Precision in Every Cut: A Guide to Handling Manufactured Stone Veneer

CruxLon Training
Cultured Stone

Precision in Every Cut: A Guide to Handling Manufactured Stone Veneer

Cruz Leon is the founder of Crux Lon Hardscape University, based in South Elgin, Illinois. His award-winning program helps masonry professionals hone their craft with dozens of class offerings like the Outdoor Living Bootcamp, the Masonry & Outdoor Kitchens Workshop and the 2-Day Hardscapes Hands-On.

Leon began working with hardscapes as a high school student in 1999 before starting his own business six years later. At the encouragement of colleagues who told him he had a knack for teaching the trade, he launched the University three years ago. We asked Leon to share some tips and insights for cutting manufactured stone veneer (MSV) products.

Pay Attention To The Details 

To Leon, great cuts are less a matter of technique than they are a state of mind. Finesse takes time. However, masons often feel the pull to finish a project as fast as possible and start their next paying gig. As long as the work looks passable, they’ll consider it done.

“It’s all about how you do your job,” Leon said. “I know some guys just want to get it done and move on to the next job. We’re different – we want to get it done as perfectly as possible.”

Leon is a believer in going the extra mile make sure that no stone is crooked or sticks out awkwardly from the rest. If a corner doesn’t fit perfectly, he’ll take the extra time to sculpt it.

In the end, this attention to detail has been more worth the while. His reputation as a mason who demands quality work of his crews has spread through his area, and he is now frequently sought after and recommended for lucrative, high-end projects.

Plan Ahead

Leon always likes to lay veneer pieces on the ground first to arrange how they’ll look on the surface. While some products come pre-sorted to speed the installation, he prefers the process of mixing them up.

Even when the stones are arranged by the manufacturer, installers will usually face decision points when they’ll have to deal with gaps in the pattern. For example, while installing veneer around a fireplace, a mason needs to get creative about which stone colors to use and how to cut them while framing the opening. When making cuts in situations like these, Leon likes to chisel the edges to make them look as rough and natural as possible.

Keep it Clean at the Top

Especially when working with veneer panels, Leon prefers to avoid cuts to the upper sections that are most clearly in view. He’ll start by placing a level piece of wood near the ground to guide a first row of panels or stones and then work his way up. Once the top has been reached, he’ll infill the bottom portion, where any pieces of stone that needed to be cut are not visible as prominently.

When installing individual stones, Leon acknowledged that it’s not practical to check every piece to make sure it’s level. Instead he likes to draw marks on the wall every four inches or so and follow them to ensure the stones stay on track. After finishing every 2-by-2-foot area or so, he steps back to take in the full picture, and make any cuts or tweaks needed to make it look right.


A Measured Approach

Since cutting stone is time consuming, Leon likes to figure out ways to do fewer of them. At the start of any job, he recommends taking some extra time to scan the job site, think through your strategy, and take measurements that can help you avoid mistakes later.

When using veneers or pavers that come in large sizes, Leon doesn’t believe it looks good when the pattern abruptly ends with a bunch of small, cut pieces. To avoid this, take measurements at the beginning to determine how you can use cuts that are as large as possible on both ends of the rows.

Keep Learning

Years ago, Leon used to hear complaints about masons working too fast, too shoddy, and depressing the value of everyone else’s work by not charging enough. So he decided to do something about it.

Leon started the Hardscape University with the aim of providing a fast, affordable way for masons and workers who wanted to transition from fields like landscaping to get a formal education on the craft’s finer points. Whether you need a primer on cutting stones or operating special machinery, he recommends masons of all experience periodically set aside time for professional development at programs like his.

Years ago, Leon used to hear complaints about masons working too fast, too shoddy, and depressing the value of everyone else’s work by not charging enough. So he decided to do something about it.

Leon started the Hardscape University with the aim of providing a fast, affordable way for masons and workers who wanted to transition from fields like landscaping to get a formal education on the craft’s finer points. Whether you need a primer on cutting stones or operating special machinery, he recommends masons of all experience periodically set aside time for professional development at programs like his.

“I feel like our trainings are elevating the industry by helping people understand why the job needs to be done right,” Leon said. “Once they understand that, they’ll figure out how to charge what needs to be charged – sometimes they don’t know any better. If they educate themselves, it’s good for everyone.”

Need a special cut that you don’t have the tools or background to handle? Reach out to Instone’s Fabrication and Design Services. Our team can work with you on custom cut-to-size hardscaping and partner with you in the design of large-scale projects and sourcing of stone products.