Edited and Published by Hale Sweeny
Web Site:
Associate Editors: Geo. Butts, JR Shroeder, Steve Henegar
and Margaret Malm

This list digest contains the following message subjects:

1. LapDigest News for Issue No 233 - Mon 9/27/1999
2. NEW: Help With Carving Malachite
3. NEW: Polishing Yowah Opal
4. NEW: Coloring White Veins in Spectrolite
5. NEW: How to Orient and Cut Spectralite
6. NEW: Black Onyx
7. RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge
8. RE: Healing Fractures in Stones
9. Re: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap
10. RE: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap
11. RE: Cabbing Machine Recommendations
12. RE: Soybean Oil as a Saw Lubricant
13. RE: Soybean Oil as a Saw Lubricant
14. RE: Need Parts for Vibra-Tek Vibrating Polisher
15. BIO: Jessie Ratliff
16. BIO: Joyce Morris


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No 233 - Mon 9/27/1999

It was a beautiful week up in the mountains. I took
cabbing and spent the time resting and cutting very small
pieces. The instructor (Gene Baxter - a fine teacher) said
the first day that hearts and crosses were the hardest to
cab right. So taking that as a challenge, I cut a 5/8" high
heart and a 1" cross, first. Very demanding work on a
Pixie, but due to the wider wheel spacing, easier than on
a Genie.

Several people said that they had bought new spacers for
their Genies, while out in Quartzite last spring, which
gave two wheels on each side, much more room between
wheels, and were quick changing. If anyone has detailed
info on these spacers, please send it in!

Found that we had a pot full of messages when I returned;
too many for one issue. So I picked a group which will make
an interesting Digest, and will include the rest in the
next issue.

Good to be back and at the computer again. Be sure to hug
and kiss the ones you love, and - HAVE FUN!!!


Subject: NEW: Help With Carving Malachite

Hi, My name is Sammy and I'm with the Gem Carvers Guild of
America. I've been receiving your Lapidary Digest for over a
year or so and really enjoy reading it. But now I'm stuck
and need help in finding out some questions I have on
Carving Malachite, the dangers and polishing etc. Really any
information I can get.

I've look on the Internet and the only thing I can find is
information on people selling Malachite Jewelry or carvings.
But really no good history. I'm the Editor of my Clubs
newsletter and I'm constantly looking for material to write
about. I had a request from one of our members on the
subject of Malachite and I'm really having a hard time with
this subject.

If anyone can help me out here it would be greatly
appreciated. Or if anyone knows of a site I can go to
help me with researching Malachite or other stones that
would also help...

Thank you

Sammy (Adele) Floridia

Subject: NEW: Polishing Yowah Opal


I am new to the list. As I reported in my BIO I was
recently in Australia and purchased some Yowah opal and
some black opal.

Some of the Yowah opal has numerous pits in it. Does
anyone have any ideas on how these might be filled. I have
tried Opticon and some glues but they do not seem to work
real well. Any ideas would be helpful.

Also the Yowah opal I have polished does not seem to have
the beautiful finish I saw on pieces in Yowah. I have been
using Linde A on a felt cushioned pad but they were
obviously using something different. If anyone has any
ideas or suggestions please let me know.

The black opal polished beautifully.


Subject: NEW: Coloring White Veins in Spectrolite

I have some Finland spectrolite that has very nice color but
has some white veins running through it. Does anyone know a
method of darkening the white veins without affecting the
color of the stone?

Subject: NEW: How to Orient and Cut Spectralite

I have just received several pounds of SPECTRALITE from a
friend in Ontario -- Can anyone tell me how to cut this
material to get the best effect from the sheen??

Subject: NEW: Black Onyx

Recently I acquired a 3# piece of black onyx. I intended to
use it to make opal doublets. Then I slabbed some 1/4'
pieces and tried to cab them. After 14,000,I am ending up
with a very dark gray cab with some black random lines.

What did I do wrong??

E. T. {Mickey} Broadway Jr.

Subject: RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge

<<I asked John if he would continue describing mining and
life in Lightning Ridge. Here is his reply:>>

Hale -

Sure will, time is an issue, but if you are happy with short
snippets a few times a week, I like to meet new people
involved in the opal/lapidary game. I will send you a
picture and if you would like more, let me know, as I am
giving my little digital camera a workout most days.

I posted a new directory on my site: with some pics from my
mine and an offer to host travelers and tours, as well as
giving the finer points of buying and cutting our tricky
rough opal from the ridge.

There are many ways to come undone with the rough you see
here at the ridge. A requisite for cutters who are buying
bulk rough is the ability to cut stones as small as 3 mm. I
sold a 6mm stone a few weeks ago for US$850. So you can see,
red on black is highly in demand.

Our opal as finished stones goes from US$3-3000/ct, most
opalholics will be familiar with the price scale-spectrum
relationship with blue being the cheapest and red the
dearest. Black body of course is the most expensive. We also
get a lot of crystal, usually far superior to that found
elsewhere. Because black is what all the commercial buyers
are chasing, the crystal is in relatively in less demand and
the price reflects this.

All you keen diggers here is a wake up call: The only things
you need to have a chance to find opal: 1) average good
health, 2) a ticket to lightning ridge, 3) a good sharp
gouging pick, shovel, light, and 4) a tourist visa. What you
don't need: Australian citizenship, pots of cash. Of course,
if you want to do a little fee digging in my good claim with
some proper machinery for a while, you can get a taste that
way with full advice on safety, prospecting, cutting, buying,
and all aspects of the game in my spare miners camp. It is
definitely a possibility.

After completion of the 2 day safety course with the Dept.
of Minerals and Energy, you can register a claim or two of
your own. Buying a claim is not out of the question. I saw a
claim recently with cuttable seam opal in 5 foot runs on both
sides of the drive! And there were other big runs in there
too. The main thing is to come here and spend some time in an
unhurried fashion. Psst! You can buy a residential mining
claim with cottage from US$ 5k with all modern conveniences:
solar power, hot water, flush toilet etc. And remember your
summer is our winter, so if you live in Arizona, come here
for our beautiful winter.

This place is so close to paradise, I am amazed there is any
of it left. Once retired American Rockhounds discover it, it
will become like Quartzite 1965, except for the fact that we
already have a nice town with no flea markets. If Australian
hippies knew about the place, we'd be swamped. So you all
better have a look while you can still get in on the ground

Gotta run now, more soon.

James Dumar
To see more about mining in L.R., see John's website (as
given above) and the L.R. site:

Subject: RE: Healing Fractures in Stones

I use standard epoxy for fracture filling as follows:-
..Warm the stone thoroughly. (I use the slow cooker plate
used for dopping.)
..Mix the epoxy normally and trickle onto the warm stone
along the fractures.

The warm stone seems to thin the mixture allowing it to
penetrate and the cooling stone draws epoxy down into the
fracture. I have used this on Blue John, a famously friable
Flourite with great success.

Hughes 330 or Devcon 2-ton Clear both seem to perform. I
recall Sinkankas refers to a method using epoxy, a rubber
bag and a hydraulic press to push the epoxy into the

Andy Parker, Agate House Lapidary
Ulverston, Cumbria, England

Subject: Re: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap

I read with great interest the message from George Butts in
LD #231 about the liquid soap. I too am tired of tediously
washing the rocks, changing the grit, having to clean
everything outside (we live in the Pacific Northwest
where it rains ALL THE TIME). It's just a real pain. I have
purchased the liquid soap, and I'm collecting stuff to try
it on. A couple of questions:

1. Did you, after the initial sixteen days, return the
stones to the tumbler and give them more time? Sixteen days
seems too good to be true, especially after I've been doing
four-week batches, a week for each size of grit from coarse
to polish. What happens if you leave them in longer?

2. Are you just washing the whole thing down the drain,
slag and all? I know there must be at least some sediment
in the soap, otherwise where does it go?

3. Does the soap clean out any pits in the rocks better
than grit does? I'm always disappointed that an otherwise
perfectly polished stone will have pits which have
stubbornly held the dirt even after four weeks in a rock

Thanks George and listmembers!!

Ann Griffin

Subject: RE: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap

In LD#231 (Msg 6) I reported on my attempts to pin down the
use of pure laundry soap as a tumbling pre-polishing agent.
I described a parallel non-soap experiment using a gum
colloid thickening agent (PVOH). I can say that the "ALL"
detergent repeated the success of the initial trial and the
gum solution very nearly matched the soap. That is, using
the solution of only non-soap/non-detergent thickening agent,
the rocks polished nicely. Agate materials and quartz
(points) polished to a wet shine final-polish level. The
flint and jasper had a very high polish but which would
probably benefit from a Cerium Oxide or Tin Oxide final run.
Hematite polished well but was limited to a single specimen.
The basalt had a good shine but not the "wet" look.

This dual-run was for 31 days and surely won't get better
with more time. Actually, the quartz points and agate were
brilliant at a 17 day pre-check. Since I confirmed that
"detergency" is not a key, PVOH having none, I am encouraged
to try the waterglass idea. I did find that the viscosity
or body was important. If too fluid, the rocks tinkle past
each other with no appreciable effect and if too thick,
there is an agglomeration with slight movement.

I referenced our LD web site back-issues and two of these
LD#109 (Msg 2) and #110 (Msg 10) cautioned about
concentrated detergent causing degeneration of the rubber.
I found none in agreement with many others. OTOH, I don't
say it didn't happen for those who say so.

We just returned from a tour around Lake Superior and in
chatting at various shops (and mines) where tumbling was
done, I found one who used a thick detergent for final
polish after one cycle with SiC cutting grit and a second
with SiC smoothing grit. Another shop used a "heavy"
solution of pure soap for several days AFTER a Cerium Oxide
polish cycle to create a final brilliance. In both cases
I saw the finished product (for sale) and, indeed, rocks
from both of these examples were fully bright.

One shop mentioned that the use of concentrated soap and/or
laundry detergent was "old news" around the Tucson and
Quartzsite shows for the last couple of years. I also see
that Arthur and Lila Victor recommended in 1962 ("Gem
Tumbling and Baroque Jewelry Making") to use a "thick
detergent soap solution" as a post-polish for about 12 hrs.
Duh, what cave have I been living in?

George Butts

Subject: RE: Cabbing Machine Recommendations

Dear Hale,

I have used the Diamond Pacific Titan, as well as the Pixie
and Genie. They are all good machines, but proximity of
wheels is why I haven't bought one yet. However, the
Titan's spacing is only a little smaller than the Highland
Park 4-Wheel set up I'm using now, and when it wears out
(the machine, not the Diamond Pacific 8" wheels that it is
now running) I will probably buy a Titan.

As for the underwheel water feed (we call em 'spitters'),
it works well enough, but I like to work 'wet', or wetter
than they provide so I usually place both spitters under
the wheel I'm working. This is a recirculating water
system. A pump attached to the left shaft provides a
pneumatic pulse that goes into the spitter and a venturi
effect picks up water from the tray and spits it up onto
the wheel(s). The hoods over the wheel should be adaptable
to some sort of overhead fresh water feed. But then,
where will the 'continuous' water go?

As for 'flex', I never experienced any. I can't imagine
putting enough pressure on a diamond wheel to flex the
shaft, even if it was supported by an end bearing. The
diamond-metal bonding process wouldn't wear well under that
amount of use. Light to medium pressure is recommended.

I don't know what sort of used saw equipment is available
in the UK. I would look there first if good 1st class used
equipment is available. I've only used older Highland Park
or Lortone saws. New saws are so expensive!!! But if the
business grant comes thru, Diamond Pacific has a good
reputation here. Much of what they put into their saws
comes from a Highland Park heritage.

Hope this has helped.

Tom Burchard

Subject: RE: Soybean Oil as a Saw Lubricant

<<I have heard different views about using soybean oil as a
saw lubricant. Is it good or not? If it is okay, where
does one purchase it?>>

One thing to keep in mind - any vegetable oil will turn
rancid sooner or later. Probably end up smelling worse than
the cutting oil.


Subject: RE: Soybean Oil as a Saw Lubricant

I understand your desire to use a lubricant which has no
odor! My preferred lubricant is still Texaco Al-Mag.....
but if you must go with something odor-free, then mineral
oil is a better choice than soybean. Soybean oil was an
ingredient in the first plastics.....a fact which you will
rediscover if you accidentally leave it in your saw for any
length of time.

I recently spent five days removing a half-inch-thick
coating of dried, rubberized soybean oil from a used Lortone
ST-10 Slab and Trim Saw. I got a great deal on the machine,
because the previous owner couldn't face tackling the job
himself. Granted, this was an extreme case. He had allowed
the saw to sit unused, filled with soybean oil and cutting
dust, for two years. I tried every industrial degreaser I
could think of...including "Gunk" engine cleaner. The only
remedy which worked was time, patience, a lot of hard
brushes and putty knives.

Run, do not walk, away from soybean oil. It is unsuitable
for the job unless you are willing to drain your saw each
night after you finish cutting.

-Pete Steiner-
TripleRock Lapidary
Buffalo, NY, USA
I know that most vegetable oils will turn rancid eventually.
But will most vegetable oils also polymerize or otherwise
turn into a hard 'gunk', like soybean oil? If not, which
ones will and which won't? hale

Subject: RE: Need Parts for Vibra-Tek Vibrating Polisher

Dear Hale,

Vibra-Tek has indeed gone out of business. But, there is a
new manufacturer that bought the inventory, AND has
re-engineered them fixing most, if not all, of the problems
that people have had with them. That’s the good news. The
bad news is I don't have their address. I saw the new one
being demonstrated at the Mother Lode Gem & Mineral-C.F.M.S.
'Turlock Show' in June and all I can remember is that I
liked what I saw, but as I don't do any tumbling, I didn't
get any information. The Host Club might be able to put
you in touch.

Hope this has helped.

Tom Burchard

Subject: BIO: Jessie Ratliff

My name is Jessie Ratliff (male despite the spelling).
Retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1978 then worked for
Texas Instruments near Houston, TX for 15 years. A massive
heart attack and surgery left me unable to do physical work
for any length of time. I now live on a 16 acre piece of
land about 7 miles from Grapeland, TX. (pop 1450).

About a year and a half ago my wife of 36 years died of
cancer. Since then I have just kind of aimlessly drifted
along, not taking much interest in anything. While looking
through my storage shed I found some of my old lapidary
equipment that has been unused since about 1975. I pulled
it out to evaluate it and found that I have a 10" trim saw
and a couple of two wheel arbors that appear to be usable.
My faceting machine has been damaged somewhere along the
way and I don't think it can reasonably be repaired.

Well, now I have found an old interest revived I am now in
the process of setting up a lapidary room.

I bought some grinding/sanding/polishing wheels for the
arbors and a Raytech/Shaw facetor. All still in their boxes
at present while I am getting organized. I have on order a
14" slab saw and a Crystalite Crystalmaster 8. I find that
some things are better done on vertical wheels while a flat
lap is good for others. So now I will have both.

I am blessed (cursed? :-) ) with an interest in both cabbing
and faceting and used to do quite a bit of each.

I have read all 230 back issues from your web site and
gleaned quite a bit of useful information so I decided to
subscribe today.

Thank you for issuing the lapidary digest; it's a wonderful

Jessie Ratliff
Glad to have you aboard, Jessie. If you have questions
while setting up your shop, please send them in as a query.
I'm sure the guys on the list will be happy to give you
advice on the setup. (When I say 'guys', I hasten to add
that I mean everyone - before I am called a sexist pig
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 14:10:22 -0400
To: <>
Subject: BIO: Joyce Morris

My name is Joyce Morris and I reside in Saginaw, MI. I
write computer tax programs for a living.

I have been involved in lapidary work for the past 10 years.
I first became interested after picking up stones and agates
on the shores of Lake Superior at Whitefish Point. My
husband does gold smithing and casting, so I get most of my
stones set into jewelry.

I have taken a number of classes at William Holland School
of Lapidary Arts. I year ago I took the opal cutting class
from Joe. This last May my husband and I went on Barbara
McCondras Opal Tour of Australia. We spent a week in Yowah
where we did some mining for Yowah Opal at her mine and we
also purchased some from the local miners. Then we spent a
week in Lightning Ridge where we saw some fantastic black
opal. We purchased some black opal rubs before we left.

I have just finished cutting my first two pieces of black
opal and my husband is designing a matching ring and


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