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 236 - Mon 10/4/1999
2. NEW: Need Help with Carving
3. NEW: Information on Fire Agates
4. RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge
5. NEW: Home-Built Tumbler
6. RE: Opal Working and Polishing
7. RE: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap
8. RE: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap
9. RE: Help With Carving Malachite
10. RE: Polishing question
11. RE: Collecting Oregon Sunstone
12. RE: Collecting Oregon Sunstone
13. WTB: Sugilite Preforms
14. BIO: Kenneth Kipnis
15. BIO: Darren Hawkinson


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No 236 - Mon 10/4/1999

Please, when sending in either a query or an answer, only
include one item per message. That will allow us to build
valid and valuable Archives of threads.

The American Opal Society is devoted only to opals, and
they have a webpage at ( which is well
worth viewing. Among the items are their past publications,
and these are great reading, if you are at all interested
in opals. I hear that their meeting and Show are top-notch,
and I am trying to see if I can take it in this year!

We have everything in place to search Archives from the web
page, and I am writing up instructions now. But Connie wrote
asking for help now, so I described the procedure for her in
some detail (below). If you are anxious to search the
Archives for a particular topic, read what I wrote for her
and follow for your topic.

We all owe a round of thanks to George Butts for his work in
putting up all 235 issues, for the index file, which he up-
dates periodically, and for correcting my HTML boo-boos.
Any praise the Digest gets has got to be directed to George
and the other Associate Editors.

This issue has 16 messages and that is a good place to stop.
Any messages received after today will go in the next issue,
which should be on this coming Thursday. (I will try to get
out an issue every three days; I get burned out if they are
more frequent than this.) We are now getting so many per
issue that I soon will not be able to print them all, and we
need to discuss what we do in that case!

Same thing, guys - hug 'em, kiss 'em, love 'em and play
happy together... A sure fire Rx for a happy life!



Subject: NEW: Need Help with Carving

I wonder if anyone on the list can offer some advice for a
novice hard stone carver. I recently began to work on my
first piece while at Camp Paradise.

I found the carving sets I had purchased were not adequate,
and were for cutting only. I would like to know how to
achieve the progression of wheels I am familiar with in
cabbing and relate them to carving.

What are the next steps up from roughing. I have looked in
some catalogs, but they seem to assume that the reader knows
for what they are looking. Are there books that can be
recommended? I have done book searches, but since I do not
know the title or author, get nowhere with a generic Carving
and Jewelry book.

Thank you in advance,


Subject: NEW: Information on Fire Agates

Hi Hale

This is Connie from Tipperary; it was great to meet you at
Wildacres. I got a lot out of the week . Hope all is well
with you.

Is their any special instructions for making cabs out of
Fire Agate, I would appreciate any information I can get!

Keep up the great work.

Slainte .....

Hi Connie:
Sure and it was a great week, wasn't it? I'll tell you how
to find out what our Archives have on fire agate.

If you go ARCHIVES at the webbie: ,
you will first find an index file (in white rectangle).
Click on the hyperlink, and this will take you to a file of
threads. Take your time - it is a large file and takes time
to load.

When loaded, under EDIT, click on FIND, and when the window
opens, type "fire agate" (without quotes) and click 'FIND;
it will go to the first entry: Item 470 is the 2nd msg in
issue 54. You will also see Item 471 as 55-5, or the 5th
msg in issue 55, and also Item 472 is 55-6 (You follow
it now, right?) (Note that the 6th msg in issue 55 was
written by Carol Bova, who this year is President of the
Opal Society of America - she KNOWS her stuff!!)

Click on FIND NEXT and it takes you to the second thread at
Item 1673. Continue in this way till you get all references
written down. Close the FIND window and hit the BACK button
to return to the website. On that same page you will find
"Back Issues Listed by Lapidary Digest Number". Click on
Issue 54 and that issue will come up. Read message 2 (or
SELECT it and copy it and paste it to your note pad), and
so on for the rest of the references. If this does not give
you what you want or if you don't understand these
instructions, let me know.

Hope to see you next year!!!! Give your husband my regards.



Subject: RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge

Hi again,

Some bloke out at the 10 mile has had Henk godthelp and a
raft of other paleos down his mine. Reason: dinosaur
trackway in the roof. Adults and juveniles, footprints the
size of dinnerplates and smaller crockery. Truth is
strange.... the really weird thing is that these are viewed
from the underside... the compressed zone underneath. If you
don't believe me... jest yew arsk old Henk down to the
Australian museum.

Detroit Virgil and James found some fish (thin green gem
colour) in the steelband at the rocks yesterday. We mine
opal from the paleo channels that emptied into the
freshwater sea of cretaceous times. You can see the old
billabongs and creeks from the growth of trees on today's
surface. The same percolation zones responsible for opal
deposition support dense growth of box, and other native
trees. Surface indications for opal are very well
elucidated in the new Stephen Aracic book. If you can't
find it, give me a screech.

Another excellent book on opal fossils is fairly newly
released so I had better post the links up in (I may not get to it for
a few days) These specialised, short print run opal books
actually appreciate in value and are essential reading for

I had no idea that there were so many victims of opal fever
over there! My recent posting brought such a flood of
correspondence concerning buying opal, mining, visiting
l. ridge, etc. that I still haven't caught up. For those who
missed out on the samples: sorry, hopefully there will be
more in the next few days.

My wife, Kylie is renovating our three miner's cottages for
the expected flood of lapidary digest members wanting to
visit the ridge. If you ain't doin’ anything special before
Christmas, call in for a yarn. You could do a little mining
or cutting. but remember, locals nearly all came as tourists,
so look out for the opal bug!

We will be away at our farm in Kuranda near Cairns grafting
durian trees in December-January.

Lots of local people visiting Tucson and other shows in 2000.
I may sneak over myself if I find a good pocket.

well, that’s about all the gossip for today .... except Mario
the buyer (Opalus Pty Ltd.) was badly injured in a fall of
roof last weekend, but is in stable condition in Sydney (get
well soon Mario) and the Wild Dingo has closed it's doors
for the last time.

That’s it from the ridge;

james dumar

PS hi Hale and others, not being a technical genius and not
liking the 48-72 hr wait for telegraphic transfer of funds,
do any LD members know how to set up a secure facility to
handle credit cards on the net? Quick and dirty is ok as
long as completely secure. thanks in advance for you input!

Hale’s note: If any of you know about credit cards and
secure lines, please write him and help him if you can!


Subject: NEW: Home-Built Tumbler


I spent a little while doing your avoided search out of
curiosity because I have made several tumblers and wanted
to see what other's looked like. I gave up after a while
and decided to answer your question myself. I'm going to
post this on my website when I get a chance to clean it up.
I'm also copying Hale so it will make it into the Lapidary
Digest. And if you do get any references to websites with
instructions off-list I would appreciate hearing about
them. Let me know if this makes sense.

Our goal is to rotate a cylindrical container containing
rocks, water, and grit/polish (working thru a series of
grits/polishes with cleaning between) to bring the rocks
to a high polish. Rubber lined containers are probably the
best. Plastic can be used. With metal containers you
probably need one for each grade of grit/polish to avoid
grit/polish grade contamination.

The classic tumbler rests the barrel on two revolving
shafts, one driven, one free. The rotation of the driven
shaft revolves the barrel, which then drives the free shaft.
A motor is pulley/belt connected to the driven shaft. The
power train - motor RPM, motor pulley/shaft pulley ratio,
shaft to barrel ratio - causes the barrel to rotate at an
appropriate speed; a four inch barrel rotates 50-100 RPM,
bigger barrels more slowly. I suggest keeping towards the
slower end of the range.

Start by finding a barrel. The widest part of the outside
needs to make a cylinder. Narrower in the middle (wider top
and bottom) is ok if it is the same size cylinder at the

Get a motor, wire, plug, and switch so you can hook it up,
plug it in, and start or stop the motor.

Visit your hardware store and get four bearings that can be
surface mounted and two matching shafts at least 4 inches
longer than your barrel; 3/4 or 5/8 inch diameter shaft
works. Get a couple of V-pulleys for the shafts - 2 1/2 inch
for one and 8 for the other is a good guess with a 1750 RPM
motor, 5/8 shaft, and 10 inch barrel. Pick up a belt long
enough to connect half the barrel diameter plus half the
motor diameter. Pick up nails, screws, etc to put it

Stop at your local lumber yard and get a couple 2x4s twice
the diameter of your barrel. Pick up a couple sheets of
plywood; one twice the diameter of your barrel x the length
of your barrel cylinder plus about 4 inches, and one the
diameter of your barrel x the length of your barrel cylinder
plus about 4 inches.

Lay down the big sheet of plywood, set the 2x4s along the
sides, and lay the small sheet of plywood across one end of
the top. The barrel should fit on the other half and just
slide between the 2x4s. Fasten it together.

Mount the motor on the top of the small plywood sheet with
the shaft hanging off one side. Mount the two shafts about
3/4 barrel diameter apart on the other half of the top with
bearings on the 2x4s; the drive shaft should extend past
the edge the same length as the motor shaft and on the same
side (and be the shaft closer to the motor). Big pulley on
the drive shaft, small one on the motor, and the belt
connecting them should be fairly tight.

Connect both shafts together on the opposite sides with the
same size pulleys and a belt if you want them both to drive.

Hook up the motor, put on the barrel, and start tumbling.

I'm leaving the description of another type of tumbler, the
45 degree single shaft tumbler, for next time.

Hope this helps.

Kreigh Tomaszewski

Subject: RE: Opal Working and Polishing

Hi all,

Drilling out sand either from the face or the back is a good
strategy. I would choose to either carve out a concave dish
and polish if not too deep or a straight sided drill hole
then inlay with opal perhaps in a contrasting colour.

If you have access to a faceting preformer, you can cut
cylinders down to 1mm for this purpose. a Hungarian friend
does this with about 20 tiny rondels in black potch cabs.



james dumar

Subject: RE: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap

On Sat, 2 Oct 1999 11:15:43 -0700 (PDT), you wrote:

<<Waterglass is an aqueous solution of sodium and potassium
silicates and in no way would "dissolve" or "attack"
properly cured sbr rubber. I think it must be simply a
matter of force transfer physically picking away at that
liner, molecule by molecule. ..(snip).. >So, please be
advised that, exciting as this experimentation >is, there
may be a hazard to your tumbling apparatus if you choose to
explore the concept.>>

I don't see why it would be a problem. If it's strictly
mechanical action, the soap or waterglass solution should
be a lot easier on the rubber than grit.


Subject: RE: Tumbling Prepolish with Liquid Soap


With reference to George Butts commentary and rubber
tumbler linings; quite some time ago I read a suggestion
for protecting and "toughening" up tumbler liners. I brain
parked it for future trial. Basically it said to take the
tumbler to a shop that sprays "Tuff-Cote" or similar
bedliners onto trucks and ask them to line the tumbler.

I just asked a male classmate to check it out for me. He
advised his father was involved in chemicals that required
an impervious lining in tanks and suggested a bottle of
that chemical would protect the tumbler barrel. Anyone
reading this digest have any idea what that might be? Or
has anyone tried the Tuff-Cote?


Subject: RE: Help With Carving Malachite

This is very dangerous. Working with malachite requires a
lot of water. The problems arise from the dust when
malachite is worked dry. The dust is inhaled and causes
serious health problems. Grind and sand with lots of water.
Someone that polishes lots of malachite with a dry polish
like Zam is also in the same danger. One student I had
years ago would polish stones a few nights a week. He
became very ill.

Find a way to keep things wet or have the polisher wear a
well rated mask. Those masks are clumsy and awkward, but
insist on wearing it.

Steve Ramsdell

Subject: RE: Polishing question

<<It seems very soft. Can anyone advise on a polish?>>

I've heard some of our members talking about using Tripoli
or jewellers rouge for very soft stones with varying
degrees of success..

Worth a try.

Alec McCreadie

Subject: RE: Collecting Oregon Sunstone

<<The last issue of Rock and Gem had an article re: a NW
Rock Safari. The author said that one could only surface
collect at the public sunstone locality and that all the
nice >colored material would require digging. I have
friends who were there last month. They got plenty of
little bits of >clear material as float. Afraid it must be

No, it's not true. You can dig all you want in the public
area at Rabbit Hills with hand tools. It's very tough
digging through hard volcanic rock. The colored stones are
generally deeper but they can be found (rarely) on the

Tim Fisher, 1995 President, Pacific Fishery Biologists

Subject: RE: Collecting Oregon Sunstone

I wanted to reply to the inquiry on collecting Oregon

I am the author of that article in Rock and Gem and
unfortunately it is true. All you can collect at the public
site is clear material as the "good stuff" is 6-8' below
the surface.

If you want to collect the colored material, the only way
is to contact a mine owner. Or better yet, go on the
Western Gem Safari that I attended. Chris Rose owns one of
the mines and I can virtually guarantee you'll get some
great material.

I came out of there with almost a Kilo of shimmer and
diachroic sunstone. This alone was worth more than what I
paid for the trip. When you add in the Blue Chalcedony
and Spiderweb Variscite, you have a "world class"
collecting opportunity.

Ben Hyman

Subject: WTB: Sugilite Preforms

I enjoy your digest and have found good information. I am
now looking for precut rough Sugilite ready to cab, any
reasonably source that you know of. Thanks

Lee Corey

Subject: BIO: Kenneth Kipnis


My name is Kenneth Kipnis and have been cabbing for about
two years, I'm a member of the San Diego G&M S and also of
the Augusta GMS. I use a 6" trim saw and a Diamond Gem to
cab with.


Subject: BIO: Darren Hawkinson

OK, I figure its about time to send you guys something
considering I have been reading and trying to trade with
people over the list for a while now. Anyway I am another
pacific northwester in the beautiful province of British

I go full time to the local Vancouver Film School and am an
avid cutter and cabber of whatever I can get my hands on.
So in other words some of the stuff I make is good and the
rest we best not go into. The other rock related hobbies
include scrimshaw and flint knapping. Collecting some stuff
but mostly making stuff and then getting to other people.

Professionally I am web designer and artistically a
lapidary/stone carver/knife maker/scrimshawer. Ok its
diverse but considering this is a hobby, well, heck, who
the heck cares, right?

You can reach me through either or or (its my sca stuff)
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