Geology Department diamond saws

use and instructions

Basics

Large diamond saw

The large diamond saw is used to cut large or awkward rocks that are not easily cut on the small diamond saw. This saw is slow but cuts nice, smooth slabs. This blade has lasted more than 30 years.

Small diamond saw

The small diamond saw is able to cut small specimens that can be held by hand. It is, however, difficult to make smooth cuts, and the blade tends to wear out quickly.

Use hearing and eye protection

Basic safety Equipment must be used! You will need to wear goggles and hearing protectors. An apron is also wise (unless you like being splattered with mud and grit, to give others the impression that you've actually been working for a change).

Using the large diamond saw

Understand the vise and use it properly

Put on your safety equipment. Decide where the rock should be cut and put it on the vise. Leave enough space on either side of your intended rock slab to account for the thickness of the saw blade (~3 mm).

Rock sticks out from the vise for two cuts

Place your rock in the vise so that, when it is secured, it protrudes out from the vise to the left (the blade side, in the direction of the arrow) by at least 4 or 5 cm . See details below.

Adjust the movable vise

Lift the vise adjustor pin and slide the movable vise jaw to the proper position. The rock should be clamped with the vise jaw faces approximately parallel. There are wood blocks around to help hold odd-shaped rocks. The holes into which the vise adjustor pin fits (circled) are discussed below. The movable jaw is frequently difficult to adjust, and you may need to work on it a bit.

Movable vise away from sample

This shows the movable vise jaw (right) moved away from the fixed jaw (left).

Movable vise touching sample

The movable vise jaw has been moved into position to clamp the rock. Make sure that the adjustor pin slides down into a hole (circled above) to secure the movable jaw in place.

Clamp the sample, vise faces parallel

The rock needs to be securely clamped between the two jaw faces. The rock must press against the jaw faces on at least three points, or the rock could move during cutting. Moving could damage the blade or the blade drive belt. When the rock is positioned correctly, turn the clamp screw arm (circled) to clamp the rock into place. See that the rock is secure by firmly pulling and pushing on it to make sure it doesn't shift.

Adjust the vise position for the first, outer cut

Once the rock is secured and you need to adjust the position of the vise to make the cuts you want. For thin sections you usually want to make two cuts: an outer cut first, then an inner cut, to make a 1-1.5 cm thick slab. Making two cuts in this way means you don't have to remove the rock between cuts, just adjust the vise. Use the ratchet wrench (circled) to position the vise for the outer cut, with the edge of the vise 2-2.5 cm from the plane of the saw blade.

Put the rock close to the saw

When the vise is adjusted correctly, roll the vise along the rails until the rock is a few mm from the blade rim (circled). Don't start the saw if the rock is actually touching the blade.

Engage the vise clutch on the screw

Push the clutch handle, sticking out from underneath the vise, to the right. This engages a threaded clutch under the vise (not visible here) onto the threaded drive screw (arrow).

Lock the clutch, so it doesn't release

Slide the metal ring, wire, spring, rubber band, or whatever else is present, onto the clutch handle to lock the handle into its right-most position. The clutch handle should be all the way to the right, but not tight. If it is too loose, it will not engage the drive screw threads well enough and the rock won't advance into the blade. If it is too tight, it could slow the drive screw rotation rate and so slow the cutting. It can even stop the drive screw entirely.

Close the cover, or there will be a mess

Close the lid and turn on the saw. Make sure you did not leave and tools inside before you turn it on.

Flick the switch, make sure the sample is advancing

Here is the switch, on the right side of the saw. When the saw is turned on, the feed rod (arrow) should turn slowly. This indicates that the vise it being advanced toward the blade.

Make sure water is directed on the blades

Without opening the lid, look to see if the coolant comes out of the tubes on both sides of the blade (circled).

Make sure there is lots of splashing water

Water should spray around the top of the saw in the plane of the blade (circled). If you do not see water turn off the saw and see about fixing the problem. Maybe the water tub just needs more water. When the blade actually starts cutting. Monitor the saw every so often to ensure the blade does not jam. If it does, shut the saw off immediately or the rubber drive belt will burn through, making a real stink. You will hear the rock end fall when the cut is complete.

Release the clutch, move the vise back

Turn off the saw, lift the lid, disengage the clutch lever (move it to the left) and roll the vise away from the blade. Do not remove the rock from the vise!

Make second cut, slab falls off

Use the ratchet wrench to move the vise to the left for the second cut. The second cut should result in a slab 1-1.5 cm thick. Start the second cut like the first.

Dry samples

Put your rock pieces on towel to dry.

Label the samples, don't fool yourself that you can remember which is which

Label your slabs and any other pieces you want to keep with permanent marker, or some other legible, water-resistant method. You may want to use the small saw to cut the slabs into rectangular thin section chips before labeling. Here labels are in magic marker, but if you make thin sections, epoxy can get on the labels which makes them almost impossible to read. Use white ink or paper labels (glued on with epoxy) for thin section chips.

Raise the lid so the saw insides can dry out

To prevent rusting, always leave the lid opened when the saw is not in use.

Using the small diamond saw

Align, brace, and hold the rock so it won't rotate

Put on your safety equipment. Decide where you want to cut the rock. Place the rock on the saw and make sure it can fit under the guard and is smaller than the exposed blade is high. You can use the metal slider, which helps gently and accurately advance the rock into the blade. However, it can get stuck on grit and otherwise make good cuts difficult. You can also use your hands alone to guide the rock into the blade. Either way, you need a firm, steady hand. Twisting the rock while cutting, or trying to cut edges or curves is what destroys these blades. The first cut should be on the outside edge of the rock so that when you make the second cut there is still rock to hold on to.

Turn on the motor

Now turn on the saw. The switch is located on the right side of the motor in the back right corner (circled).

Make sure water is coming out on both sides of the blade

Feel the sides of the blade or watch for the coolant (water, circled). The coolant should be spraying out from the edge of the blade. If no water is visible, stop cutting and fix the problem. Gently but firmly guide your rock through the blade to make your cut. Do your best to make the cut straight, without deflecting the blade. Note that the blade is not sharp in the usual sense. It will not cut your skin unless you actually press on the blade. It will cut through fingernails, however.

Make your two cuts as parallel as your can

When finished cutting turn off the saw. You should make two cuts, leaving you with a smooth, even slab 1-1.5 cm thick. You can now mark the slab in pencil with the thin section template, and make four more cuts to give you a thin section chip.

Yes, the samples still need to dry out

Place your slab on a section of paper towel to dry.

And label them. If you don't, you're doomed

Once dry label your slabs. Remembr that magic marker labels are almost invisible on wet or epoxy-covered rocks. If you make thin sections chips, use white ink or paper labels glued on with epoxy.