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!

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.