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agate carvings - show and tell


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i thought i show some of my work here in show and tell, and talk a little about it ... these are carved from agate, all are pendants. the first 2 i gave away as gifts, the lady portrait i hope to sell. the first 2 are about 6,5cm high, the lady portrait is 5 cm high, 4mm deep, and could be made into brooch too.


agate is a quartz variety, so has moh hardness 7, and is compared to other quartzes rather tough. this toughness makes working agate slower than working other quartzes. jade for example is very tough, toughest stone actually, and i think agate is similar tough (though i not expert in judging these, just from the way they do work, please correct me if i am wrong).

what i like from agate is the translucency, it is a wonderful stone of very fine grain, and gets a mirror polish already in rough sanding stage (grit 600) which improves even more when going to finer grits and the polish. the fine grain allows detail of small size, as in that lady portrait ...


maybe i should explain a little the process of carving hard stones, its very different from carving soapstone, or marble. at least how i do. the hardness of quartzes require tool coated with carborundum, or better diamond. i use a flexible shaft machine, a foredom, and diamond coated burs in a variety of forms for cutting the general shapes. this cutting is done wet, that is i either hold the stone under dripping water while carving, or dip it into a bowl of water from time to time, to keep stone, and tool cool. it is rather grinding than cutting. when the main shapes are defined, i switch to small diamond coated dental tools. these burrs are very tiny, think of the tip of a match.... after that, the stone is cut, atmost half of work is done though, since the stone is rough (the burs i use go upto grit 600), and now needs be sanded.

before doing that though, i like to "trim" the carving with diamond hand files, and selfmade diamond files i made by putting the dentist burs into a pencil holder. this way i can clean up the carving better than with machine.

sanding i do again with machne. for this i use diamond paste in various grits (375, 600, 1200) put on selfmade wooden wheels, or, my favourite, bamboo skewer i shape with files to needed tool. i load these tools with the diamond paste, and work carefully the whole carving.

sanding is the critical part of carving, as a good polish can come only with a very good sanding job. sanding not only removes scratches (that is the "easy" part) but more important, and to me more difficult, refines shapes. so time spend here pays later in the beauty.

after sanding, fine grains stones show already a first mirror shinyness, but one can see tiny scratches with 8xloupe. so, i then polish, i prefer for most stones doing a prepolish with diamond paste grit 14000, and a polish with diamond paste 50000. sometimes i add to that a polish with linde a paste (this is a synthtic ruby powder, grit 100000) for an extra depth. polishing i usually do on hard felt wheels, but sometimes leather on wood works better.


i hope this is useful information, and please feel free to ask about anything i maynot have explained well...




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thanks janel. i dont mind the patience needed, when a piece is finished. actually, it is a wonderful process seeing the piece become more and more like i want it be. the only thing i dont like if a piece breaks when i have spent many many hours...

one can buy dripping tools, but i made mine simply by using an old small plastic-container, which can hold about 200ml water. i got a plastic tube, i drilled a hole in sidewall near bottom of container, just big enough to force one end of the tube through a little. finally fit a screw snuggly into the other end of the tube. now arrange container high on your worktable, and make a little armature to hold the end of tube just above where your hands are while working. fill water in container, and use screw to adjust how much water drips out. and use a bowl to catch water drips ... in my case armature also holds a big loupe with low magnification, and it not only gives me better sight on my work, but protects from splashes...

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