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Roughing tools: what are they and what are they used for?

Roughing tools: what are they and what are they used for?

When carving a sculpture out of stone, there are three stages of the process: roughing out, modelling and finishing. Today we'd like to focus on the first of these stages, roughing out, and the fundamental tools that you'll need to do it. What are roughing tools and what are they used for? Keep reading to learn more about roughing tools.

What is roughing out?

Roughing out is a process where the material is chipped away until you're left with the final volume you need for the sculpture. The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines it as “the act of removing the rough parts of a material”. As such, when artists rough out the stone (or another material) before beginning to work with it and give it form, they also make sure that they leave it neat and smooth.

Guided roughing out

Guided roughing out involves roughing out the stone using simple drawings marked onto it beforehand as a guide. This helps you to understand better what material you will need for the final sculpture and what can be removed. Of all the different methods that we're going to look at, this would be the most suitable for beginners, as it will help to give you an idea of which parts of the stone block should be left in place and which parts you can begin working with.

Direct roughing out

Once you have become more adept with stone and the art of sculpture, and you feel you are now less of an amateur, you can progress to this form of roughing out. Direct roughing out is when you begin to sculpt in an improvised way, using an outline that you sketched previously as a guide.

Types of tools for roughing out


The pitcher is a type of chisel with a strong mouth that is used for roughing out small pieces of stone. Its main function during this process is to remove the material that is found along the cut lines on the edges, in other words, the excess material.


Pointed chisels are used for roughing out quickly. If used properly, pointed chisels can rough out a sizeable amount of material and they are also capable of leaving behind a texture of parallel lines that will give the stone a rustic touch.


Roughing discs are electric abrasive tools that are used to make sure that the materials to be worked with afterwards are free of imperfections. For ferrous or steel surfaces, it is better to use concave roughing discs, whereas for zinc, brass, tin or copper surfaces it's better to use zirconium oxide discs.


In order to use the tools that we mentioned previously, such as the pitcher or the pointed chisel, you will also need a hammer. As we discussed in the article where we named the main tools used for sculpting with stone, hammers are essential for providing the force that the other tools need to remove the stone.

The roughing out stage of the stone

Are you familiar with the roughing out process? If you are and you think that we may have left out some essential tool, let us know why you think it's important and we will amend this article to include it. We really appreciate your participation and love receiving feedback! If this was new to you, we hope that you've learned a lot and if you have any queries don't be afraid to ask. Welcome to our world fellow artists!

Last modified on: February 24, 2020

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