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 246 - Sat 11/13/1999
2. NEW: Grit Feed on a Sphere Making Machine
3. NEW: Storage of Cutting Materials
4. RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge
5. RE: Cutting Small Cabs
6. RE: Crushed Semi-Precious Stones
7. RE: Dopping Problems
8. RE: Dopping Problems
9. RE: Dopping Problems
10. RE: Dopping Problems
11. RE: Egg Making Machine
12. RE: Egg Making Machine
13. RE: WTB: Sinkankas Gemstones of North America


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No 246 - Sat 11/13/1999

Hey, guys, why can't you remember to sign your notes to LD?

George Butts, who makes the file of threads and puts the
issues up on the web page, and who corrects my programming
boo-boos for the web page, has developed a page format which
can hold photographs - or any graphic. So we will be able
to accept photos for publication on the web. He's ready; it
is me who is holding things back, but we will move ahead on
this! What made me speed up was a letter from Giavanna, who
attached a picture of a slab of red Binghamite with hematite,
and green and white quartz from the Cuyuna Range, Crosby, MN.
It is BEAUTIFUL, and it made me want to show it to all of
you, which we can when we get the graphics page in operation.

Let's get cutting, gang; relax and have fun!!!


Subject: NEW: Grit Feed on a Sphere Making Machine

Does anyone have tips on grit feed for a sphere machine. I
am bottle feeding right now and would like to wander off
from the machine.

Subject: NEW: Storage of Cutting Materials

Here is a topic I've never seen addressed here. Don't see
it in the archives either.

Wondering if any of you have any ingenious ideas for storing
all those rocks collected on field trips (keeperites?). It
sure would be great to have some way to find the one I'm
looking for without having to move around boxes and open up
bags. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would benefit from a
great idea on this.

Steve Swartz
Carson City, Nevada USA

Subject: RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge

hi all, today i would like to talk about cutting machines.
We use several brands from australian manufacturers. of
these, gemmasta is my favorite. it has a heavy cast/enamel
body, a large diameter shaft (2") for true accurate
running with no flutter, and is belt driven. this is a twin
wheel machine. i prefer 2 wheels to more, because you can
polish round the corner of the girdle on the first dop thus
eliminating any ridge as would be the case when doing this
from the back of the stone. a multiple wheels are too close
together to allow the angle to achieve this. when we have
rubbed the rough, then we saw to expose the opal face, and
then preform on 180 diamond hard wheel. wheels are 8" by
preference. after preforming, dop; the second wheel is 320
diamond hard wheel, the third is 600 nova diamond cushion
wheel, the fourth and final is on 1200 diamond cushion nova
wheel. polish is on felt or leather with 50,000# cerium
oxide callled lapsa. i have had very poor results with
diamond products above 1200 with opal.this rig costs about
us$ 1400 new. you very rarely see them second hand.

until recently, wet and dry sandpaper was still popular for
sanding. almost no one uses it now. silicon carbide cutting
wheels are no longer used as they can't compete with the
accuracy of diamond.

finally you are starting to see true free form carvings here
as in boulder opal. this kind of cutting requires many small
abrasive points in various grits, sizes, shapes in a
waterproof work head. i use a small belt driven lathe and
drill chuck (home made) with commercially prepared diamond
tools. nova is my favourite. you can pick up cheap russian
and indian diamond burs at most big gem shows. there are
also small hard diamond wheels used in sharpening machine
shop cutting tools. this is slow painstaking work, with a
high degree of craftsmanship. if the stone is to be set,
careful design considering structural strength and mounting
should be exercised from the start. lightning ridge material
is mostly cut into small clean ovals. this represents a good
opportunity for those wiling to take the extra time to cut
in undulating free form style. these types are becoming
easier to sell to studio jewellers.

if you are buying quantities of diamond abrasive or tools,
a surf round the web will reveal a number of lapidary
manufacturers in india. some of them look very good and
cheap. does anyone have any experience in this area?

australia has 19 million people on a continent roughly the
size of the lower 48. multiple collecting sites here for
opal, gold, sapphire, topaz , zircon, garnet,agate, tiger
eye iron etc, etc. the bulk of the country is arid and
eroded, so you get a good look at the ground and what is in
it. our low population density means that a lot less people
are chasing rocks. so there is still a bit left.

apart from a return ticket ($1k), costs are about the same
as the USA or western Europe. for the opal fields, avoid
december, january and february.

i will be leaving the ridge for my farm in north queensland
from dec.1-jan.5, it will be great to see the coast after 6
months in the bush with only one trip away. it takes me 21
hours of driving to make the 1800 km trip home. the way i
go, there is almost no traffic, and we pass through gold,
sapphire, and opal country on the journey. lots of kangaroos,
emu, wild pigs, parrots, eagles, snakes and big goanna to be
seen. don't drive at night unless you want to share the
front seat with a kangaroo, who may enter via the wind

time to work now,
see ya soon,


ps the chrysoprase produced by Craig White is the best i
have ever seen. the top gem grades retail in the duty free
stores here at up to usd250 each. it looks like there is a
light on inside. it leaves anything else i have seen for
dead. if you are lucky enough to obtain some of the top
quality, guard it jealously from your buddies, quickly
reorder, and don't sell it too cheap. this kind of gear is
spoken for before it comes out of the ground. j

Subject: RE: Cutting Small Cabs

This thread reminds me of the time a lady brought me a petit
point ring with a stone missing for repair. I explained that
I might have to use stabilized turquoise to match the color
and that the time required to cut such a small stone was
higher than you would expect from the size of the stone, but
she was willing to pay the price I quoted so I took the job.

I thought matching the color was going to be my biggest
problem so when the first piece of rough was a perfect match
I should have suspected I was in trouble (Murphy's Law).
It started with the trim saw; I had to hold the second piece
with tweezers to keep it from dropping between the blade and
the table, where the first one went.

The stone needed to be just a little under 1mm by 3mm and I
could not figure any way short of carving a special piece of
aluminum to get a dop stick for it and I thought making the
dop stick would take longer than cutting the stone.

After several attempts to dop it I just grabbed my Foredom,
a Cratex wheel, and my #5 Optivisor and carved it holding
it in my fingers.

The lady got her ring and I got a LOT more respect for the
artisans that cut those stones. If anyone knows how the
Zunis cut those stones on the reservations I would like to
hear about it.

Dick Friesen

Subject: RE: Crushed Semi-Precious Stones

This is a great idea; I cobb crystals constantly, and have
Tourmaline, Imperial Topaz chips, often Amethyst, and some
Aqua at times. You can make wall paintings, inlays. One
artist I know used them to cover an ostrich egg. My wife
uses them on the tops of flower pots. I see some folks at
shows put them up in little bottles in oil. The important
idea to get from his post, is not to waste anything in your
lapidary work. All of my chips come from hammer scraps. I
pick up every drop. Don't throw away that worn grinding
wheel, a 220 makes a great sharpening stick, and you can
make carving burrs out of the old wheels too. Worn out
sanding belts: cut them into strips, then notch a brass
dowel. Use it for crevice sanding in carvings.

Mark Liccini

Subject: RE: Dopping Problems

Good Morning Hale,

The dopping thread has been quite interesting. It is one of
the toughest parts of teaching lapidary to students in the
class. Most of the points have been very well covered by the
various contributors. Unless I missed it, I did not see
anything about re-dopping when the stone comes off of the

I always tell the students to get a new stick when the
stone pops off of the stick. The reason is that the stick
in use becomes saturated with water and it is impossible to
get the wax on the wet stick back up to temperature and a
poor bond is made when re-dopping on the same stick.

I've also had best results when the dop stick is just a bit
smaller diameter than the narrow dimension of the stone. A
dop stick need not be round either. I've made sticks that
are an inch by 1/4 or /18 inch on the dopping surface for
holding long, narrow oval, rectangle, or marquis shapes.
The long, wide stick doesn't have a lot of pressure on the
distal parts of the stone and you don't force it off of the
stick when you are working the ends

Hope these comments prove helpful.

Thanks for all your good work.

Roger K. Pabian
Lincoln, Nebraska

P.S. Enjoyed your Veteran's Day comments. I was but a very
small boy when Pearl Harbor happened and remember the
effects of the war on the families whose sons and daughters
came back as well as the families whose sons and daughters
didn't. I can also remember the effects of the war on the
parents whose children were overseas----they lived in
constant fear of losing their children. In a very real
sense, they were veterans too. Roger

Subject: RE: Dopping Problems

One of the biggest problems with stones falling off the dop
stick is oil residue on the stones. Make sure you clean
stones with cleaning fluid or alcohol to get oil off the

Hope this helps.

God Bless.

Cornelius Flaherty

Subject: RE: Dopping Problems

Heating stones for dopping

Have seen several ideas for heating stones for dopping, and
wanted to share this with you. At the lapidary club I belong
to, a friend gave me a setup that he made to dop the stones.
He turned an old electric iron (used for clothes) upside
down, mounted it between some woodwork, and it is used with
a small can (tuna, etc) containing wax, and there is room to
lay your stones on to preheat prior to dopping. Works really
well, as you can still adjust the temperature.

Just another idea,
Love the digest

Willa Kleymann
Tucson, Az
Same concept also submitted by Leon Kusher (
who also said: Most old irons (snip) have handles that can
be drilled through and screwed to the wood (base) instead
of bolting. That holds the heater flat and the can stable.

Subject: RE: Dopping Problems

I'll add a couple more good tips on successful doping of
non sensitive stones. First if the stones have been cut
with a saw using oil for lubricant, it is best to clean the
stone with alcohol or other solvent. Second, be sure to put
a little wax on the end of the dop stick and not just on the
side. Use the tip listed on LapDigest 245 and place a dot of
wax on the stone to be preheated. Then, make a good filet of
wax around the stone.

If the wax doesn't feather out the stone was too cold. An
easy method for preheating stones: From an empty one pound
coffee can, cut a 2" wide strip up the side, bend this strip
up so your alcohol lamp fits underneath. Place the stone on
the strip bottom side up with the dot of wax on it. I know
this is really hi-tech but it works. ....

Don Sommerfield

Subject: RE: Egg Making Machine

There is an article in Rock & Gem, Jan 98, page 80, Making
Gemstone Eggs.

I Thank You for Lapidary Digest.

Subject: RE: Egg Making Machine

Rock Lathe

In Rock & Gem, Aug 95, page 33, there is an advertisement
for a rock lathe. It shows a picture of an egg that had
been turned. It's manufactured by Contempo Lapidary, and is
called The Sculpture.
There is a list of titles of all articles from all issues
of Rock & Gem, on rockhounds web page:
(go to contents and click on page). I did a simple ‘Find’,
and two articles came up which seemed relevant:

You can make a similar search of Lap Journal from a book:
Lapidary Journal Index 1947-1991. There seems to be three
relevant articles:

Making Gemstone Eggs Can Be Fun Feb 1974, p1686
Ellipses, Ovals and Eggs (drawings) Mar 1975 p 1920
An Easy Way to Make Spheres and Eggs Jan 1983 p1778 (seems
to be about equipment to do this)

There is a file in the Archives explaining how to get
reprints from LJ. The name of the file is LJReprints.txt.
Send a message to with the words
GET LJREPRINTS.TXT on the Subject line of the letter;
the file will be returned to you.

Subject: RE: WTB: Sinkankas Gemstones of North America

Maybe it is a secret. If so, I am willing to share it.

John Sinkankas, yes, the author of the books you seek,
operates a bookstore in San Diego. It might be an archive
or antiquarian bookstore, but it is available none the
less. I have ordered a hard to get book of his and was
able to even get it autographed.

Call Peri Lithon Books at (619) 488-6904. The address
is listed as 5372 Van Nuys Court, San Diego CA, 92109.

The hours of operation are listed as "by appt only".


Fred Gillis
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