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

This list digest contains the following message subjects:

1. LapDigest News for Issue No. 291 - Sun 4/15/2001
2. NEW: Routine Maintenance of a Tumbler
3. NEW: Flexible Shaft Tools for Opal Carving
4. NEW: Enhydro Quartz
5. NEW: My Saw Doesn't Cut (a reprint)
6. RE: Make or Buy Equipment?
7. RE: Make or Buy Equipment?
8. RE: Make or Buy Equipment?
9. RE: Rock from Brazil
10. BIO: Edward M Drake
11. BIO: Ed McKnire
12. WTB: Opal Buyer's Club


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No. 291 - Sun 4/15/2001

I missed sending out the Digest last week. I may miss the
next issue also, as I possibly will have to attend a
funeral next week. Sorry, guys.

We had a spate (WOW - big word!!) of messages about cutting
oils last week. That topic has been beat to death and all
old notes are in the archives, to which I refer you. In
particular, I refer such questions to "My Saw Won't Cut",
which is in the Archives. This is such an important letter
that I am re-printing it (see below) for everyone's info.
It was written by Bill Ritter, a member of this list. If you
have something to add, please check the Archives first to
make sure it hasn't been said many times before....

Received a letter from Barbara McCondra, who said:
"I just wonder if you would tell your readers that I have
just put up my own site with heaps of stories, information,
and a small stone catalogue. See:
It has some new writing on it. Will be heading back to
Australia in a week. July is the month for both Yowah's opal
festival and the Lightning Ridge opal and gem expo. Also,
there is tour information on the Australian opalfield trips
can be had at my son's home page; a
scroll down of the home page will put readers in touch with
a couple more stories and opal info."

Also got a letter from Albin Chalk <>, who
is Editor of the Beacon for the Grant County Rolling Stones
Gem & Mineral Society, Silver City, NM. Albin extols the
virtues of NM as a rockhounding state, saying: "New Mexico
is excellent rockhunting country & SW NM is some of the best
in the state. Various types of agate, amethyst, several
colors of fluorite, picture sandstone, rhyolite, minerals
that are copper, lead, & silver based, a number of
fluorescent materials besides the fluorite, petrified wood,
travertine, Apache tears just to name a few. The longer I'm
here the more I discover that there are! Anyone coming this
way would be welcomed at our meetings on the 2nd Thursday
evening (6 PM) at the Senior Center & our monthly field
trips on the 3rd Saturday. If that doesn't fit your
schedule, send a post well ahead of time & maybe one of
our club members or I can use it as a good excuse to knock
off work & find a place to take you." Sounds like a great
invite, to me!!

Hope all of you had a very HAPPY EASTER weekend.


Subject: NEW: Routine Maintenance of a Tumbler


I got hasty with my last oil change on my tumbler, and
ended up with a sick tumbler. My patient was a twenty
something year old Gem Sparkle, two barrel tumbler.
Fortunately, the patient survived (as did the load in

When in use I am in the habit of wiping off the tumbler
bearings weekly and putting on a fresh drop of oil. (When
was the last time you took your tumbler in for routine
service?) Last week I was in a hurry, and oiled the
bearings without the usual wipedown. The result was an
over-oiled bearing that threw a drop of oil onto the motor

You will be surpassed how thin oil can spread on a belt and
pulleys. Sick tumbler! The belt would not grab the drive
or motor pulley; two barrels brought it to a stop. One
barrel could be turned, but it was slow. I'm glad I caught
it before it died completely.

The solution was to shut down the tumbler, take off the
bottom cover, and remove belt and pulley (a setscrew), and
give them a good washing in soapy water. I also wiped
down the motor area (and motor pulley) to remove dust and
grunge (both soapy and rinse rags). After hot rinse, air
dry, and re-assembly it ran like new again.

If you want your tumbler to last, give it some regular
care; but don't over-oil the bearings.

BTW, one solution that does not work is to tighten up the
belt tension. Most tumblers work better when the drive belt
is just a little bit loose. This is usually adjustable
across 1/4 inch or more (on most common models) by moving
the motor mounts in slots. You may need to make slight
adjustments for belt stretching over time, but resist the
temptation to tighten up the tension; it wears out the
belts faster, and the tumbler also can't take heavy loads.

Kreigh Tomaszewski
Please visit our family web pages at

Subject: NEW: Flexible Shaft Tools for Opal Carving

Dear Hale:

Can you help me find the latest mini sanding and polishing
tools for flexidrive work on opal carving? Am still using
sandpaper discs at present. Rubberized wheels have limited

Thanks for your help.


Subject: NEW: Enhydro Quartz

Greetings Hale and members,

I have acquired a small enhydro smoky quartz crystal from
Australia. There are two small bubbles visible in the
interior pocket of air and water. The bubbles shift a
small amount when the crystal is moved about. Does anyone
know if the crystal structure might be more stressed due to
the inclusion? I am considering grinding and polishing a
small window so the bubbles can be seem more easily but I
sure don't want to destroy this neat little specimen.

Also, does anyone know how such a thing occurs? At what
point in the crystal's growth is the pocket of air and
water formed? How ancient might the trapped contained air
and water be?

Any help is appreciated.

Gail Clark

Subject: NEW: My Saw Doesn't Cut (a reprint)

My saw doesn't cut! My blade looks like it has diamond on
it, but it doesn't cut! My saw only cuts one or two inches
into the material and stops cutting! My blade cuts very
slow and I have to really push it! Sound familiar? I hear
these complaints every few days. It took me awhile, but now
my first question is, "What are you cutting?" and my second
question is , "What is the cutting fluid?" Ninety-nine
percent of the time, I have saved the person the cost of a
new blade and made their saw work. What I have sold them is
a one or five gallon pail of the proper cutting fluid, and
maybe a sharpening stick if they don't have an old silicon
carbide 100 grit wheel laying around.

Nobody likes the smell of diesel or kerosene (which many
old-timers use, and we stress DO NOT USE!) and the trouble
of clean up and disposal of the sludge. But for cutting hard
stones like quartz-based stones (agate, jasper, petrified
wood, etc.), oil is the only cutting fluid.

We or our friends have tried about all the water-based
coolants available and we have not found one that does not
"glaze over" the saw blade. Basically what happens is that
the water does not really lubricate, and at the point of
contact between the blade and the material, it gets so hot
that there is a micro flow of the metal bonding material
over the diamond. Once this happens, the metal starts to
ride on the material and the diamonds are no longer exposed.
Then the blade stops cutting. It's that simple.

To bring the blade back to life, you need to clear the metal
away and expose new diamonds. Do this by running several
cuts into an old silicon carbide 100 grit wheel or use a
sharpening stick which is about the same thing. Run your
fingernail over the edge of the blade to see if it catches
on the newly exposed diamonds. Then use a loupe and look at
the edge of the blade to see if there are 2-4 diamonds in
each notch (like on a standard lapidary blade); they will
be little black dots. If a blade is badly glazed, it may
take several cuts on the stone to expose the diamonds.
Now that you have refurbished your blade, change your
cutting fluid to the proper oil. We define the proper oil as
one that has a high flash point (remember that diesel and
kerosene are FUELS!) has no carcinogens, has a very low
viscosity (almost like water or a 3-in-1 oil), and has a low
odor. Contempo Lapidary has an oil which fits this
description, called "Finecut." To conserve your oil, strain
the old oil and sludge through two paper bags. It will come
out almost as clear as new oil. Dispose of the sludge

For soft stones like marble, travertine, turquoise, or even
granite, you can use the water soluble coolants, as these
stones are abrasive, clean the blade and do not produce as
much heat when cutting as the quartz type stones. Also, you
will not impregnate the porous stones with oil. But
remember, when you use water, even though it has a rust
inhibitor in it, you should drain the saw every night and
wipe it down and spray something like WD-40 on it to prevent

I hope I have helped you in some way with this explanation
about the proper coolant to use in your saw. There are many
variables with special blades for different materials, but
we will continue with that subject in the next installment.

Bill Ritter

Copyright 1997 by Bill Ritter; Published first in the Jan.
Issue of ECLECTIC LAPIDARY. Reprinted by permission of the
Bill Ritter and his partner, Ernie Wilson, purchased three
of the oldest lapidary companies (Highland Park, Beacon Star
and Frantom) 11 years ago, and blended them to form Contempo
Lapidary. Since then, they have designed and introduced one
new piece of equipment almost every year. Contempo is the
leader in equipment for the small manufacturer and serious
artisan. Bill specializes in assisting customers looking for
equipment solutions to their production problems.

Subject: RE: Make or Buy Equipment?

<<Do I want to cut stones or do I want to design and build

Big :-). Amusing and insightful essay.

Some of you know about the "fifty pound rock tumbler" I
designed and built.

I'd like you to know that I am still operating it, most
nights anyway, after nearly two years, and have gotten
almost 300 pounds of "rocks ready to polish" from it.
However, I'm still re-engineering it too! For example:

.. Add handle blocks to splash guards so they are easier
to remove. These also allow spinning the guards when taking
them off and putting them back on to smooth out any slurry
glued to the sealing surface, to prevent leakage (which is
a real mess).

.. Screw hockey pucks to the inside of the tire (from the
outside between the treads) to keep the rocks rolling over.

.. Add yet another wheel bearing, in addition to those at
top and bottom, to keep the tire from cocking sideways and
slipping against the drive shaft. For some reason this is
becoming more frequent.

Now, I am still mostly having fun with this tumbler, because
I knew when I set out that prototyping anything from scratch
takes a LOT longer than you expect to get right... It's as
much an engineering project as a rocks project!

Alan Silverstein

Subject: RE: Make or Buy Equipment?

Don wrote:

<<Do I want to cut stones or do I want to design and build
machinery? It has been a difficult decision as I truly like
to make machines, and I am not sure I have made the choice
yet But as long as you know the answer, then your time is
well spent in either effort. You just need to understand
that unless you have unlimited time, you can't do justice to

Don, I'm in the dubiously enviable position of having darned
near nothing *but* time these days. I'm disabled, with
secondary progressive MS. My monthly disability check
covers rent, electricity, phone, 'net connection, some food,
and little else.

My latest project is to make a bead mill, to use some of the
chunks of rough gem rough that I've collected over time. I
*could* spend the $600+ for a new unit, from Covington or
Kingsley North. That unit could make almost 7 inches worth
of beads at a time.

Instead, I bought a cheap drill press. I'm going to use it,
plus normal tools and a few end mills, to make a unit
that'll be able to process over 40 inches worth of beads at
a time. I'll be getting the aluminum from Boeing Surplus,
and might even find the end mills cheap there, too.

I'll still need a tumbler, yes, and after the beads are
done, they'll need to be drilled - another use for the
drill press, with an added water-drip to cool the bit off.

I know that the professional units will have a higher
resale value, but I expect to use this until either it
keels over, or I do, and if I go first, resale value is no
longer an issue :)

I expect to spend some time getting this bead mill built,
yes, but until it's ready to use, all I can do is trim
chunks of rock into cubes, and rough-preform them on a
facetor's coarse lap. As I think it'll take just a week or
two, with help, to get the bead mill made, versus nearly a
year saving my money to buy a unit that'll make, at best, a
basic bracelet at a time, the choice seems obvious to me.

Love and Light,


Subject: RE: Make or Buy Equipment?

Making your own equipment is easy, efficient, and cost

The garbage being imported today and sold for big bux is a
rip-off and has just about killed the hobby

I am over it, let greed go to hell, let the people cut rox!

Bill Gallagher

Subject: RE: Rock from Brazil

At 08:50 PM 4/1/2001 -0400, you wrote:
> I wouldn't dispute Mark Liccini's version of the above
>stone, but.....I am afraid that a more....

Minha desculpa. When Hale asked what was a "Window" stones
from Brazil, that is what came to mind. Further thought
has caused me to recall another likely suspect. Huge Mica
sheets that are used, even way back when, in the US to make
window panes. I know they are still in production as my
wife's brother is working in a factory for them near Sao
Paulo. It would not surprise me that they might still use
this there. If you look around in Brazil the old
click-clack manual typewriters we laugh about today are
still in use in most of Brazil. The real answer is that
trade names, or nicknames are not exact gemology so they are
open to the interpretation of the "windows" of your mind :)

As a point of interest there are no alluvial deposits of
Quartz in Diamentia, and I don't believe any significant
deposits in Goias. But there is a production in the next
State of Tocantins, which was created, maybe in the early
90's, by cutting sections out of all the bordering States.
The Quartz mine you refer to may have been in Goias, but is
now in Tocantins.

Here is a photo cataloging of most of the Quartz occurrence
in Brazil. (Add the http://

Mark Liccini

Subject: BIO: Edward M Drake

Hi Hale I enjoy the digest a great deal, I have been in the
rock and gem hobby for over fifty years, every day I turn
over a new rock and learn something new , I cab. and do a
little faceting, I enjoy collecting and showing children of
all ages what wonders that are out there to be discovered.

I have a 6inch cabbing unit a Exacta and a H58 prismatic
faceting machine. They are old like me but work well , I
hope to enjoy the Digest for many years to come and best to
Edward M Drake

Subject: BIO: Ed McKnire

I am a member of four rock clubs, President of the Natrona
County Rockhounds Club in Mills, Wyoming, Vice President of
the Rollin Rockers and Vice President of the Wyoming State
Mineral & Gem Society. I will be in charge of the Rocky
Mountain Federation Program Library Starting in June. I
have complete equipment for slabbing, cabbing and faceting.
I am assembling jade samples from all over the world for a
show display. I will trade or buy anything that I currently
do not have. I also trade club patches.

Rock on

R E (Ed) McKnire

Subject: WTB: Opal Buyer's Club

For those of you who like to cut your own opal, Liz and Doc
McKay of Goldrush Opal are starting an opal buyer's club.
Members will contribute $50 US per share for better grade
opal and $30 US for beginner's grade opal. The intent is to
provide folks with a cost effective means to purchase opal.
Liz and Doc will deduct for their time and shipping fees.
Since they already make large purchases of opal, they hope
they will be able to get good wholesale discounts on the
buyer's club purchases. This would seem to be a good way
for interested lapidary/jewelers to acquire decent opal.

I have no relationship with Liz and Doc, other than being
a satisfied customer and a purchaser of two shares of their
first buyer's club lot. If you are interested the details
can be found on their web site at

John McLaughlin
Glendale, Arizona
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