The History of Suiseki
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Collecting Suiseki
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Tools & Gear
Evaluating Suiseki
Ten Views of a Rock
The Science of Suiseki
Preparing Your Suiseki
Using Acid
Drying Stones
Stone Cutting
Developing A Patina
Caring for Suiseki
Displaying Your Suiseki
The Daiza
The Suiban
The Tokonoma
Other Displays
Overall Design

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Preparing Stones: | Cleaning | Using Acid | Drying | Stone Cutting | Developing Patina | Care

Cutting Stones: To Cut or Not To Cut?

Not all stones have flat bottoms...but many do. Flat bottoms are usually a man-made enhancement to a stone, then beautifully displayed upon a custom-created daiza which is carved to conform to the shape of the stone. Cutting often helps "extract"* the desired visual classification for suiseki specimens, such as mountain stones. For example, one may find an oversized rock which contains an edge which, after close study, reveals a beautiful mountain range. And the best and easiest way to showcase this is to remove the mountain range from the larger stone and display it as a separate entity.

Some collectors of suiseki believe one should never cut a viewing stone. When the Japanese were introduced to the art of stone appreciation, they adapted it into their culture and incorporated selective "cutting" into their accepted practices. The near-view and distant-view mountain stones are classic examples of suiseki which are best displayed with a flat bottom, as well as many other classifications.

While the asthetics and subsequent collector's value of a stone is impacted by many factors -- such as shape, color and temperament -- a prime stone is by any other name as sweet, whether cut or uncut. Is it a matter of culture? Is it a matter of personal preference? To understand this better, read the following excerpt by Felix Rivera, reknowned Suiseki expert:

"The reason we cut stones is to extract* the well-proportioned or "visible" suiseki within the mother, or "invisible" part of the stone. Shape is the name of the game in suiseki. Without shape we just have a lump of rock. Some collectors believe that cutting a stone is a personal decision. I don't abide by that philosophy. Sometimes cutting a stone is required to make that stone a suiseki. I've seen too, too many stones on exhibit that are nothing but amorphous lumps of rock. But, their owners steadfastly refused to cut their stones, thinking they were being "purists" about the art! Unfortunately, the quality of the rocks on exhibit was just that, rocks. I prefer not to cut stones, but sometimes the stone dictates that it be cut. Some put a monetary value on uncut stones. Unfortunately that gives the collector the wrong impression. Just because a stone is natural doesn't maske it better than a cut stone. There are many more important vairables at work, such as shape, texture and color. The Japanese cut their stones if they need it. Please keep that in mind. The decision to cut is not a facile decision. Who are we to say that we know better than they? "
Used by permission from

Working with saws, buff wheels, or stone motor saws
Always be sure that the stone is held in the correct position.

  • motor saw is quickest method
  • bow saw with saw blade designed for hard metal (can be obtained from a tool shop) with water pouring into saw slot
  • buff wheel with separating disk on wheel

    Hammer and burin method
    Use small, cautious steps in working with the stone.

    1. Put on goggles and gloves
    2. Fill a bag with sand, place on sturdy table
    3. Determine what is "bottom" of stone
    4. Cover stone with smaller sandbag
    5. Position a board on top of second bag
    6. Hold stone in place using clamps: clamp stone between top board and table (buffered by sandbags)
    7. Use small burins
    8. use hard metal saws

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