How to cut a countertop is one of the most frequent questions we receive. The right answer is that there are so many answers as fabricators exist. Everyone will use the method that works better for him, so we don’t pretend to teach anyone how to cut a granite countertop.
The idea of this article is to be a walkthrough on the phases or stages needed to do it, showing what we believe are the best tools for completing it, meaning the most cost-effective ones. This is something we have learned through 20+ years about this industry, so no matter if you are just starting your granite shop or are a seasoned expert, probably you might discover something that can improve your productivity.
Fabricating a Countertop: Stages
When we are dealing with how to cut a granite countertop, there are several phases or stages that can be identified. Let’s start going through each one of them
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Moving Slabs in
Bringing the slabs into the Shop
We all know that slabs are costly and they need to be handled carefully. So, you are going to need to have some equipment to move the stones around, which should consist of at least of a Forklift, a Forklift Boom, and a Stone Clamp. Once you have managed to introduce the slab into the Shop, you will need a safe place to store it, for which an A-Frame is the most common solution.
A Forklift Boom is a telescopic arm that attaches to a Forklift or a truck, which after being hooked to a Clamp or other Stone Lifter, will allow us to move the slabs very safely.
There are different Forklift Booms, basically depending on the weight of the stones you are going to handle, so you need to select it accordingly with your shop characteristics. Here two different choices are shown, both excellent pieces, which are the Aardwolf Forklift Boom FB1-2720 and FB2-3580.
Probably you might want to use a Stone Lifter, which is addressed in the next section.
In order to pick up and release the slab, you are going to need a Stone Lifter, which is a tool that attaches to the Forklift Boom to grab the stone.
Again, there are different options to choose from, and the ones we are showing here belong to the Aardwolf Lifter Auto-lock family, which automatically closes when picking up the slap and opens when you are ready to release it.
You must select it, as with the Forklift Boom, depending on the kind of stones you need to move around.
Once you manage to enter the slab or slabs into the Granite Shop, you need to store them.
It is worth repeating how valuable the slabs are, the reason for which we need to find a method to safely store them, keeping them from breaking or getting chipped or scratched.
For that matter, we use an A-Frame, which is a structure on which we can rest the stones. There are many options for it, again depending on how many slabs you need to store, their dimensions, and so on. Here we are showing two basic ones, which have proven to be very versatile. They are the Abaco TAF-060, and the Aardwolf SAF03, but have in mind there are a lot of choices.
Now that we have managed to enter the slab into the Shop and secured it, it is time to go deeper in how to cut a Granite Countertop.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Workspace
Creating a Workspace
Before you start fabricating the Countertop, you need to set up an environment to work comfortably on it.
As mentioned, you need a place on which to work with the slabs to execute the fabrication process. For that, the Fabrication Tables were created, specialized structures that allow to efficiently manage the workflow.
Here we show two different options: The Aardwolf Premium Fabrication Table, as it is very versatile, and you can link together 2 or more to create the best combination for the kind of pieces you need to fabricate, and a more elaborate option, an adjustable one.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Cutting
Cutting the Slab
Now is when the fun starts. Some people prefer to send the slabs to be cut in a place with industrial machines. Others have them in their Shop. If you belong to one of the two aforementioned categories, you can jump to the next section. If you plan to do the cutting yourself, you are going to need the following items:
To cut granite countertops, you’ll need a circular saw equipped with a continuous diamond coated cutting blade. It is with the help of this tool that you are going to cut the pieces you need to fabricate the Countertop.
As in every category, there are many options, but in this article, we are showing just one, which is the one we considered the best option regarding versatility and cost-effectiveness. So, the MK Diamond Railsaw MK-1590 is our choice here.
It is a very versatile tool, which has a vibration-free rail system that is fitted with anti-wear nylon slides to prevent damage to the workpieces during cutting operations and maintenance-free steel rollers providing effortless tracking.
The MK-1590 has an adjustable depth of cut and plunge cutting capability. Miter cutting ability is built-in with a cutting head that tilts from 0° to 45°. Saw shown with 72″ rail. The second rail set included with saw extends the cutting length to 130″.
You are also going to need a Blade to make the cutting. For this, we chose the Cyclone Continuous Rim Blade. If you are going to add it to the Shopping Cart, please double check you select 12″ for the Rim diameter.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Sinkhole
Some fabricators open the hole where the sink will fit. Others prefer to delay the job until installation. If you are going to open the hole during fabrication, this is the right moment to do it, as you can do all the finishing together. The key on how to cut a Granite Countertop is to try to be the most efficient that you can. Following is what you are going to need:
Variable Speed Grinder
From now on, the grinder is going to become your best friend. You will use it not only for opening the sinkhole, but for removing stock, finishing, and probably for polishing.
You should get a variable speed angle grinder for controlling the different speeds depending on what you are doing, and here, as always, even though there are different choices, we are going with the Makita 9564CV, as it has proved to be very versatile and highly cost-effective. Another excellent choice would be the Makita 9566CV.
You are going to need a Blade to make the cutting in the stone where the sink will fit. As always, there are many different options, and here we chose the Hurricane Turbo Blade as the best bit for the job, but there are many different options depending on what you need to accomplish.
Please have in mind that if what you are building is a Counter for a bathroom, probably you are going to need to open a circular hole, for which you will need to use a Contour Blade. We have written an article that illustrates the process of opening this kind of hole which shows it in a video. If this is what you need to fabricate, it might worth to take a look at it.
Zero Tolerance Wheels
Once you open the Sinkhole, you are going to need to smooth its edges. When you cut, some chipping occurs, resulting in an irregular surface.
To fix that, you need to attach a Zero Tolerance Wheel to your grinder and go over all the edges resulting from your recent cut. We recommend here to use Cyclone Zero Tolerance Wheels. Select the 3″, Resin filled option, which is what probably will give you the best results. Another option would be to use the Stock Removal Wheels, which are heavier, but last longer.
Once you finish cutting the pieces that are going to be part of the Countertop, you need to Finish them
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Finishing
Once you’ve made all the cutting, the edges of your granite countertop can be finished with a grinding wheel. Several passes with finer and finer-grit wheels will produce a smooth finish that can be polished with buffing wheels attached to the grinder. You are going to need the following tools:
When you cut the slabs, the recently cut pieces are going to be rough, so you need to start smoothing them out, through a process named stock removal. For that purpose, you need to attach to your grinder (the aforementioned Makita 9564CV or similar) a Cup Wheel, which will remove the irregularities and start to smooth the roughness.
For that, we choose the Cyclone Turbo Cup Wheels. Depending on the roughness of the cut, you will go through 3 phases, the first with the Coarse version, followed by the Medium one, to finish with the Fine Wheel (you might also start from the Medium, depending on how much stock removal is needed). A second option might be the Hurricane Turbo Cup Wheels.
By using the Cup Wheels you complete a big part of the smoothing process, but to fine-tuning the pieces, you are going to need Grinding Wheels, also known as Grinding Stones. By attaching them to the Grinder, you will finish the smoothing in preparation for Polishing. At this moment you are advancing at a good pace on how to cut a Granite Countertop.
Here we selected the Mako Silicon Carbide Grinding Stones, but again, there are many options for this stage. Usually, you go through 3 different grits of the Grinding Stone, 46G, 60G, and finally 120G until all the cut surface becomes a smooth one. Some people prefer to use the Sand Paper option, but generally it implies more working hours.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Profiles
Fabricating Edge Profiles
Once you have cut the pieces which will become the finished Countertop (and probably opened the sinkhole), you might need to create a specialty profile. For doing that, you will need:
For Granite Edge Profile Fabrication, there are many different options, depending on what the customer requested. The most popular Profile Edges are:
- Bullnose: Full Bullnose, Half Bullnose, Demi Bullnose
- Ogee: Ogee, Ogee Bullnose, Flat Ogee
- Bevel, Round, Waterfall, Triple Pencil
- Cove: Cove, Cove Bullnose
These different Profiles vary a lot in complexity, and although some Fabricators create them by hand, the best way to do it is by using a Stone Router. It will not only make the job easier but will render a more professional result. For this, we have a very practical solution, which is the Milwaukee Granite Stone Router, not only by effectiveness and capacity but because it’s priced way lower than its closest competitors. We wrote an article describing its perks. You will need a Router Bit, which is described in the next section, however here one of the most popular bit is shown.
Whether you are going to use a Stone Router or not for Granite Edge Profile Fabrication, you will need Router Bits for Fabricating the Profiles. There are many different options, depending on the Profile you need to build. For the Granite Edge Profile Fabrication process, here are the most popular ones:
We have written an article about fabricating Profiles Edges, which you might want to take a look at.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Polishing
The last step in fabricating a Countertop will be polishing its edges. You can choose to do it in a Wet or Dry environment, each one having its advantages. Remember that answering how to cut a Granite Countertop can be done in multiple ways, you need to choose the one that better fits with your workflow
No matter if you are going to do the Polishing in a Wet or Dry environment, you are going to need a Backer Pad to attach the polishing disks to the machine you will use.
There are several options for them, but we think the most versatile option here is to use the Cyclone Flexible Backer Pads, as they will give, as its name implies, more flexibility to complete the job. The Cyclone Rigid Backer Pad is also shown.
Wet Polishing is chosen primarily because it generates less dust and the Polishing Pads last longer. For Wet Polishing, you will need the following:
Pneumatic Wet Polisher
You will need a Pneumatic Wet Polisher, which connects to an air compressor and to a water source for doing its job.
As in the other categories, there are several options, but here we are showing the two most popular choices, which are the Stone Pneumatic Wet Air Polisher, as it has shown to be very durable and cost-effective, and the Cyclone Pneumatic Polisher.
Wet Polishing Pads
You are going to need a set of Polishing Pads for completing this chore. In this case, you need to choose Wet Pads.
What we have found to be a very good choice, is the Hurricane Wet Polishing Disks RE Series, because of its performance and price tag. When you Polish the edges, you should start with the lowest Grit, going up each step. Most recommendable is to get the disks set, going from the lowest to the highest grit, and finish with the Buff. If the stone you are polishing is clear, use the White Buff, while if it is dark, use the Black buff. Here there are many different choices too, depending on the kind of job you need to execute.
The main reason to choose Dry Polishing over Wet, is the lack of an air compressor. Using this method, most dust and debris will be generated, so you should take the appropriate measures for protecting yourself from it. For Dry Polishing, you already should have the Angle Grinder, so you are going to need just the Pads
Dry Polishing Pads
As mentioned, you already should have a grinder, so what you need are Dry Pads to complete this phase of the job.
For it, we chose the Cyclone Dry Polishing Pads, and again, as in the Wet Polishing, you should get them as a Set and start polishing with the lowest grit and going up until you get to the Buffs. If the stone you are polishing is clear, use the White Buff, while if it is dark, use the Black buff. Also the Hurricane Polishing Pads is shown, in general is a matter of try them all to see which you like the most.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Sealing
Sealing the Countertop
Once you finish Polishing, one of the most frequent questions we get about how to cut a Granite Countertop is about sealing, and we think it might be convenient for you to seal it.
For that matter, you should use a Sealer like the Bellinzoni Idea Gold, which has proven to be an excellent sealer and has become the favorite among our customers.
Bellinzoni has an extensive line of excellent sealers, depending on what you need. Here is also shown the Bellinzoni Idea Black.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Transporting
Transporting the finished pieces
Once you are completed all the stages of fabricating the Countertop, you need a way to move it out of your Granite Shop.
With your Countertop already finished, you are probably going to need to move it to the installation site (unless the installer comes to pick it up).
You need to secure that nothing is going to scratch or chip your hard-worked pieces, so you need a very reliable tool for this job. Our recommendation goes to the Aardwolf Transport Frame TF2440 or the Aardwolf Transport Frame TF2000.
How to cut a Granite Countertop: Wrapping up
[alert]Cutting granite countertops will produce plenty of dust and could generate flying chips. Wear gloves, goggles, and a protective respirator while making any cuts in your granite countertops[/alert]