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Aloha From Big Island , Hawaii


Jay Brewer

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Hey everyone , my name is Jay and it is a great pleasure to have finally found a place to meet fellow artist's and hobbyists.I am looking forward to making new friends and learning new techniques.I have been carving stone since 2003 but mainly local basalt found here in the islands. The basalt I work with is very very dense and polishes up to a beautiful black luster.I have not had the opportunity to carve gem stone yet but am looking forward to acquiring some soon.

 

I am interested in finding new and possibly easier methods on manipulating this stone I work with on both roughing and polishing. Any ideas or advice will be greatly appreciated and if at all possible , I would be more then happy to send a sample of this stone to an experienced sculptor so WE can determine the best method possible to attack it. Thanks for having me as a member. Aloha.

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Jay:

 

I have never carved basalt, but I have carved many other rocks. From what I read about basalt's composition, it is a composite stone with plagioclase, feldspar and quartz as it's primary components. Stones with varying hardness always pose an issue when trying to polish.

 

The only thing that I can offer is that jade and llanite pose the same problems. I have found that using a hard wood or brass with diamond powder and oil give the best results. Making your own polishing wheels is easy; just get some hardwood dowel at your local home improvement store, saw off a slice and drill a hole in the center, super glue either a piece of dowel or a broken drill bit (break off the drill section and glue the smooth part into your wheel)that will fit in you flex shaft or rotary tool, and spray with glue activator. I put super glue on two-three times and activate after every application, especially when gluing wood to the drill bits. I then use oil and diamond powder of varying grits to polish.

 

The brass rod that I'm referring to is the kind you get at hobby shops. Needless to say, you need to make a wheel or rod for every grit that you intend to use so you do not contaminate the higher grits.

 

If your basalt is soft, you might want to use the moldmaker's stones to do some of the finishing. I use stones on jade, even though it's a pretty hard rock to get nice, flat planes. Gesswein has a large variety of stones on their website, look for the moldmaker's stones. I've even found some whetstones that go up to 4,000 grit at a hardware store.

 

Most of this advice depends on how large the pieces you carve are. For larger pieces, hopefully Phil will chime in. I know he does life size busts out of granite. I work small, so all of my advice is based on little pieces. The largest thing I've carved from rock was only about 4"x3"x2".

 

There are quite a few gemstone carvers here, I am one of many. If you have any questions regarding any gemstones, I'll answer you if I can.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Debbie K

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Thank you Debbie for taking the time out to point me in the right direction. I have never used diamond powders to polish but I would love to try. Can you point me in any direction where I may acquire some , preferably the ones used by those that are experienced , like yourself. I will take your advice and post results just as soon as I can. Thanks again!!!

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Jay:

 

Dan is right, try the local rock and mineral club. They will know how to polish the local rock better than anyone. I am really blessed, I have a great gem and mineral club where I live and the people are a storehouse of information.

 

I assume, since you have been carving stone for a while, that you are using a flex-shaft and water? I can't stress enough how important it is to keep the rock dust wet (or oily) to minimize the dust. The dust can give you silicosis, a common disease among stone-carvers. The flex-shaft is to keep the water safely from the motor.

 

Looking forward to seeing your work.

 

Debbie K

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Yes , I am using a flexshaft and water. We do not have a local rock and mineral club on this island , just the neighboring islands have them. The rock that I work with is illegal to collect and comes from just one spot in all the islands.I have permission to go up to the top of the mountain once a year to practice my gathering rights as a native Hawaiian. Just myself and my older brother are the only ones in the islands carving this type of stone.There are many other stone carvers in the island , but none carving this very dense basalt I speak of. We have learned through trial and error how to manipulate this stone and get it to polish up very nicely , however I am open to new ideas to make this much easier , especially on the polishing. Thank You!!!

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Jay:

 

If there's no club on your island, you may have to order some diamond powder. Lopacki, Diamond Pacific and others carry it. I got mine as a group purchase with my club and other people and paid very little. I would give you the name of the folks, but it was a company in Russia that's gone out of business. Prices have gone up in recent years. You can do a search on Ebay for diamond powder or grit. I'd try googling or some other search to see if there is a supplier in your area. See if there are any faceters or faceter clubs in the area. They use the diamond powder to polish gemstones. They sell it by the carat, a teeny amount, but you don't use a lot of it at a time.

 

I have 100, 200, 600, 1200, 3000 and 8000 grit. I have realized that the 100 and 200 aren't as necessary as the 600, 1200 and 3000. The 8000 is for a super high gloss finish, some people even go up to 50,000. If you're using diamond bits to carve with, you don't need the 100 for sure. It's the same grit, generally speaking, that's on the bits. I wish I had bought some 320, it would have been a good intermediate step between the bits and the 600. They also sell diamond bits in sets (relatively cheap, about $10.00 for a set of 20) in grits up to 600. You can find them online, or at Woodcrafters. That pretty much eliminates the need for these coarser grits.

 

I have found that the 600 grit still removes a significant amount of material. This seems to be the last grit that I am really doing any carving. Maybe this is because I am working small. I can still carve a little with 1200, but only on tiny little details.

 

For blocking out larger stones, I use the heatless mizzy stones that Rio Grande sells. They wear down quickly, but this can be an advantage because the smaller stones can be really useful. If you can find the mandrels with longer screws, you can put two together and really remove some material. Many jeweler's supply stores carry these stones for metal work, buy at least a dozen because they really don't last.

 

Polishing is a time consuming and painstaking process. You just have to make sure that you remove all the scratches from the previous grit before proceding to the next. Always thoroughly wash the piece and clean your area when going to the finer grit. Always store the grit and wheels separately. Cross-contamination is one of the most infuriating things; you're almost done, then you notice a big scratch and have to go back down to a coarser grit and come back up.

 

Don't overlook the simple things; sometimes sandpaper works well on some rocks. Automotive supply stores carry wet/dry sandpaper up to 1200 or so for body-work. Jeweler's supply stores also carry high grit paper, as do some hobby shops. I have found that jeweler's abrasive rubber wheels work beautifully on some stones, and not at all on others. Some polishing compounds (jewelers) such as bobbing compound, white diamond (or tripoli) and red rouge or Zam work great on some stones. It's a trial and error thing.

 

Please post a photo when you get a chance, and until then, let us know what size you're working in. Small or large makes a big difference. If you want to see what I do go to My link.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Debbie K

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Debbie , thanks so much for very informative reply , I appreciate much. Because the stone I work with is very dense , I use diamond bits with my flex shaft ranging in grits from 50 - 400 for roughing. I have no experience at all with using diamond powders or pastes but am very anxious to try. I know this is a "Who's who " forum and used to introduce myself and all and I am sorry if I have gotten off topic in this forum , however I would like to post some technical questions on difference in powder/paste and how to's. Where would you suggest I go to post these questions? Thanks so much for all your help.

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