Slicing Up the Zebra Stone and Printstone Rough

Muddy Sunday – Slicing the Zebra Stone and Printstone

Just over a year ago we were asked by a client if we could work some Zebra Stone for her and create some pendants which we did, and ever since we have been looking for some Zebra Stone of our own to work with.

Not so long ago we ordered some Zebra Stone and Printstone rough from Australia and it’s been sat out in the workshop for a couple of weeks since it arrived. Well on Saturday we decided it was time to slice it up into slabs.

Pictures of the chunks of Zebra Stone and Printstone Rough

A block of Rough Zebra Stone
Zebra Stone #1

Our second block of Rough Zebra Stone unworked
Zebra Stone #2

a chunk of rough Printstone  from Australia
Printstone

If you have ever read my previous post about Zebra Stone of 7th May 2012 you will know that I was wary of getting water, cutting oil or anything else near this stone so I got out my mitre saw and set it up.

After about two hours I had managed to almost cut one slice, this batch of Zebra Stone (as was the Printstone) was much harder than the first lot we worked with, as you can imagine I was pretty worn out after I got the first slice cut, and so was the saw blade, the teeth were all worn away, so obviously this method of cutting wasn’t going to be an option.

This was painful, dry cutting the rough!

Zebra Stone clamped on dry saw
Zebra Stone clamped on dry saw

Zebra Stone dry cut - almost half way
Zebra Stone dry cut – almost half way

First Zebra Stone Slab
First Zebra Stone Slab

The only other option we had to hand was our 8” diamond saw, but that uses “metprep” cutting oil, and as I said previously I was wary of letting anything like this near the stone in case of contamination. So, after some mulling things over we decided to empty out the sump and give it a thorough clean, then we reassembled the saw a refilled the sump with clean water only.

The reasoning behind this is that the Zebra Stone and Printstone would have been subjected to the elements before they were mined so clean water shouldn’t do any harm!

Little did I realise that I was about to embark on the mother of all mud baths! The biggest problem I was having was actually seeing what I was doing, because the dirty water was flying up and coating my safety glasses, so I had to keep stopping and dunking them in a bucket of water to clean them.

This was a mud bath – cutting the Printstone and Zebra Stone on the diamond saw.

Cutting the Printstone
Cutting the Printstone

Its a mud bath
Its a mud bath

cutting the zebra stone
cutting the zebra stone

Every time a new slab came off the saw Shalini was standing there waiting to go and clean it up, it almost reminded me of the nurse waiting to go and clean up the baby after it had just been delivered.

Well after almost 3 hours of cutting we ended up with a combined total of 28 zebra Stone and Printstone slabs of varying sizes and thicknesses.

So, was it all worth it – you bet!

Zebra Stone slabs
Zebra Stone slabs

Printstone slabs
Printstone slabs

A mixture of Zebra Stone and Printstone slabs
A mixture of Zebra Stone and Printstone slabs

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Bespoke Lapidary Projects

From a practicing Lapidaries point of view these stones are a challenge, the challenge being “what would this look like once it cut and polished”. This is exactly what we do here at Stamford lapidary.

Have you ever wandered along a pebble beach, walked through a gravel car park, been walking in the fields or sitting by a stream and noticed an interesting stone and picked it up and brought it home with you? Many times that stone will just sit in a drawer and very rarely see the light of day again.

I have done this many times in all kinds of places, some of the stones have had interesting patterns or colours which catch my imagination.

From a practicing Lapidaries point of view these stones are a challenge, the challenge being “what would this look like once it cut and polished”. This is exactly what we do here at Stamford lapidary.

It’s nice to be able to say that 99% of the stones we find can be polished and most often end up being used by Shalini in her Jewellery designs.

It’s worth keeping in mind that it’s not just the well known stones like Amethyst, Rose Quartz and various other well known semi-precious stones that make eye catching jewellery, we have made many fine pendants from pebbles and flints that we have found when out and about and because of the materials we have used they are all the more unique.

We would like to offer this service to you, after all not everybody has all the equipment needed in their workshop to do this kind of work.

All you need do is drop us a line and let us know roughly what you have got and what you would like done with it and we will take care of the rest.

We are located in Stamford, Lincolnshire but we can do this work for anyone anywhere in the world.

Zebra Stone – How I worked it

So the first step was to take a slab of the piece the client had sent us, I did this with a normal hacksaw, no water and just took my time and I was surprised at how easily it cut through it, didn’t take long at all. I also used the hacksaw to cut out the basic shapes of the pendants.

Recently Shalini was asked by a new client if we could produce some Zebra Stone pendants for her, personally I had never heard of Zebra Stone, let alone having ever seen it.

Anyway the client sent it through to us and after unpacking it I was surprised to see just how soft this is, if you scrape your finger nail across it, you get dust which I can best describe as chalk dust. This immediately got the alarm bells ringing, would this stone hold up to the rigours of being exposed to the grinding wheels and how was I going to cut it, again worried about it absorbing the coolant from the saw.

So I did some searching around and contacted a few of the Lapidary forums and the consensus was that this had to be done by hand, no machines, well I did use one machine which I will mention later.

So the first step was to take a slab of the piece the client had sent us, I did this with a normal hacksaw, no water and just took my time and I was surprised at how easily it cut through it, didn’t take long at all. I also used the hacksaw to cut out the basic shapes of the pendants.

Next step was to remove the final surplus material which I did with my Fordom flex-shaft with a small diamond cut-off wheel fitted. I ran the Fordom on a medium speed and just touched the material against the wheel lightly and the surplus material was soon removed and loads of dust created.

Now I had to get the holes bored for the leather thong to go through, for this I used a few different sized diamond twist drills, again on the Fordom but now water cooling, to open up the hole enough I used a few different sizes of diamond burrs.

Right now it’s time to see if I can get a smooth finish on this Zebra Stone, I stated with wet and dry paper, 240 grit and finished off the shaping and created the chamfers on the edges. You will find the wet and dry clogs up very quickly because there is no water being used at all, but running a stiff brush over it soon un-clogs it so it can be re-used. I then moved onto 600 grit wet and dry, big step I know, but it’s all I could source from the local hardware shop, but it worked and removed all the scratches left by the 240, then I finished off all over with 1200 grit wet and dry and it came out nice and smooth.

The final step is to get a polish, I had read that Zebra Stone doesn’t polish at all really and with my concerns about the stone absorbing water or anything else I decided not to even try, so I sealed the stone with a light coating of beeswax which has give a slight lustre to the finish.

So as you can see this was a completely “dry” process from start to finish, no coolants or lubricants were used at all. Now I just hope Shalini’s client likes the finished product.

Is Self Employment a hobby or a job

Have you ever been at a craft fair and have peoplestop at your stall and admire your work and make a comment like “nice hobby” or how long did that take to make and when you tell them they say “you obviously have a lot of spare time”

Have you ever been at a craft fair and have people stop at your stall and admire your work and make a comment like “nice hobby” or how long did that take to make and when you tell them they say “you obviously have a lot of spare time”

Yes we have all heard this or soemthing like this and does it get you mad, sure it does, you are running a business, maybe part time or maybe full time nontheless it’s how your earn your living.

Well my wife, Shalini finally cracked yesterday, she has been patronised enough and it spilled out in a fantastic blog post, it’s written from the heart as you will see when you read it, if it strikes a cord with you please share it with your friends and leave her a comment.

You can find the post here:

http://jewellery-by-shalini.blogspot.com/2011/11/its-not-just-hobby.html

All the best

Dave

Great day at the craft fair today

Yes today was a great day at the craft fair, it was well attended and I got a few nice comments about the hessian we bought recently to use as table covers on my stand, it went very well with the rocks and trees.

I met a very interesting chap who wanted to have a chat about a lump of rough flint I had on my table which I had placed next to the flint pendants we had made, it was there to demonstrate where the pendants had originated from. Anyway this chap told me his father had lumps of flint in his back garden, piled up and they are about 6″ thick or more and asked if I could use some, the answer of course was yes please. Anyway he said he will bring some to next craft fair in July and I promised to make him a nice paper weight as a thankyou.

Later in the day a young lad and his mum came to the stand and they spent a long time looking at the tumble stones, this young lad really knew his stones as well, he told me his favourite was Amethyst, that was until he spotted a lapis Lazuli cab I had on display his eyes just lit up and he wanted to know all about it. His Mum asked him if he wanted to choose a few tumble stones for his collection, so while he was doing that I had a rummage about in my “reserve” box of tumblestones and found a Lapis specimen, it had quite a bit of calcite in it so wasn’t really going to be used in Shalini’s jewellery, anyway after he had chosen his stones paid for them I gave him the Lapis for free, he was over the moon as was his Mum and they both said they will be back to see me in July at the next fair, good job we have a few kilos of stones tumbleing at the moment.

So all in a long day as organisers, but a good day because of the people I met!

Cheers

Dave

Looking Forward to being a busy Lapidary in 2011

In addition to working semi precious stones like Tiger Eye, Blue Lace Agate and the many others we have in stock I also want to revisit my big stock of Flint and get to know it better and maybe couple it with the copper wire to produce a range of “not too expensive” jewellery but keeping it in the same class as our Sterling Silver wrapped jewellery. I also like the Flint because it’s a material I collected myself from an excavation site, so there is more of a bond to it than the bought in rough that we have.

Happy New Year

Well 2010 has been and gone now and now we look forward to 2011 in a positive manner and to getting the grinding and sanding wheel a turning again in the Lapidary workshop.

2010 was a quiet year out in the workshop for many reasons like other work commitments and to be honest no real need for more cabochons and tumble stones, simply because there wasn’t a lot of selling going on at the craft fairs in the first half of the year.

Fortunately things picked up in the second half of 2010 with the sale of rough rock showing an improvement and Shalini’s finished jewellery sales have also picked up a lot, so now we have got to start producing more of unique free form cabochons and get those tumbling machines spinning again.

While I am on the subject I should also mention that Shalini has completely rebuilt her on-line Jewellery Showroom and Shop which you can visit at http://www.jewellerybyshalini.co.uk and I have got the Rough Rock Shop on line as well, although I still have to get some cabochons and slabs photographed to on there, but you can find the Rough Rock Shop at: http://www.roughrockshop.co.uk

On the subject of tumble stones it has been really nice to see how interested the youngsters are in these stone’s, in fact I would say the vast majority of tumble stones have gone to kids who are under 10 years of age which is really nice.

We are also going to explore the possibilities if using copper wire more in our jewellery creations, in fact we are actively looking for a good source of 21swg square copper and half round wire, looks like we will have to import it from the USA as we haven’t found a supplier over here in the UK.

In addition to working semi precious stones like Tiger Eye, Blue Lace Agate and the many others we have in stock I also want to revisit my big stock of Flint and get to know it better and maybe couple it with the copper wire to produce a range of “not too expensive” jewellery but keeping it in the same class as our Sterling Silver wrapped jewellery. I also like the Flint because it’s a material I collected myself from an excavation site, so there is more of a bond to it than the bought in rough that we have.

Our adventures with wire tree sculptures have continued throughout 2010 and now instead of a small copse of trees we now have a small forest so to speak. We have made all kinds of shapes and sizes of trees out of bare copper, plated copper, aluminium and brass. I also had the idea of creating wire sculptures of Ent’s, you may remember them from the Lord of The Rings films, the most notable of the Ent’s was a chap named Tree Beard.

At first I wasn’t too sure how these Ents would turn out but I am happy to say that most people who have seen them at the craft fairs have recognised them who they are, so I must have got them right I guess. So Far I have made 3 Ents, one has gone to a new home in the last few months and seems to have settled in quite happily with his new family. There is also a larger one who is taking a rest sitting on a pile of boulders, I will get a picture of him up here soon and then there is the bay Ent who only got completed about two weeks ago, he looks to be full of mischief!

The wire sculptures will continue into 2011 as I am just about to start one in bare iron wire, maybe a foot tall as this one is going to be an experiment as he will be out outside when he is finished. I want to see how the wire rusts and how it adds to the overall finish of the tree. If it works then there will be a range of taller outdoor tree sculptures made which can go in the garden or on the patio.

So there we have it lots of plans for 2011, so first up when it gets a bit warmer is to give all of the equipment out in the Lapidary workshop a good servicing so it’s ready for use however I think this afternoon I will make a start on that bare iron wire tree sculpture I just mentioned.

All the best

Dave

Lapidary Workshop Prepared for use

After the long hard winter we have all just endured the Lapidary workshop was just too cold to be worked in, even the wood burning stove couldn’t cope, so it’s lain dormant for a quite a number of months.

So yesterday we spent much of the day cleaning up out there, sorting out rocks, while all the time resisting the temptation to switch the machines on.

Of course the machines all had to be cleaned down, checked over and lubricated, with that done, it wasn’t long before Shalini fired the cab machine up and gave herself a manicure again.

Now only the saw remains to be cleaned up, but there is no rush as we have plenty of slabs to be worked on.

She was working on some larger Labradorite tumble stones that didn’t quite work out in the tumbler, so far they are cleaning up nicely so lets see how it goes.

I found a small piece of Lapis and tried my hand at a bit of carving, didn’t really know what I was aiming to achieve at the start and to be honest I don’t really know what I have ended up with, maybe a “Gollum’s foot” would be a good description, but I will take it through all the stages and get it polished as it’s all good practice.

On a different note, we had a good show at the Stamford Arts Centre recently, Shalini managed sell all of the stalls so there was a wide variety of crafts on display and, considering there wasn’t a massive publicity push for this show, there were a lot of visitors. The wire tree sculptures got their first official airing to the public as well and they were well received with some nice comments.

I sat at my stall for a while making a tree and numerous people stood there watching what I was doing and asking questions, so I have learnt that doing a live demo does increase people interest in your wares.

The biggest seller on the lapidary stall seems to be the tumble stones, kids and adults seem to love them and it’s great to hear the kids telling me all about their crystal collections, who knows, maybe Lapidary will come alive again in the UK in future generations, that would be cool.

On the tree side of things I have two rolls of brass wire for another tree soon so am looking forward to getting into that one.

Following on from that one will be a bare iron wire tree, maybe 4 foot tall I hope to go outside in the garden, why bare iron? Well the idea is that it will rust and give the tree a natural colour over time.

On the horizon, we will be attending the Stamford Military Tattoo on the 19th June, the organisers have asked the Stamford Artisans Guild to set up a crafters area so we are busy on that and we have our next show at the Stamford Arts Centre on 25th July, so looking forward to that.

Anyway all for now, got to and sort out some more rough to go on the shop.

All the best

Dave

So How Did Our Gem Stone Crosses Turn Out

In a previous post I described how we cut the crosses out of green Aventurine, since then we cut some more out Orange Aventurine, Rose Quartz, Sodalite and Lapis Lazuli, just to get the feel for using different materials for making crosses.

A while ago I started learning how to make gem stone crosses, at times it was frustrating and there were a few casualties along the way.

In a previous post I described how we cut the crosses out of green Aventurine, since then we cut some more out Orange Aventurine, Rose Quartz, Sodalite and Lapis Lazuli, just to get the feel for using different materials for making crosses.

One thing I did learn was to use smaller tools for this type of work, the expanding drums on the cab machine are too harsh, so as it turned out was the felt polishing wheel.

So I used small felt bobs mounted in the Fordom Flex shaft to sand and polish these pieces, for the sanding I used progressive grades of diamond paste on the felt bobs then finished off with cerium oxide as a polish.

As I said there were a few casualties along the way, the first happened a while back before I figured out to use the felt bobs as the one below fractured on the felt polishing wheel.

This one fractured when it was being polished
This one fractured when it was being polished

The second one fractured when I was trying to drill a hole for a jump ring to go through, Rose Quartz seems to be very fragile in this type of work, but it’s more than likely just me.

This cross fractured when it was being drilled
This cross fractured when it was being drilled

Anyway those that survived are below, I know they could be better but that’s what learning is all about and you don’t learn if you don’t try!

Gem stone crosses - our first attempt
Gem stone crosses – our first attempt

I will do more of these when time allows and I am sure the next batch will be much better.

All the best

Dave

Teaching ourselves how to make Gemstone Crosses

We recently had a request from a lady who wanted a cross made from rose quartz, fortunately there is no rush for this item as we need to figure out how to make these, good job as we needed to teach oursleves how to do it.

Seems I made a mistake when I decsribed these as crucifixes, I have been informed that a crucifix has the figure of Jesus on the cross, sorry about that, I will now describe these peices as crosses.

We recently had a request from a lady who wanted a cross made from rose quartz, fortunately there is no rush for this item as we need to figure out how to make these, good job as we needed to teach oursleves how to do it.

This post is about the initial learning phase of making these cross shapes and the problems we faced and how we resolved those problems.

We selected green Aventurine as we have plenty of this in our rough rock store.

So the first job was to cut some slabs on the slab saw which was easy enough, then we marked out the cross outline with an aluminium scribe, again easy enough!

Now we returned to the slab saw to cut out the cross shape, this is where we hit two problems, the first was that it was difficult to see the scribed lines because of the saw oil, the second, and we hadn’t realised this. We found that if we cut right up to the scribed line and then reversed the stone the cut actually extended beyond where we wanted it, this is because of the circumference of the saw blade.

Time for a cup of tea and a bit of think about these problems, during our discussions we remembered the small diamond cut off wheels we had bought an age ago but had never used. So we fitted one onto a mandrel and then onto out Foredom flex shaft drill. Eureka, this sorted out the problems, first of all because water is used as the coolant on these wheels so no problem seeing the scribed lines and also it was much easier to make the cuts simply by cutting close to the line and then reversing the stone and continuing the cut from that side. Se finally got a couple of cross shapes!

The next step was to drill a hole of about 2mm through the top of the cross so a leather thing could be threaded through. I find it’s better to do the drilling at this stage rather than drilling a finished polished item simply because any marks or scratched that might be caused by the drilling process or holding the item in a vice can be ground out at later stages.

So we drilled a pilot hole of 1mm with a triple ripple diamond bit, then opened it using 1.5mm and 2mm diamond twist drill bits, no problems there, just the time involved, it takes an age to drill holes in rock.

aventurine crucifix showing the hole for the leather thong
aventurine crucifix showing the hole for the leather thong

Then we moved onto the cab machine, but only got as far as the roughest wheel and then ran out of time.

The first green aventuirne crucifix preform
The first green aventuirne crucifix preform

We will continue this post when we have made further progress on these 2 cross preforms.

the second aventurine crucifix preform
the second aventurine crucifix preform

Best regards

Dave

How I Polish Lapis Lazuli

Now regarding the Lapis Lazuli, well the first step is the shaping on the harsher silicone carbide belts then I continue through the steps on these belts through to 600 grit.

First of all let me say that this is a stone that I have had a hard time getting a shine on. Every attempt left me with a dull finish no matter what I tried, even after using a set of diamond flat laps I still couldn’t get a result.

Then I read about resin impregnated belts for use with diamond lapping paste, these belts are knows as REZ belts and are available here in the UK from Manchester Minerals, they come in sizes to fit 6 and 8 inch expanding drums, you can also get the lapping paste from them as well.

I will provide links at the end of this post regarding sources of supply.

Now regarding the Lapis Lazuli, well the first step is the shaping on the harsher silicone carbide belts then I continue through the steps on these belts through to 600 grit. Up until recently this was as far as I could go and the results were very disappointing indeed!

But recently I bought a couple of REZ belts for my expanding wheel and two grades of lapping paste, 30 micron and 50,000 micron.

The first step with these belts is to charge them up with the diamond paste, something I have never done before but it is pretty simply. My method was to apply lines of paste to the belt at intervals then use a finger to spread it over the belt, you can use a small amount of lapping compound to dilute the paste thus making it easier to spread. This was how I charged both of my belts.

Next I fitted the 30 micron REZ belt onto the wheel and then got started, as I said it’s the first time I had used the REZ belts and had read about the dangers of heat buildup because no coolant is used. I adopted a sort of touch and remove motion with the stone, keeping it in contact with the belt for very short periods and this prevented the heat buildup.

Even though 30 micron is broadly similar to 600 grit silicon carbide in terms diamond / grit conversion tables, the diamond after a very short time started to get a shine on the Lapis Lazuli.

The next step was to change the REZ belts over and fit the 50,000 micron belt, again using the tough and remove method and very soon we started to get a reasonably deep luster on the stone.

Currently that’s where I am at however, I have ordered two more REZ belts which will be charged with 7 micron and 2.5 micron. I did this because the gap between 30 micron and 50,000 micron is huge and by adding the two extra stages a better shine should be achieved.

Once I have these other belts in the process I will write a follow up.

I am sure that what I have described is nothing new but I wanted to share this because I find it hard to find information on the internet.

I guiess my next step is to build another cabbing machine with 4 expanding wheels purely for the diamond steps mentioned above – one day maybe!

Resources:

RES Belts, Diamond paste and Lapping fluid can all be found on the following page at the Manchester Minerals web site:

http://www.manchesterminerals.co.uk/acatalog/Lapidary_accessories.html

Best regards

Dave