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Number of masonry cuts determines which tool to use

Q: I am planning to do some block and brick work. Even though I am comfortable doing this type of work, I will have to cut some of them to fit. How can I cut them cleanly?

A: You can, but how you do it depends on how many you have to cut. If your project includes cutting things like bricks, blocks or roof tiles, then you need a large, fast-moving masonry blade.

If you are cutting lots of these items, you might want to rent a masonry saw. This is the right tool for the job if time is a concern. They cut quickly, but they are heavy and require a two-handed operation. They are also quite loud and they kick up a ton of dust.

You can rent one for about $50, but you should only do that if you have a heavy load. The machine runs on gasoline and has a pull-start engine.

As you fire it up and get the blade spinning, gently ease into whatever you are cutting.

Masonry blocks are heavy enough that they won’t move as you cut them, but smaller bricks will likely move, so you will have to weigh them down with something or put your foot on the edge of the brick (be careful here).

When you cut masonry products, wear eye, ear and breathing protection. The dust created from cutting such products is a heavy, gritty mess. It will get in your hair, clothes and so on.

If this is a one-time cut, you can stick a masonry blade in a circular saw. Using a circular saw typically won’t produce a perfectly smooth finish even with an expensive blade, but since you will be using mortar to join the pieces, the flaws will be hidden anyway. Just take the cut slowly and steadily.

Realize that a circular saw will take longer to cut as it doesn’t have the power of a gasoline-fired engine. Also, a circular saw won’t react well to masonry dust, so you will need to clean it up after you are finished.

You also have a choice in the type of blade. The cheapest type is silicon carbide, and then it gets expensive with either segmented or continuous diamond blades. The more money you spend on the blade the better it performs and typically the cleaner the cut (a continuous blade will leave a very smooth cut).

When you are cutting masonry products, take several gradual passes.

Start the saw and let it build up to full speed before you sink it into the masonry. If you try to cut too much on one pass, you will hear the motor of the saw bog down and you will need to ease up on the depth and speed of your cut. The performance and sound of the saw will tell you the proper depth and speed; just start out slow and shallow.

Michael D. Klimek is a licensed contractor and president of Pro Handyman Corp. Questions may be sent by email to: questions@pro-handyman.com. Or, mail to: P.O. Box 96761, Las Vegas, NV 89193. His Web address is: www.pro-handyman.com.

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