How to Slice Petrified Wood Into Slabs

By Steven J. Wamback
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Petrified wood is a common fossil found in abundance in some areas. The fossilization process called permineralization fills in the natural pores of wood with minerals such as opal agate and quartz and leaves wood petrified, which means turned into stone. You can easily slice some of your petrified wood into slabs to see the internal beauty of both the original wood structure and its mineral alteration. Your slices of petrified wood will look great on display in a collection while serving as objects for further study. They make great gifts and souvenirs of your paleontology adventure as well.

Obtain a piece of petrified wood that you would like to slice into slabs. Select a piece that is not quite as thick as the exposed radius of the blade of your wet saw. You may have to obtain a wet saw with a larger blade radius to cut larger pieces of petrified wood.

Be certain that your wet saw has sufficient water flow to keep your work lubricated while you are cutting your petrified wood into slabs. Follow the directions and safety recommendations in the instruction manual for your wet saw.

Use a fence guide for your wet saw to keep the thickness of the slabs you are slicing uniform. Set the fence guide to the desired thickness of your slabs. If your wet saw does not have a fence guide, you can make one with a short piece of scrap lumber and a pair of clamps; or you can do your slicing "by eye" and hope for uniform thickness in your slices.

Apply firm and uniform pressure to the rock as you pass it through the blade of the wet saw. Set your slices aside as you continue slicing through the remainder of your piece of petrified wood.

Wash your finished slices of petrified wood in soapy water and rinse with clean water. You can polish your rock slices by ordinary lapidary processes later. Use your fingertips to rub in a spot of liquid dish soap onto the flat smooth surfaces of your petrified wood slabs to bring out the sparkle of the minerals and the detail of the wood until you are ready to permanently polish them later on.

About the Author

Steven J. Wamback is a natural resources scientist, writer and editor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in geology, both from SUNY Fredonia. Wamback's writings and editorial projects include books, chapters, articles, essays, editorials, reports and research publications on such diverse topics as wetlands, wildlife, groundwater, rocks, fossils, sexuality, health, the environment and radio-wave propagation.