Many artists are given a commission to create a stone carving, but they are usually given a choice of materials or can choose their own stone to carve. It is important to note that some stones are easier to carve due to hardness, but even a hard stone has its own traits that might make it good for a particular project. Knowing what to look for is key in this area, and an experienced artist will look until they find the right stone to complete their project.
The hardness of stone is the reason artists use it, and they depend on its durability for their sculpture to last. There are many popular stones that carvers prefer, and these include marble, limestone, alabaster, granite and soapstone. Each of these stones has a different hardness, so the artist must modify their techniques and tool usage with their choice.
Marble has long been a favorite of stone carvers, and this is due to the veins of color running through it. While they are beautiful and provide additional depth to a piece, the veining can cause difficulties. It is a fairly hard stone, and areas around the veins can break off or chip when the carver is working in the area. For this reason, they must constantly sharpen their tools and take off small areas at a time.
Two of the easiest stones to carve are alabaster and soapstone, but each one has its own peculiarities. Soapstone can be carved using wood carving tools, but it is easily scratched. Polishing it is also easy, but it must be done with a light hand to keep from taking off too much of the material. Alabaster is slightly harder than soapstone, but it is more difficult to carve successfully. There are internal grains that run in different directions, so it is important to constantly check the grain and carve with it to avoid excess breakage.