone those who come after me that I will never know may one day be cleaning out there attic, basement or just moving and they will come onto one of my sculptures and be ready to throw it out and there on the bottom they will be able to read my name and a date. And they might say, "Hey didn't great grandpa Halverson make that sculpture." And that date alone may save the work from being given away or thrown out.

Some other hints. If you decide not to have a brass plate engraved at a trophy shop, consider a diamond engraver which works very well on marble and alabaster. Practice first to get a feel for the noise, vibration and feel of the tool.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Colorado Gold Vein Marble Arrives

We just received two pallets of Colorado Gold Vein Marble. If you have been by the studio recently you have seen the sample I have near the front door. This is a great marble to work with. It’s mostly white but has some goldish color running though it in places. I am keeping the price low for this introductory shipment. These are rectangular shapes at 14"x14" and 8"x8". They range in lenghts between 16 and 20 inches. If you need custom sizes let me know so I can get it on our next shipment. I am going to keep them large through the sale but after that I will cut anything left into smaller units so let us know if you are interested in smaller units and we will contact you. But call as soon as you can because I think this marble will go fast. Introductory priced at $1.20.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Lets look into the basics of setting up for and using air tools for stone carving. Its pretty simple and you will enjoy the ease and speed with which you will be able to remove stone. You need a compressor and some air tools..

The Compressor- this part of your setup is used to compress the air to drive your air tools. A gas or electric motor is used to compress the air into the metal tank to be distributed through the hose to your tools. Most of the time its best to use an electric motor because you just plug it into the outlet. The electric motor compressor allows you to use this equipment in confined spaces like garages and sheds where you don’t want gas fumes from a gas motor to build up. Just in case- gas fumes contain CO2 (carbon dioxide) and prolonged exposure to carbon dioxide build up in confined spaces will kill. Of course larger electric units have different electrical needs and may need to be hard wired. Gas units can be handy if you are in an area that does not have electric readily available.

In selecting a compressor, it is important to select a large enough tank and motor. You can get into a lot of technical details here but in general you will need a 20 gallon air tank with a motor that can produce at least 3 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute). Motors that can produce this can be as small as 1.5 hp (horse power). The 3 CFM should be produced at 90 psi (pounds per square inch) . The larger the motor the longer service life and higher psi. In general the higher the horse power the higher the cost of the unit. I like the portable wheel mounted units for ease of moving. Of course your compressor unit needs to include couplings and hose.

A few other items to be aware of;
-the metal tanks that store the compressed air will build up water due to the compression of the air. The tank needs to have a valve to drain the water.
-it’s a good idea if your motor has a oil sight glass so you can check on the oil level inside the motor.
-look for a unit with a good belt guard to protect against accidents.
-if you are going to be using your unit with a buddy using it at the same time, remember that higher operating pressures allow multiple operations simultaneously.
-there are many different types of connectors. I recommend the “M” or Industrial connector

There are three main air tools you want to be able to use with the compressor: the air blower, the ¼” pneumatic dia grinder and the pneumatic hammer. The air blower is an inexpensive little attachment used for blowing dust off of your cloths, out of your hair and out of tool housings.

The 1/4” pneumatic dia grinder is a rotary tool. The air entering the tool spins the inner turbine at between 12,000 and 35,000 RPMs (Revolutions per Minute). This is the tool your compressor is sized to fit. It has the highest air demand. It uses an average of 3 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute). It eats up air fast. Be sure to select this tool with a lower or equal CFM rating than your compressor is capable of generating or else your motor will stay on all the time trying to compress the air while your tool is eating it up out the other end.

Select a dia grinder that is between 20,000 and 25,000 RPMs due to the safety ratings of most of the attachments available for these tools. Most have a lock–off trigger (you have to flip something to squeeze the trigger) and the trigger is variable speed (the harder you press the trigger the higher to the maximum rated RPMs you will go). You can also control the speed with the psi pressure valve. Generally they run at between 60 and 90 psi. These tools come in front and rear exhaust models. The front exhaust blows air over your work surface and the rear exhaust blow it to the back. Each has an advantage and oddly the rear exhaust seems to be most popular. This tool is rather easy to find at your local super mega hardware store starting as low as $15. A vaiant of this tool is one with the business end at a 90 degree angle from the tool. This would be a tool for a special application which you probably would not need in your initial tool set up. There are also long shaft versions which give you another 6”-8” of reach should you be carving deep into a stone. The pneumatic dia grinder has an advantage with the number of attachments available for it.

The attachments available for the pneumatic dia grinder include;
-reduction collet (1/8”) allows you to use attachments with smaller shanks. Standard shank size for this tool is ¼ inch.
-carbide burrs used to shape and bore
-mounted grinding wheels in different shapes and sizes
-cut-off wheels for shaping and cutting up to 2” into the stone. These are often diamond coated.
-rotary chisels are triangular shaped burrs in different sizes and shapes. When spinning at 25,000 RPMs they are like an aggressive chisel that digs into the stone and leaves a fairly smooth surface.
-flap wheels are small drums that have many small square sheets of sand paper attached to it. They come in different sand paper grits and are made to wear down as they spin to expose fresh grit. They are rated up to 25,000 RPMs and make fast work of sanding the stone surface..
-polishing attachments include cloth wheels and goblets which you use to polish and shine the surface of the stone. Spin the cloth wheel or goblet into an alabaster or marble compound and apply it to the surface to create a high polish.


This tool is probably the main reason you are looking at the purchase of a compressor set up. They are great tools with a simple operating system. They are basically a cylinder inside a container, and as the cylinder goes back and forth it hits the shaft of the chisel. Lets say you could hit your chisel with your hand held hammer about 30 times a minute, compare that to 350 times per minute with a pneumatic hammer and you get an idea of how fast you will be carving stone. And now assume you could keep up that rate with your hand held hammer, and you really understand how much stone you will move.

There are different sizes and shapes of pneumatic hammers. With a pneumatic hammer you do not so much push the hammer as GUIDE it. Air Hammers come in different sizes, weights, shapes and noise level, depending on manufacturer. They are all of high quality and are built to take a beating, Standard chisel shaft is 12mm (1/2”) and is interchangeable between makers. Use steel chisels on soapstone and alabaster and carbide tools on marble and granite. In selecting the tool you will want to consider the type of work you are doing, and how long you will be holding the tool. The larger the tool the heavier it will be. In the Cuturi line the “V” hammer is a favorite and weighs 1.54lb (.7kg), the larger is a “T” and it weighs 3.3lb (1.5kg). This tool, depending on size, will consume less than 1.5 CFM, compared to 3 CFM for the dia grinder.

A few other things related to air hammers. Always operate within the recommended pressures (60 to 90 psi). Start your session and end it with a few drops of air tool oil. A few drops during the work session is a good idea. Failure to oil the tool will result in damage and if not oiled at the end of the session can lead to seizing and possible formation of rust if there is moisture in the tank or air line. Keep the connectors at the intake of the air hammer and hose clean because this is the easiest way to introduce sand and dust into the tool. Sand and dust in the tool is bad. This can cause the tool to seize up.

Between the air hammer connector and the air hose you can add some handy attachments. One attachment is the in-line blower which makes it easy and fast to blow off your working surface with out having to disconnect the air hammer and connect a separate blower. You just reach back along your hose and press the little button and instant blower air. Another attachment is a small in-line pressure regulating valve making it easy to adjust air flow. Another attachment is a swivel. The swivel allows the hose to drop down so that the angle of the air tool is not holding the hose up. This takes some of the pressure off while guiding the tool. These attachments can be added separately or all together. They generally will all fit within about an 8” length depending on the manufacturer of the attachment.

Always wear safety equipment, particularly eye and ear protection. Damage to human ears begins at 85 db and the air hammer usually runs below this threshold. But air dia grinders run in above 85 db and its so simple to protect your ears by reducing the db level with a set of rubber/plastic ear plugs. After a few hours of guiding the air hammer around the stone (time flies when you are having fun) your hands may feel tingly from the vibration. Vibration absorbing gloves will help reduce this. For more on safety read Technical Bulletin #6 “Safety for the Stone Carver”.

If you have the space for a compressor you will really enjoy having the option of using air tools. Air tools are simple to use and save time. When using air tools it’s a good idea to have a plan of attack for your stone and mark cut and shave lines on the stone. Air tools make fairly fast work of the stone. You need to be aware of where you are going when using your air tools because you are going to get there fast.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

(from Issue #16 on Montoya's eNewsletter- ROCK TALK)

This is about an odd experience I am not sure I can quite convey to you properly, but I wanted to share it. An elderly sculptor recently passed away and I was asked if I could sell her sculpture tools to raise a little money for her family. Some of the chisels were quite old and looked interesting to me. I picked out the older and worn ones and put them together on one of her dusty canvas pouches. My first thoughts were to wonder if perhaps she had children or grandchildren who would of been interested in them. These tools were a part of her life.

As I looked at the mushroomed tops of the chisels I wondered what stories they held. How many blows had they taken in the creation of her sculpture? How had she maneuvered the tools to remove stone here and there? As I looked down, I felt that somehow all these experiences were stored in the hammer and chisels on that canvas pouch. I know it’s somewhat mystical or spiritual, but I asked myself, don’t those tools have some kind of power stored in them because of their being used. If you have been reading the newsletter for some time you probably remember reading that Vince Ricci, who had worked with Malvina Hoffman (who studied with Rodin), had a chisel that Malvina had given him. It even had her “MH” stamped on the shaft. That tool meant something to Vince. It meant something to me to hold it. It seemed to hold some “power”, something special to the right people.

After you work with the stone, holding the tools this way and that, blow after blow after blow, doesn’t that tool somehow get something imbued? And sometimes, doesn’t it just seem that the tool becomes part of us, part of our hand, an extension of our arm. It flows with our mind. It curves and cuts just as we thought, somehow knowing where to go just as we thought it. All those hours in her hands in the creation of sculpture, of her vision for the stone. I believed, something was there, it had to be, and all those blows had to have forced something, some power, some creativity perhaps, into those tools. You can see some of it in the mushroomed top of the chisels, in the marks on the hammer.

As I stood there, waning sentimental, I wondered, how long had she sculpted, how many works had she done, who, if anyone, had taught her. What was her work that she most cherished. Perhaps one of those tools was given to her by her teacher, and that tool came to her with some “power” already forced into it. Perhaps… as she lay on her bed in her final days she thought of all the stone sculptures she still wanted to create, but never would. Maybe somehow, through some mystical power her tools were stored up with those creative thoughts. As we carve don’t we get flashes of further ideas, sometimes a flood of ideas, for our next sculpture? Hadn’t she been holding some of these tools as thoughts of her next sculptural creation was revealed to her? Maybe, just maybe they lay there on the canvas, calm, dusty and still, but packed with experience, ready to expend its power of experience through the hands of the right person, another stone sculptor.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

New Soapstone Arrived This Week

We just got several tons of Eskimo Soapstone. We have not carried it for several years (we only can fit 32 tons in the Rock Room). This is of course a soft stone as soapstones are rated a 1 on the Mohs Hardness Scale (invented by Austrian minerologist Dr. Frederick Mohs in 1822). It's a brownish stone mostly but it has short black and yellow veining in it. You can carve it with a pen knife. You can't get real fine details in it since it is so soft. It polishes up very nice and usually, using over a 600 grit finish is a waist of time. Simple steel wool can do the job.

A few years ago I did some experiments with this stone in finishing it with clear varnishes. One varnish did not change the color at all but of course gave it a protective layer, which is a good idea for soapstones. But most of the varnishes (Minwax had some good ones) gave it a wet look and that really helped it stand out. Anyway its an nice looking stone from the northwest. We restored an Inuit sculpture of a 16" bear a few years ago and it looked like it was this type of stone. Interesting thing about the restoration was it was older and the carver had used walrus tusk to carve out little bear teeth. As one was missing we had to buy some ivory off of an Eskimo in Alaska, who are the only people authorized to gather and sell the tusk. Let me know if you can add to this.

You can read more about the Mohs Hardness Scale in Technical Bulletin #2, Stone Hardness- What is Hard?, (it's free) which is available by calling Montoya Sculpture & Supply at 561-832-4401, or by going to the website ( and printing it out from the PDF file under Technical Bulletins, which will be posted by March 25, 2005.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Reviews by Stone Sculpture Workshop Participants

Between January 19 and January 22, 2005 Montoya Sculpture and Supply in West Palm Beach, hosted stone sculptor Sharon Gainsburg as the first instructor of its annual Stone Carving Workshops XXXII. The workshop was full with 10 participants and as far as I could tell everyone had a great and educational time. On thing we learned is to provide decaf coffee and hard boiled eggs (for protein), as those were lacking from our complimentary all day food bar. As part of our ongoing effort to introduce and maintain energetic, insightful and inspiring sculpture teachers, participants were encouraged to comment on the facility, experience and instructor. Below are their unedited comments.

"I found the class (with Sharon Gainsburg) a life-altering experience that not only stretched my boundaries but also catapulted me to a new level of confidence."
M. Beck, Chicago IL

"The Sharon Gainsburg workshop I've just completed was a fabulous experience, as well as an excellent learning adventure. I feel more confident in my approach to stone after learning new techniques; and energized from the total immersion in this environment. Can hardly wait to do it again."
P. Kirkpatrick, Naples FL

"The workshop experience was a great kickstart to reenergizing my artistic pursuits, and everyone was very enthusiastic and encouraging."
K. Donovan, Lancaster Penn

"The Sharon Gainsburg four day workshop was a very rewarding experience for me. It introduced a new approach for me; working an abstract form. I feel very excited about the prospect of developing further sculptures and letting those stones speak to me, thanks to Sharon."
M.F. Haley, Estero FL

"She made everyone feel very comfortable and she gives all [the] encouragement that all students need."
R. D'Jahanshahi, Palm Beach Gardens FL

"I was afraid that being handicapped would hinder me in the workshop, but everyone helped me out. Everything worked out great."
A. Fowler, Columbia SC

"Montoya Sculpture provides and excellent facility and excellent instruction. The staff are knowledgeable and go beyond just being helpful. Everything you need is right here- no matter what ability level- just pack your bags and prepare to immerse yourself, and have a great time." M.J. Norris, Wilmington NC

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

More Stone Carving Informartion to Come

Just getting started with blogging. I have a lot of other information available on stone carving. They are in the form of Technical Bulletins (six other ones). Call me or staff at 561-832-4401 if we can help. I plan to post the other Technical Bulletins soon. Let me know if there is a certain question you have.

Today receivd 8 tons of new stone. If you are new to stone carving try our relatively soft stones in the form of soapstone and alabaster. We also have marbles.

Stone Carving - The 9 Basic Hand Tools

Stone Carving- The 9 Basic Hand Tools

by Jeff Halverson, sculptor

The basic art and craft of stone carving has changed very little since Greek times. There have been advances in the field with the introduction of pneumatics and electric tools, with Carbide steel and diamond technologies, but the basic tools have remained the same for centuries. You need the right tools to do the job right. The right tools save time and will help get you started in this noble and ancient art. There are nine basic tools needed to get started in carving stone by hand.

1. A HAMMER- Whether you are carving on the softest stones for sculpture (soapstones- see Technical Bulletin 2, “Stone Hardness- What is Hard“) or marble and granite you need a hammer. There are two hammers used for stone carving. There is the rectangular hammer and the bell hammer. Both of these come in different weights and the hammer weight should be selected based on your own physical attributes and how long you think you may be carving during a regular carving session. The bell hammer is recommended for more experienced carvers because it requires a more direct and tuned strike. The rectangular hammer comes in two types of metal. The tempered steel hammer in 1lb, 1.5lb and 2lbs is good for roughing out and general use. The soft iron hammer in 1lb and 1.5lb is recommended for finishing work. Both are long lasting tools and it’s probably best for the beginner to choose the steel hammer for its all around flexibility.

2. CHISELS- there are many chisel designs and uses. Chisels are either carbide tipped chisels for marble and harder stone or hand forged tempered steel chisels for soapstone and alabaster (soft stones). The three most important chisels are the point, tooth and flat:
---POINT- A single point chisel used primarily to block-out the form and remove stone. Used in all directions it should leave a cross-hatched pattern on the stone. The point is used at about a 45 degree angle to the stone.
---TOOTH- A tooth chisel available it two to nine points. A four or five point is recommended and it is used to further shape the stone. Used in all directions in the shaping process it will leave a combed texture on the stone. This chisel is used at less than 45 degrees and follows the shape created by the point chisel. There are tooth chisels that have flat teeth and are called flat tooth finishing chisels used to further refine the shape and remove the combed texture of the tooth chisel.
---FLAT- A flat chisel is used to remove the marks left by the tooth chisels and further refine the shape and details. The flat chisels range in width from 3/8 inch to 1 inch wide and is used at about a 20 degree angle to the stone. I recommend a ½ inch wide flat as the basic flat chisel.

Holding the chisel properly- Most beginners hold the chisel like a stabbing instrument (fingers on one side and thumb wrapped around the other side). The correct way to hold a stone carving chisel is to hold it like a stabbing instrument but with the thumb wrapped around the back of the chisel. This has the unique and painless advantage of placing the thumb out of the way of missed hammer blows.

3. VIXEN FILE- used for shaping and finishing. While there are other shapes and styles available this one is one of the most versatile and productive. It removes stone quickly and leaves a very smooth finish. It comes in several lengths with one side flat and the other side rounded. For comfort you may attach a wood handle on the tang end. Files and rasps are most efficient when pushed in an “away “ direction, as this allows you to put our weight into it and the teeth or bite of the tool is cut so as to work best in one direction.

4. RASPS- for refining and detailed shaping. Rasps come in several lengths and include a different shape on each end. The best quality (shape, durability and tooth density) rasps and rifflers are made in Italy. These are very versatile hand tools and you will probably end up with many over time. Select your first one based on your current project. I recommend one that has an end with a wide (1/2” or ¾”) flat surface, with serating on the side (like a knife end) and the other end shaped like a pencil or rat tail.

5. SANDING AND FINISHING PAPERS- come in a verity of grits and are used to sand down the surface of the stone, gradually removing the face to reveal a smooth polish-ready surface. The roughest of the “papers” starts at 80 and goes to 120, and are actually open screen back. This open screen back helps reduce clogging. Just pat it against the edge of your carving stand to remove the built up dust. These can wear fast as they are doing a lot of work removing the tooth marks left from the chisels. Screen back is very effective on soapstone and alabaster. Once the entire surface has been worked with the 80 and 120 grit screen backs begin with the 150 grit wet/dry paper. The higher the number the more and finer the grits, or particles, per square inch. So a 220 grit paper would theoretically, have 220 grits per square inch. These papers can be used dry but are best used wet. I recommend having plenty of water to either sit your sculpture in or to spray onto the sculpture. Rub the piece of sand paper (say 3”x3” square) in a circular motion and work the water and dust into a slurry. Continue sanding work to insure proper coverage. I usually leave the slurry on so I know where I have been and to insure adequate overlap. As you move through each successively higher grit, be sure to completely change the water out and flush all the old slurry off. It is essential to use clean water for each grit you use. You do not want to be rubbing those larger particles as you are trying to create an even smoother surface. Soapstone usually provides a smooth finish at 600 grit, alabaster at 1200 or 1500 grit and marble can be taken up to 3500 grit with diamond pads (there are other options with marble but we’re sticking to the basics). In the basic sanding and finishing papers (9”x11”) expect to have the 80 and 120 grit screen back and 150, 220, 320, 400, 600 and 1200 grit wet/dry papers.

6. POLISH- for that final touch. Once you have sanded your sculpture to the desired finish let it dry over night prior to polishing it. Apply the polish with a clean soft cloth in circular motion and rub it off with a clean dry cloth. While not essential, I was taught to seal the stone first, and then polish it. I think this works best but like I said it’s not essential.
--In case some clarification is helpful, the proper sequence for the above mentioned tools is:
Point chisel- for blocking out (removing unwanted stone) and shaping

Tooth or Claw chisel- shaping

Flat chisel- refining the surface
Rifflers, rasps and files- removing the chisel marks and refining
Sanding and finishing papers- smoothing and finishing
Polishing- shining and protecting

7. CANVAS SANDBAG- used for positioning and cushioning. Usually filled with sand or kitty litter this bag helps to position your sculpture stone while you are working on it. It also serves to cushion the stone from blows of the chisel and hammer.

8. SAFETY GLASSES- or goggles to protect your eyes from stone chips. This is an important habit to get into for obvious reasons. If you wear prescription glasses they will probably provide adequate protection, unless you also have someone close by carving away. When you decide to clean the dust off of your safety glasses or prescription glasses please rinse them off first with clean water to remove stone and dust particles. This will reduce the possibility of scratching your lenses.

9. DUST MASK OR RESPIRATOR- Generally beginning stone carvers using the tools described in the article will not generate a lot of stone dust so a mask or respirator is not essential. Continuous and long term inhalation of stone, wood or clay dust and particles is not healthy. The decision to wear a mask or respirator should be based on sensitivity to dust, proximity to other carvers, prevailing wind and types of tools used. Please read Technical Bulletin 6, “Safety for the Stone Carver” for important safety related information for eyes, ears, hands, and lungs.

--FILE CLEANER wire brush for cleaning out the teeth of rifflers and files
--SOFT BRUSH for dusting off stone chips and dust from your working surface, canvas bag and working table/stand.
--BUSH HAMMER for creating light to heavy frosting and texture on your stone. Please read Technical Bulletin 4, “Texture on Stone-Creating Interest” for more information on this handy stone carver’s tool and on exploring textures.
--GREASE PENCIL OR CRAYON for sketching on your stone and marking areas for removal as you work into the stone.
--DIAMOND PADS up to 3500 grit. Long lasting compared to the papers and well worth the cost if you plan on creating nice finishes. These come singularly and in sets in rather stiff sponges or as flexible 2”x4” Velcro pads with an optional handle.
--GLOVES for protecting your hands. Look for leather and consider cutting off the fingers of the glove to allow you to feel the stone but protect you palms
--TOOL HOLDER made of canvas for storing chisels and rasps. Individual slots that roll up and ties for protecting and transporting tools.
--CAPE AND RONDEL CHISEL- The cape chisel is a narrow flat chisels used particularly for narrow areas. Rondels are curved flats, almost like a fingernail, designed for concave areas.

Stone carving books available at Montoya Sculpture & Supply with introductions to stone carving and stone carving tool use:
Direct Stone Sculpture by Milt Liebson
Sculpture in Stone by Josepmaria Teixido I Cami