Monday, May 27, 2013

Slabbing and Cabbing....

So this week I got some good things accomplished, including finishing up some cabs I'd had sitting in my studio for a while. I still have a handful left to finish, but feel good that the end is in sight... Take a look at my etsy store if you're interested in purchasing any- they're a large cabochon group this time:

Blue opal in feldspar, ruby in zoisite, ocean jasper, cheetah agate and imperial jasper.

I also got some slabbing done- this is my 10" monster slab saw from Harbor Freight. I bought the yellow garden cart from Lowe's to hold/transport it and I wheel it in and out of my storage room. The chair in back of it is to hold the bucket of water for pumping clean water on to the saw blade to keep it cool and to keep the rock from producing harmful dust.

It's pretty loud and messy- so using it outdoors is a requirement. My neighbors are probably glad when I'm done with a cutting session! 

Today I slabbed some rough pieces of bumblebee jasper, Washington state jade, ribbon turquoise, and Morgan Hill poppy jasper.

The Morgan Hill poppy jasper is some of my favorite. I am not usually keen on these colors, but for some reason the patterns and colors really appeal to me. Unfortunately, this stone comes with a lot of healed fractures, some of which can deter from the look of the finished cab, because it looks cracked. But if these slabs can make it through the slabbing process, they're stable enough to turn into cabs. You can see the fragments to the right that broke off along fracture lines while slabbing. When I receive pre-cut slabs, I often drop them from a foot above the concrete floor. Whatever doesn't break is usable for cabs.

This was from a huge chunk of ribbon turquoise. They will make interesting cabs!

This jade from Washington was very hard. I love the color- it's so soothing. And it has cool black inclusions.

I also did some slabbing for a friend of mine, Maureen, a former student, who went rock-hunting in California (Mohave Desert) and found what she thought/hoped/prayed was turquoise. I slabbed a bunch for her, and unfortunately for her, it's likely chrysocolla. Still a great find!

The ribboning is really cool, isn't it?

These slices are probably the bluest and prettiest. The contrast between the turquoise color and brown is really nice. They were nice and soft to slab, and will make some nice cabs.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mass Production & Wholesale

 Recently in a discussion group, the comment "Where are all the wholesalers?" came up. Stone wholesalers, that is.... Well, I don't really know if that exists much anymore. I think the goal as a jewelry-maker is to find a dealer who isn't so far removed from the mining of gems that the prices are astronomical. I have certainly bought slabs of rough from the guys who actually mine the rock. Then I turn them into finished cabochons and sell them for a profit. That's about the best situation, but not everyone can cut their own stones, and sometimes even I don't have the time and don't want to spend the time to do it. I have luckily found a few dealers from India who seem to have good prices on wholesale lots of finished stones.

In February, hubby and I shopped at the gem shows in Tucson. There, in the Electric Park show, were guys who actually slabbed the jade, mined the Mexican opals, etc... It truly was wholesaling and the prices were great. Back home, I can't hand-select stones. I have to trust the feedback others have given and cross my fingers that the gems I'm purchasing online will be as good as they look...

This is a parcel of small opal cabs, 5x7mm, that came today from India. Great price- but I had to buy a lot. If you have money to buy in bulk, it seems beneficial to do so...

These are 8mm stones- lapis, prehnite, and amethyst. The reason I'm stocking up is because I, too, would like to get into wholesaling. I want to mass-produce items that typically are one-of-a-kind. Why? Well, I recently took a wax-casting class, and what I got out of it was, 'Why constantly re-invent the wheel by spending time making one-of-a-kinds? Why not take a nice design and replicate it a few times? Will a customer care if the item they buy from me is one-of-a-kind or one of 10 if the price is better?'

So, here's my first stab at it... I'm going to make a piece that will house any one of these 8mm stone cabochons, to become earrings. I sketched out a design, created a template, and have started producing the piece in silver as I normally do. The difference being, when I'm finished with the piece, but before I solder on the earwire, I'm going to have it molded and cast. Then, I will solder on the earwire and set the stone- whichever one the customer wants.

The learning curve will be to see how successfully it can be cast, and at what quality. I may produce a couple at first to be cast, to see what's possible, so I know what's achievable. But I'm excited at the prospect of developing a 'line' that is fast but still is a quality product. This will allow me to increase my inventory and start approaching stores/galleries to carry my items.

We'll see! I'll let you know how it turns out!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Back to Work

From my last post you can see I am back in the stone-cutting business after finally purchasing a new trim saw after my last one died. It feels good to finally finish some stones that have been laying around for months and months....
You can see I used my ring saw again to trim up some rough slabs, as well as used my grinding wheel to clean up the shapes. You can see some jaspers, chrysacollas, agates...

After I grind the shapes, I like to bevel the bottom edge so it sits nicely and doesn't flake apart when being set. I also take the bottom and sides to a satin finish before I work on dopping the stones to work on the tops.

Here I set the stones in groups to be dopped according to size. Some are already done to the left. Only a few stones will fit on the dopping station at a time, and I have a cache of large stones to finish this go-around...

Here you can see some kambaba jasper, ruby in zoisite, imperial jasper, and porcelain jasper heating up, waiting to be dopped with the green wax on the end of a stick/dowel. If the stone is not hot, the wax will not stick.

And here are all 21 cooling after being dopped. Believe it or not, most of the work is done- now to finish the tops! Look for these new cabochons in my shop in the next few days:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Taurus Ring Saw is IN THE HOUSE!

So, Mother's Day was the day I devoted to trying out my new toy- the Taurus Ring Saw. Imagine a saw with a diamond blade, but the interior of the blade was cut out, leaving only the rim coated in diamond. That's how this saw works. And because it's got a smaller profile, it can cut curves. I tried it out on some stones that I'd mostly cut out on my slab saw- so they needed just a bit of trimming. Setup of the saw itself was very quick, and it needed about a gallon or so of water to make it work. It's easy to drain- I just remove the operable saw portion and dump the water from the tray below. I did have one mishap when the rubber belt came off the saw blade, but it was easy to fix. If that keeps happening, I'll have to look into tightening things up. The other thing that they recommend is to put ice packs into the water bath- I noticed that after about 10-15 minutes of use, the water was lukewarm. It helps with cooling the blade down.

Above you see the stones I needed trimming. It probably would've been easier to start with slabs, because trimming these stones was a bit problematic- the edges were very close to the exterior edge and that caused some problems, especially because I'm a newbie. It will take some work to get used to cutting with this blade. Practice will allow me to get to know how it cuts, how far from the marked edge I need to be, etc...

But all in all not too bad for my first time. A bit messy, but these should now be a lot easier to clean up on my grinding wheel. I was also able to grind edges using the saw, which is helpful. And the blade has 7 total blade-types available for purchase- including one that allows you to saw an interior section (it comes apart!) so I'm excited to get to know it better!

It also seems like a pretty safe saw, too- very little of the blade is visible, and I wore my safety goggles. I could definitely tell a difference in speed between softer and harder rocks- it is important not to push too hard!  The water splash also seemed pretty good- I'll have to try it again just to make sure I won't need to place a towel under the tray.

I think my new saw and I will be very happy together....

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Like Trades?

I LOVE trades. That said, I won't trade with just anybody- only those artists who have stuff I covet! This week I got to trade one of these pairs of earrings (the periwinkle ones) from Courtney Lipson for a ring of mine.

Here's her shop on etsy so you can check out her other stuff:

She's so talented and has also made AMAZING weavings... check out her website:

Here's some more of her earrings I covet:

She uses small seed beads to create mosaics and also uses multi-colored grout. She's an excellent craftsman, artist and person!

We were both happy with our trades!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

This Tuesday, something is coming.....

And I CAN'T WAIT!! My lapidary trim saw bit the dust months ago and I've been either going without, or using my slab saw, which is way too big and powerful to cut out shapes from slabs (I've had some breakage). So the truth is I haven't cut many new things in the last few months. But come Tuesday, I will be furiously cutting stones! So excited!

Ann Robinson told me about this machine- she got one and it replaced her trim saw. I met Ann when I took a class at her home/studio near me in Springfield, Virginia. Here is a link to her site:

I also saw a demonstration of this saw in Tucson this year. My biggest concerns are 1) water splash and 2) effectiveness with harder stone.

And with the money I made at my recent Ladysmiths show, I figured the time was right...

Because I'd like to use my trimsaw indoors, I'd like the water splash to be minimal. Ann says it's wonderful; not a problem. So we'll see. As it is, I have to park my large slab saw inside and wheel it out in a garden cart when I need to use it- it's incredibly watery when in use. Water flying everywhere. I get wet, everything gets wet. Which I guess is a good problem to have, since dry-sawing rock is not good....

But in Tuscon I saw that it does take longer to saw thru harder stone. So we'll see... I'm also concerned about blade breakage because those bad boys are $75 a piece!!

So, come Tuesday, I'll be ready to give a report!!!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Montana Agate Necklace

This below piece wasn't made by me, but by Betsy Bensen. She bought the stone from me, though, and I have to say, it's really a thrill to see a fellow jewelry artist use one of my cut stones! And what a neat solution! It was a thin slab and I love how Betsy set it.

Here's a link so you can see more pics: