Why Use a Slate Cutter?
- Trim large pieces of slate into smaller ones
- Making curved cuts for design or diagonal cuts for hips and valleys
- Consistency of cuts
- Ease of cutting vs a stake and slate hammer
- Produces the chamfered (beveled) edge on a piece slate which is desirable aesthetically on the roof
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Slate Cutter
- How thick is my slate? Handheld cutters are usually limited to thickness of 3/16″. Larger cutters that have handles to pull down on will most likely cut up to 3/8″. Any slate thicker than that will either need to be cut with a diamond saw (and then chamfer the edge with a stake and hammer) or a power slate cutter (see below)
- How many slates will do I have to cut? If there are minimal cuts on thin pieces of slate, you can probably get away with only a handheld slate cutter. However, any job that require dozens of cuts is better suited for a larger, slate cutter. They are easy to transport to the roof and have years of longevity to them. If you have a huge job and need to make hundreds of cuts, it may make sense to look into a power slate cutter.
- What is the weight? – A slate cutter can be taken on the roof and for that reason it should be lightweight. Most smaller cutters only weigh about 3-5 lbs. The heavier, cast iron cutters can weight about 10 lbs and the power slate cutter is around 30 lbs.
- What is my budget? A slate cutter is priced for the rugged nature of the job. Cutters generally last years and only need to replace the blade or punch in rare times. The Stortz 95-A Slate Cutter costs $105 and is the best selling slate cutter because it is the most effective and price considerate. More expensive cutters may be geared to cutting thicker slates.
How to Use a Slate Cutter
- Remember to cut on the back portion of the slate for a proper bevel to lay nicely on the roof
- Add the brackets for stability to the cutter as seen below. The brackets will make curved cuts more challenging
- Secure the cutter to a 2 x 4 for stronger support
Other Methods of Cutting Slate
A product that should be mentioned is NA Bocker’s Power Slate Cutter. This electrical unit was designed to cut thicker slate up to ¾”. Currently there are very few effective ways to cut thick slate and this machine has provided an effective solution. If you have a job that is using 3/8”+ slate and there are hundreds of feet of valley cuts, think how tedious a task this is to do it all by a handheld cutter. Having one man run slates through a machine is a much simpler, faster, efficient, approach.
The turbo shear is an attachment for a portable drill. It will leave a chamfer on the slate and gives the ability to cut straight or curved pieces. It is reasonably priced and is better suited for standard thickness slate. The one drawback with this type of attachment is the weight of the drill. Holding slate in one hand and holding a drill in the other can get physically exhausting depending on how many cuts you have to make.
Handheld Slate Cutters
Edma is a manufacturing company in France that has sold a line of handheld slate cutters for many years. In Europe, roofers work with much thinner slate, 1/4”, and this makes these cutters much more effective. With thicker slate, the cutting process is tiresome. The advantage to a cutter like this is that you have much more control and can be more precise with curved cutting.