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 265 - Sat 3/11/2000
2. SHOW: Some Thoughts From Quartzsite And Tucson
3. HELP: Expanding Drums
4. NEW: Precious Metal Clay
5. RE: Cleaning Emerald Rough
6. RE: Suiseki - Is It a Form of Lapidary?
7. RE: BIO: Tiffiny Leitenberger
8. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
9. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
10. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
11. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
12. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
13. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
14. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
15. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
16. RE: What Is a Drag Saw?
17. FS: New Peruvian Lapidary Stone
18. SHOW: Knap-in in Arkansas


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No 265 - Sat 3/11/2000

Please limit messages to one topic. And don't reply by using
the 'REPLY feature but cut-and-paste the address in place!

For the Archives, use the ones on the Internet first. If you
have trouble using them, let me know.

Are you interested in seeing turquoise from different mines?
Look at for jewelry
with turquoise from a variety of locations.

And do use your two names when you write!

You can see below that we are starting on a project to try
to improve the fit between expanding drums and belts. We
need your help in this so I ask you to read the note and
please send me the information if you have an expanding
drum on your machine (or on your club's machine.) PLEASE!!

FYI, we now have 2098 members. This means that we have to
do a better job serving them! Pat yourselves on the back!
That is mainly due to your efforts!!

My weeping cherry tree is in full bloom and is a thing of
beauty! It is just outside the window where I have
breakfast, and it lights up my life each morning!! We
planted this tree in '68 when we moved into this house,
but it is getting old now and some of the branches are not
producing blooms anymore. Somehow the tree seems a
parallel to our life; it aged with us and I can now see how
old it is much better than I can see how old I am!!

We have all heard this before, but it is worth remembering
and thinking about: Remember that not getting what you want
is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

Be good, and HAVE FUN!!


Subject: SHOW: Some Thoughts From Quartzsite And Tucson

Hale ask me to play reporter on my trip to Quartzsite and
Tucson this year, I'm not really sure what you all really
what to hear, these shows have to be experienced not read
about. This year at Quartzsite there were five shows with
some dealer overlap, that is, some dealers were at more
than one show. There is in the neighborhood of 400 to 500
dealers per show but probably less than 2000 dealers total.
I was in Quartzsite from January 7 to January 29 and I
still didn't see every dealer, I did try. On January 8 we
went to the camel races, man does not live by rock alone.

In addition to the gem show, there are about 20 different
flea markets and a large RV show. Something to keep almost
anyone busy.

I didn't find much NEW this year, some blue opal from
Mexico, some nice Yukon rhodonite, and a large supply of
Brazilian materials; tourmaline, amethyst, cabbing emeralds,
etc. But cabbing rough was plentiful, for example, I saw
some 4 inch thick hunks of tigereye for $5 a pound. Catch
was they were 75 to 100 pounds each. There was opal, agate,
quartz, etc. to keep you cutting for months. Most everybody
runs out of money before they have all they want.

The magazines have been telling about the resurgence of
turquoise and that was evident. There has all ways been
available, but this year there was significantly more and
better quality. Most was still treated in some way, but
some was very attractive. If you like green, excellent
quality natural turquoise was available from the Apache

Many of the rumors this year were about the closing of the
Clouds Show. The story was that the Highway Dept. had
bought about 30 feet on the South side of the show to widen
the freeway intersection. The BLM owns the land to the
North and will not sell any forcing the show to close. This
being the shows last year. There was talk of possible
relocation of the show to some other location or the
dealers moving to one of the other shows. It will be
interesting to see how if comes out next year.

Tucson is even harder to explain! Where Quartzsite is more
hobby related, Tucson is more dealer oriented. There are a
large number of manufactures, miners, and distributors
looking for someone to handle their merchandise. Many of
the shows are not open to the public. But many are, and
there are about 25 shows, some about the same size as the
Quartzsite shows, some smaller, and some much larger. The
shows mostly take over the hotel convention centers and the
time when all are open is only about a week. Some open
sooner, some later, and they are scattered all through the
heart of town, you need a game plan to be effective. I
don't know how many dealers there are but it may be more
than 10,000.

One thing that got my attention was at the AGTA show. This
is one of the larger wholesale only shows and the main
orientation is very "up scale". As I looked over the show,
I became aware that while there were people looking at the
faceted and opal stones and jewelry, the crowd was at two
booths, Rare Earth Mining and Judith Whitehead. These two
venders carry cabs and designer stones cut by some of the
countries best lapidaries. For example, Rare Earth Mining
carries some of the work of Greg Genovese, who's work has
been covered in Lapidary Journal. When I say the crowd was
there, I mean, at the other booths there were maybe two to
five people, at these two booths the crowd was maybe two to
five deep. It looked to me like the fashion may be swinging
back to cabs, I can hope anyway.

There is a special issue of Colored Stone magazine that has
all the shows listed, most of the dealers, the shuttle
routes, and a list of which dealer has which material. It
is available free at most of the larger shows and is a
"must have" for anyone trying to "do" the Tucson shows.

Hotel rooms and camping spaces are hard to find during the
shows so plan ahead if you are thinking about next year.

After Quartzsite and Tucson I need several weeks rest before
even thinking about cutting anything.

Dick Friesen

Subject: HELP: Expanding Drums

We are working on a project which has to do with the fit
between expanding drums and belts, and we need your help.

If you have an expanding drum NOW (the kind of drum you
don't have to take off the machine to install the belt),
please write me and tell me:

1) the size and width of the drum,
2) the maker of the drum (usually on the side of the drum),
3) where you bought the drum,
4) the type of drum (see below),
5) the approximate age of the drum (new/old), and
6) whether you have ever had trouble fitting a belt over
the drum, either too tight or to loose?.

Drum types that I know of:

..Molded rubber on the rim with 45 degree slots in the

..Molded rubber with ears on the outside which expand.

Thanks. This input will be of value to all of us.


Subject: NEW: Precious Metal Clay

(Now this doesn't fit our usual submission, but I think you
ought to know about it, as it 'goes along' with making
lapidary objects. I have been using PMC for several years,
taught by the guru Tim McCreight. I do love working with
PMC. But, please don't send more on this topic; this is it!

You may already be aware of the existence of Precious Metal
Clay, and if so, forgive my impertinence. If not, since
it's a relatively new product it may be the thing that will
speed your way to making your own silver (or gold) pieces.
And since it only requires the space of a bread board to
work in (plus a small kiln), you may not need to wait for
the bigger house.

Get started learning about it by going to .
The stuff works like kids' modeling clay, but after "baking"
for the appropriate time and temperature, it becomes pure
silver or gold, depending on which clay you're working with.
Yeah. Amazing stuff!

There is a great deal more to write about, but it's all on
the web site above or the links associated with it.

And for you lapidaries who wonder about its application to
your work, you should know that by imbedding your cab(s) in
the clay (ring, pendant, etc.) before firing, since it
shrinks when fired, bezels are eliminated. Just be sure
the stone can ride out the heat of the kiln.

Jim Kutzner
San Diego, CA

Subject: RE: Cleaning Emerald Rough

If you look at the pictures of Emerald mining in South
America, the whole area is one big black mass of soft black
shale(?). No wonder the emeralds have black stuff on them.
You should see the grit on the folks that glean for

Rose Alene McArthur

Subject: RE: Suiseki - Is It a Form of Lapidary?

(Back in issue 216 we questioned whether suiseki was a topic
under lapidary. We concluded it was and discussed it. One
of our club members, Hilton Freed, is an aficionado, so I
asked him to revive this thread with his ideas. Here goes:)

Dear Hale,

Thank you for this opportunity. I didn't know what suiseki
was until recently. I networked with other collectors in
the Carolinas and Georgia and found out there were only
seven of us.

Suiseki is about subtlety and suggestion. In Japan the art
form is one of simplicity. You travel in nature until a
rock "speaks" to you. Usually no bigger than anything you
can lift and free-standing. They can resemble things, like
animals or other objects, but usually they are dark, smooth,
without minerals but may be included with quartz or calcite.
Stones with a weathered surface or patina are highly prized
and if the inclusions stream from a narrow point down to a
wider point resembling a water fall, glacier or some natural
form, even better. The ideal shape is an off-center
triangle pointed back or to the side. Symmetry is
off-centered here and it is exciting to the eye. An ideal
shape, like a circle or a cube becomes boring to the mind's
eye very quickly. We are seeking subtle and sublime
suggestiveness here.

In Japan, the only modification to the stone is to cut a
flat bottom if necessary. Some people place their stones
outside and water them frequently to garner a patina,
sometimes for years. In shows, a mineral oil, wax or polish
may be added. Some stones are set in water to appear wet.
They are traditionally mounted in wooden carved bases or
daiza but may be set in sand, bonsai trays with water or on
plain wooden boards.

The Chinese prefer upright limestone rocks and will often
embellish them with carvings and added adornments and even
inscriptions of poetry. They may also have functional use
to hold paint brushes and ink/water for calligraphy.

The Koreans also have their own variation. In North
America we take greater license in our display and choice
of stones and have seen desert ventrifacts, sandstone and
any old rock being used. It is whatever "speaks" to you.

Check out:

If you would like to subscribe to our listserve send an
email to:


Hilton Freed
Information Specialist
919-677-8000 x6044
And be sure to browse our homepage at:

Subject: RE: BIO: Tiffiny Leitenberger

Tiffiny: It seems that by introducing yourself, you’ve
started a discussion of interest. Opal is a favorite among
us. Good for you!

Last spring I had a need (a very deep and burning craving)
to carve an opal. After a little puttering in the shop I
learned a couple things that deserve mention. First, I agree
whole heartedly with what has been said about Dremel tools,
electricity, and water. A flex shaft attachment or a Foredom
flex shaft are the way to go. Already owning a Foredom, I
had a head start. The rest was simple and relatively

I roughed the opal using a standard lapidary wheel then
doped it onto a 16-penny nail head using gel type superglue
(to avoid any and all heat from doping wax). I then began
carving with a tapered diamond point (cost about $12). I
could have easily used a cheaper silicon carbide point as
well, but I feel that spending a little more money on better
tools always pays off. While looking through the rows and
rows of cool Foredom and Dremel bits, I spotted a fine (600
grit) silicon carbide sanding point and added it to my
basket (a buck or two). The silicon carbide point did a
fantastic job of smoothing the diamond ground surfaces. I
did fine sanding with loose 600 grit silicon carbide on
polishing bobs (about ½ inch diam.). Chisel edged hard felt
and muslin wheels worked great (very cheap). All I did was
mix the grit with a little water to make a paste, which
was worked into the polishing bobs. The bobs need recharged
frequently as the grit spins off into the shop.

Diamond paste should also work fine, maybe better. Polishing
was just a matter of repeating the previous step with
alumina polish. The chisel edged felt worked great in the
inside cuts and the muslin wheels did the trick on the
convex surfaces. All the while I was dipping the opal and
Foredom bits into a dish of water to keep the opal from
heating up and to clear the cuttings away. It is important
to use fresh and clean water for each step to prevent
contamination of fine grits from coarse. Loose grit and
polish can be purchased at any lapidary supply. Polishing
bobs, diamond and silicon carbide bits can be purchased
through any Dremel and Foredom distributor.

The bottom line is that I was able to purchase everything
needed for under $20 (I already had the Foredom drill and
grit). The diamond bit, loose silicon carbide, Foredom, and
extra polishing bobs are ready and waiting for the next

One last note. It is always a good idea to polish the back
of any opal. This prevents stress points from which a
fracture can propagate and helps retain structural water in
the opal. A little curiosity, a desire, some thinking, some
vital clues from the Lapidary Digest, and experimenting
paid off. The opal turned out great!

Good Cutting!
Paul Boni
Boulder CO
Tiffany: I am sure that these answers will give you a good
basis for continuing your learning, and I am also sure that
you will have quite a few "What do you mean by...?"questions
out of all of these. So I am asking the three authors of
the detailed letters to act as mentors for you. Write to
them directly with your questions unless you have one you
think will interest the whole group. For your information,
your mentors are:

Paul Boni
Bob Lombardi

Also Mike Hakulin Sr ( offered to give you
some practice opal to work on. If you want it, let him know
by an e-mail letter; he will send it to me and I will
forward it to you. We're suggesting this circuitous route
as I know your parents are concerned for your safety from
the Internet demons, and this way, I will be the only one
to know your address. If they wish, your parents may phone
me at 919-489-1800 to clarify all of this.

Good luck with your budding lapidary skills! hale

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?

Hi, Hale --

Our club is the one with the drag saw for sale. It's a
trailer-mounted reciprocating saw (blade goes back and
forth), used for cutting BIG geodes, rock, petrified wood
rounds, etc. I guess they call it a drag saw because of
the back-and-forth motion.

Trailer is 8 feet long, saw is electric. The blade is
rectangular, 52-in. long, and has diamond on both sides.

If anyone is interested, sic them on Mike Vlastakis, whose
address is:

Best regards,
Mary Sharp

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?

As far as I know a drag saw is about the same as a mud saw.
It's a saw that you take out into the field in order to cut
on site. Usually they have a small gas motor and someone
with a garden hose and pump supplies the lubricant. The
ones I've seen, operate more like a chop saw than a regular
lapidary saw. The blade is lowered onto a boulder and
allowed to cut down.

So, are you planning some heavy duty field trips?

Giovanna Fregni
Mpls/St. Paul

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?


The easiest way to describe a drag saw is comparing it to a
two-man crosscut saw, but substitute a motor w/cam for one
man, and a large spring for the other guy. The oldest photos
I've seen were from the late 30s or early 40s, and they were
made from crosscut saw blades mounted teeth side up, and
used with "mud" (silicon carbide) abrasive. They're
basically large versions of wire saws.

Some of the units I've seen depicted used angle iron frames
which were carried into the field in pieces, assembled
around the boulders of gem material (like big jade slicks in
Wyoming or British Columbia), and then cranked up using
gasoline engines. From the description you included, the
saw for sale sounds a lot more sophisticated, by virtue of
having a reversible diamond blade. In addition, the trailer
mount sounds better than carrying all that ironwork around.
The single problem I see with the trailer mount is lifting
the rough up onto the bed of the trailer. The price sounds
great for a saw which will cut up to 2.5' pieces, or
slightly bigger.

Jim Small

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?

I thought I'd pop in here and say that Julie Charbonneau
<> wrote to tell us that Barranca
Diamond Co. is making a diamond drag saw for sale. Pictures
can be seen at Dads Rock Shop:

It is not cheap -- a couple of thousand for this slick
looking model, but at least everyone can see one.

Thanks, Julie!!


Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?

A drag saw is a great invention for cutting such things as
huge rounds of petrified wood, or taking a jade boulder
down to workable size. It has a blade about the shape of
an old cross-cut wood saw, without the teeth. A motor drags
the blade back and forth across the surface to be cut, with
water and carborundum grit added to the groove for
lubrication and abrasiveness. They had one in operation at
a big Federation show in Ventura some time ago. It had a
really neat feed for the grit. Tiny cups on a wheel dipped
into a container of grit and delivered it to the cutting

Rose Alene McArthur

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?

Hello Hale,
A dragsaw is a long flat bladed saw that operates back and
forth dragging across the cut. Much like you push and pull
a manual carpenters saw across a 2x4. They used to be a
pain when they were grit fed. You had to add grit to the
cut every so often. It's much better since they use diamond
blades. They are used to cut very large rocks.

I saw the last one in Utah where a shop was making septarian
nodules into table tops. You should see his sanding and
polishing stuff!

Steve Ramsdell

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?

I just happened across an article in Lapidary journal, May
1974. It is titled "Lee Orcutt's Diamond Drag Saw." It
goes on to explain that this saw is designed to cut such
things as petrified tree trunks, the likes of which are
rarely seen outside of the Petrified Forest in Arizona
now. The saw looks like a cross between an old lumberjacks
two man tree saw and a guillotine. The article goes on
to say that Lee Orcutt (Bandon-By-The-Sea, Oregon)
designed this saw based on the principals of the "mud saw,"
a couple of machinists built it, and Highand Park made the
blades. It says he starts a cut by moving the blade by
hand until a grove is made; then a motor takes over.

As to where the one in Torrance came from, I'll have to
ask around.

Terry Vasseur

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?


Simply put, a Drag Saw is a wood cutting saw with a motor.
Do you remember in the old days when the loggers used a
"Misery Whip" (a two man saw) to cut down those large trees.
Well when it came to cutting the long tree ( up to 200 feet
long) into 41 foot lengths, they used a motorized Misery
whip! They called it a "Drag Saw" because the weight of the
saw carried the saw through the wood. This was faster than
using a man to do the bucking up of the log. Especially
since the log could have been up to 15 foot through. So
while the saw was cutting, the bucker could be setting up
the next cut by limbing the tree and setting up the next

Later when the loggers started to use Chain Saws, these Drag
saws were available and easy to acquire. So when a Rock
Hound found large rock (huge, that is) someone thought up
the option of turning the saw blade over and letting the
blade drag on the rock with a slurry of grit. Lo and behold
it sliced the rock like butter. Took a little time but it
cut the rock neatly. These Drag Saws have been used to cut
very very large boulders of Jade, both in Alaska and British
Columbia, very effectively.

Jim Bergen,
in NW Lumber Country,

Subject: RE: What Is a Drag Saw?

Hi Hale--a drag saw is sorta like an oversize chain saw, but
the saw blade does not rotate around the bar--maybe it is
more like a "Swede fiddle" is what us loggers in the
Northwest call an old fashioned saw that two loggers would
pull back and forth between them to cut off a tree. This
one is motorized and it has a blade attached to a motor that
"drags" the saw blade back and forth across rather large
rocks, i.e. Jade boulders. It is slow but effective.
Usually there is a pump pouring water on the diamond blade.

In the past, old timers would use grit as the cutting medium
- they were called "mud" saws. You probably will have lots
more mechanically correct jargon by more of the men who may
write in--I won't feel offended if you do not print this



Subject: FS: New Peruvian Lapidary Stone

Recently we found a new Gemstone especially for lapidary.
It is incredible, opaque and translucent ( depending of
how you cut it). It takes a nice polish . It also looks
like landscapes, seascapes when you cut it. It is a very
unusual gemstone.

We will include a picture of it in our web site soon.
More information at our email.

Fax: 51-1-4498492

Subject: SHOW: Knap-in in Arkansas

Hello members: On May 20th and 21st, at Magnet Cove,
Arkansas, we are going to have a working knap-in for flint
knappers. This year we are adding tours for rock hounds
and mineral collectors.

On the 20th there will be two tours which will take about
three hours each, one in the morning and another in the
afternoon. On the 21st there will be one in the morning.
The tours will be on private land, normally where public is
not allowed. The tours will be in groups only.

Magnet Cove is the mineral capital of the world. In fact,
we have collectors that come from all over the world to
hunt minerals. If you are interested, you can contact me
for more information. Send a self-addressed envelope to

Robert D Parker
Magnet Cove Stone
22202 Hwy 51
Malvern, Arkansas 72104
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