Marble Carving Technique

Marble is chosen at the quarry. The stone is transported to the studio.

The largest pieces are split with an ancient technique known as Plug and Feathers. Split marble pieces often weigh hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Each set consists of a metal wedge (the plug), and two shims (the feathers). Multiple sets of plug and feathers are used.


Scaffolding is build around the stone if necessary. The first step is marking the basic shape with a crayon.

After splitting, the stone is further shaped with large saws and grinders. Next, a wedge-shaped chisel called a pitching chisel knocks off wedge-shaped pieces of stone.

Finally, the roughing-out stage of chiseling begins. At this point, chisels that are more pointy can break off larger pieces than flat chisels. The chisels are hammered a succession of various steel mallets and pneumatic hammers. Pneumatic hammers stone-carving hammers have been used for over a century. Following roughing out the shape with point chisels, tooth chisels shape and refine the surface. A series of chisels with ever-smaller teeth refine the coarsely-textured sculpture toward its eventual final surface.

After a point, rasps and files take theplace of chisels. Some are traditional hand rasps, some are rotary-powered by air and electric. Ancient sculptors used naturally abrasive stones such as emery. Plenty of shaping can be done by hand with coarse stones. It is good exercise!

Finally, the polishing begins. First coarse abrasives are used, then finer grits. Often contrasting areas of a sculpture are left at very degrees of texture, hone, and polish. A honed finish is satiny. A glossy polish brings out colors and delicate translucency in the marble. This visual depth can suggest human skin. Polishing brings out the magic of marble.