Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Rhodochrosite Has Been Cut!

In my last post I showed a chunk of rough rhodochrosite that I picked up Monday. Yesterday, I mounted it to a piece of 2x4 so I could cut it and after letting it set overnight I was able to put it on the saw this morning. Here is the result.

Even before it has been polished you can see the vitreous lustre (no that's not a typo- that's how we spell it here in Canada). I had to cut the slabs a little thicker because the stone is quite a bit softer than the agate I normally work with. Agate has a hardness of 6.5-7 while this is 3.5-4, close to calcite and flourite.

What really stands out, apart from the lustre, is the beautiful linear design which is a product of how and where the stone was formed. Rhodochrosite is often found in veins associated with silver and I'm pretty sure this piece came from a silver mine in Argentina but the circular patterns are because this rock actually formed as a cave piller (stalactite or stalagmite) one drop at a time!
Rhodochrosite is sometimes called Inca Rose and is, in fact, the national gemstone of Argentina. It is sometimes referred to as the "Stone of the Compassionate Heart" which is probably why I identify with it so much, me being such a compassionate individual and all, (heh,heh).
So what happens now?

Maybe it will inspire Lisa to introduce a new colour of hand dyed yarn through Seawall Fibres (yes, that's how we spell fibre in Canada).

 The stone in the lower right is a thin end piece and it will be cut about in half and shaped as per the instructions of "She Who MUST Be Obeyed. The other three pieces will be turned over to her as well and she will decide how she wants them cut and shaped. I can tell you this- we're going to get some beautiful pieces in the end and I'll try to post follow up pics as they become available.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Vickie Finally Gets Her Diamond

In about a month, on December 11th of this year, we will have been married for 47 years. This, of course, is solely due to Vickie's Job like patience and my learning when to keep my big mouth shut!
When we got married, money was really tight. Some will say that with me, money is always tight but that's the subject of another blog. Anyway, Norwegians get married by exchanging gold bands and when I saw that Hemsley's Jewelers in Montreal was having a sale on gold bands I took it as a sign of two things- one, I was really Norwegian and two it was time to propose. Catching Vickie in a weak moment she said yes and I have been on a series of one year contracts ever since- sort of like Walter Alston when he was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers.
To get some leverage and ensure that contract negotiations go smoothly, I thought it was time for Vickie to finally get her diamond. So earlier this week we paid Vaughn Tidd a visit over in Barrington and we came back with her diamond.

 It is actually a Herkimer Diamond- a biconed quartz crystal from Herkimer NY and upon closer inspection I realized I actually bought her three!

Can't believe I'm getting so generous!
She's gonna have to strengthen her wrist a bit before she can wear it but it will sure be a show-stopper!
Anyway, to seal the deal, I also bought her this beautiful piece of rhodochrosite which I will cut so she can make herself (and possibly a few other people) something pretty.
I am pretty sure this comes from an old silver mine in Argentina because that's where this mineral is found forming stalactites and stalagmites- hence the rings.
If you are on The Neck, stop by and say hi if I have the "open" sign up- even if I have taken the big sign down.
Stay tuned to hear how I make out in the contract talks...

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Jewelry Production Back in High Gear

Well, the weather is definitely changing. Have had the wood stove going for about a week but although we had a bit of sleet a few days ago, so far no snow.
These are the perfect climactic conditions to make jewelry... indoors... in a cozy studio.
Vickie has agreed to take me on as an unpaid apprentice and I have learned a bit about the basics of wire work. Let me make one thing clear- I am not allowed to do anything creative! I am what's affectionately known as a "grunt" or "gofer" depending on the situation. So for the last few days I have been cutting copper wire into lengths to be used to make clasps, and then I have learned how to make the two clasps. Here is the result of my labours:

I have also become proficient at cutting the "jump rings" shown in the upper right corner. All of this is so that my "sensei" can do her thing.
She also had a few things to make first (since I am not allowed to control anything that is on fire) so here she is making some copper pins using a blow torch.

 Vickie and I both prefer  interesting stones such as agate over classic gems and we both feel that any setting should add interest to the stone and not overpower it so in this case, since we started with a fairly large piece, a little bit of copper was only going to make it better.  Vickie started to work her wire magic.
And here's the result.
The rock, by the way, is local and appears to be a vein of stilbite that has subsequently replaced by agate, framed in basalt. Never seen anything like it and probably won't again.
She felt that Greek leather would be the perfect "chain" for it and now we are just waiting for the new owner to tell us how long she wants it.
In the days to come, I'll be posting pics of what comes next so keep checking 'cause you will see some really interesting stuff.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Big Storm!

So after a long stretch of beautiful weather, we had a real doozy hit last night and it will get progressively worse through the day today with wind gusts hitting 110 KPH. So instead of rockhounding yesterday, I spent the day preparing- including the removal of our large sign in the front by the road.

    In that big a wind coming from the south, the sign might end up in New Brunswick!
I will probably leave the sign down until the spring but will still change the smaller Open/ Closed one so if you see Open, come on in! We just got a new large shipment of yarn and I have completed about 30 pieces of inexpensive pendants. Got the flat lap wheels I was missing so it is back to work today!                                                                                                                                                  

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Jewelry Production Ramping Up!

Even though the weather is still beautiful (ignore that big storm heading right at us), the tourist season is dying down and we have more time to work on some of the beautiful raw materials in the rock lab.
Today, I got the last full load of raw stones out of my Lot-O-Tumbler and it didn't disappoint.

There is a lot of amazing stuff here. Some of the small pieces will be put in cages or have caps attached like this:

Some of the larger pieces will get special treatment. Who wouldn't want to wear a pendant made from this?

And Vickie has already started on some exceptional stones. Here is a piece of crazy lace agate from Gulliver's Cove finished with a copper prong setting.
Here is another that shows what can happen when you marry a beautiful stone with Vickie's amazing wire work.
The piece above is entirely hand made from copper wire and a great piece of golden plume agate and even more spectacular in person. By next spring, it is our goal to have 50-75 pieces in all price ranges in the shop and available on line so keep checking the blog to see what we come up with.
Also, over the winter, we will be revamping the shop a little and I'll post pics. We have already improved the lighting so stay tuned.

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Bag Fairy Pays a Visit

One of the most popular items in our shop has been the unique bags that Vickie makes. It started when she made one for herself and then friends wanted one and then...
These bags take time to make and time is in short supply for Vickie right now what with her designing, knitware, getting used to her rolling mill, painting sock blanks and looking after her recalcitrant husband. The other problem is that the components she uses- premium designer material, special mesh etc. are in very short supply. But this week she took the time to make a few more for the shop and here they are:

The price is still the same- $45 and, as you can see, they are works of art. So if you are looking for that special gift for that special person (ie. YOU!), stop by the shop and pick one up before they are all gone because it may be a very long time before I can get the "Bag Lady" to haul out her sewing machine!
If you are not from this area and would like one of these bags, we can ship it to you and you can pay via paypal. Just send me an email or comment on this post. I will try to post some pics of other items we have that you might want to purchase on line.
Today, we start in earnest to make jewelry from our beautiful stone. I will be working as Vickie's no-pay apprentice so if the blog suddenly goes dead it will be because I have suddenly gone dead.
Cheers and it's been nice knowing ya!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

We Have a Rolling Mill!

Apparently, I have been living my life in blissful ignorance, unaware of the huge void that existed. That has been rectified, however, as we now have a rolling mill!

"What the heck is a rolling mill", I hear you ask.
Well, basically a rolling mill is something you can roll metal through.

"And, more importantly, why do YOU  feel the need for one?!", I also hear you ask.

As many of you know, we make jewelry from the beautiful jasper and agate we find locally. Actually, I misspeak. Vickie makes the jewelry in her magical studio next to the shop using copper, silver and other metals to create settings for the stones.
For some time, she has been telling me she could really use a rolling mill. Now rolling mills come in all sizes from hand turned bench models to those huge machines used in factories. But even the smallest examples are not cheap! Try looking for one on EBay and you will see that you are looking at several hundred dollars, possibly even thousands for a more automated version.
Recently, we were visiting John and Nancy Hood in Yarmouth. John does beautiful lapidary and creates stunning settings and all our really high end pieces come from him. He and Vickie are similar in several ways- they never throw anything away and they have at least one of everything in their "lairs". So when I mentioned that I was in the market for a rolling mill, it didn't take me by total surprise when John said he might be able to help. A few minutes later he was back with "The Beast" and a deal was made.
 At that point I had a rolling mill that couldn't roll. It had no handle and the cogs were not being held in place. Fortunately, I have a friend who does welding and he attached the handle from a hand auger and secured the cogs. There was, however an important piece missing. On the top, there are two screws that you use to raise or lower the heavy rollers. Naturally, you want them to be positioned so that the space between the rollers is consistent and so ideally, you want to move them both the same amount for each pass. To do this requires a little effort so each screw has a slot in the top for a 5/16 inch Allen Wrench. Do you have any idea how much these wrenches cost? The best deal I could find was going to cost me around $20 but then a very rare thing happened.
Do you ever go to Canadian Tire or any store and see that they have an unbelievable price on something that you either don't need or just bought? Sometimes the price is so good that you wish you needed one just so you could buy it. Well, on the CT web site they showed that a set of Allen wrenches, including the one I needed, was reduced from $17.95 to $4.95 and better yet, there were two in Digby! So for $10 plus tax (paid entirely with my $ millions of accrued Canadian Tire money) we were in business. I give you "The Beast"!

As you can see, I have bolted it to the bench ( a bit of overkill in light of how much this thing weighs- I estimate about 50 pounds at least. The two "ears" sticking up are the Allen Wrenches and as you can also see, Vickie's studio is, as it always is- a mess!
So now to answer the question of why it is needed. Actually, you can do a lot with this thing including:
1. Flattening metal wire.
2. Making metal sheets thinner.
3. Creating a pattern or texture in metal by passing it through with anything patterned, even a piece of
4. Flattening a metal coin, thus making it worthless and I think, breaking some law. I'm a bit of an
5. Acquiring a hernia carrying it from the car to the studio.

This thing is definitely going to change my life!
In the upcoming months, I will be posting pics of some of the pieces that my jewelress is going to create so stay tuned!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Why You Should Visit Nova Scotia in the Fall

A neighbour just left yesterday to return to his winter home and it was as if the weather was mocking him. As with every fall, we are having a run of spectacular weather- sunny, mild and little wind with morning fog.
This is what I woke up to this morning:

Pretty spectacular, huh? Especially since if you looked up, you could see the moon perfectly.
So if you are planning a vacation next year and thinking of coming this way, consider the fall.
Hope to see you soon. Cheers!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

A Beautiful Stone From Out of Town

Pretty well everything I sell in the shop, actually pretty well everything I work on, comes from within a few miles of my house.
But recently, I came into possession of a really nice piece of Brazilian Crazy Lace Agate. This stuff is absolutely amazing in both its colouring and pattern. I had one slab and gave the rest to John Hood to cut on his larger saw and I was not disappointed because here are some pics of what I got back.

These slabs are about 6 inches by 8 inches so there is a lot of beautiful stone to work with.
And, since I got my missing flat lap discs in the mail yesterday, I was able to put the machine through its paces. I was very impressed by what it could do and my home made drip system worked perfectly.I was able to work a piece the same as above but with a druzy in the center that made it iffy to get marks out near the middle. The flat lap worked beautifully and here is a piece worked to 3000 grit on the flat lap and then finished at 8000 on my arbor.

Because of my total lack of photography skills, the colours aren't great but as you can see, the scratches are gone! It is now ready to be buffed and polished and made into a stunning pendant!
One tumbler load finished today and two more to go before I shut it down for the winter. next week I'll be doing a lot of work on the flat lap and will post more pics and if you are in the neighbourhood, come on by and say hello.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Back in The Knitting Business!

It was sort of like the tides around  here.
When Vickie left for Knit City in Vancouver, the yarn went out like the tide and the shelves were totally bare. Then, after a hugely successful show where they sold more than double their objective, Vickie came back and so did a lot of yarn since Lisa had shipped a ton directly to B.C.
So, just like the tide coming in, the shelves are once more filled and we also have a fair bit of knitted goods in stock.
We also took the occasion to do a little remodeling so here is what we look like now.

In news from the rock shop, I finally got my flat lap plates and new blade for the 10 inch saw so I will be finishing a lot of the beautiful rough I have. Here is a pendant I've pretty much finished (going to leave the small pits)
And here is a really nice piece of quartz which I'll probably sell as a specimen.

As usual, fall has brought spectacular weather. We hope to have the shop open, at least on weekends, until the end of the year so if you are coming this way, let us know so we can be open for you.
See you soon.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How Can I Make My Rocks Look Beautiful?

I am a member of the Nova Scotia Rockhounds Facebook group and this morning someone asked about cutting and polishing rocks. I gave the short answer then and will give the long answer now.

"How can I get my rocks to look as beautiful as yours?" That's a question I often get asked by visitors to my shop.
The sad answer is that you probably can't- not because I'm better than you but because I probably have better equipment. To duplicate my shop with new machines would set you back over $10,000! So it is rare that Lapidary is a money making hobby.
My rock shop
That being said, there are some things you can do to make your finds more beautiful- especially if you stay small, and you can at least get started for a reasonable outlay.
The smallest saw I own is a Rock Rascal with a 6 inch diamond blade. With it, I can cut rock up to about 2 inches thick. I can also grind a face if I want.
A new Rock Rascal will set you back over $500

 But you don't need a rock saw to cut rock. You can get by in most cases with a tile saw. Home Depot has a beauty- the QEP 22650 which you can buy with a 7 inch diamond blade for $129. I've seen it in action and was pretty impressed.
This saw has a bridge to help position the rock and can cut faces on an angle if you want. Is the tile saw as good as the Rock Rascal? It depends on the blade you use. It has a 3/4 HP motor so it has the power you need.
So now you've cut a face but it has ugly blade marks on it and isn't shiny. No problem. Buy a rock tumbler! But not just any tumbler. There are two basic types of rock tumblers- those which have drums that rotate and those that have drums that vibrate. The rotating type tends to make the rocks round, which is a problem when tumbling vein rock like agate or jasper and they take a long time- several weeks!
I recently started using a vibrating tumbler called the Lot-O-Tumbler. It has a rubber bowl so it is much less noisy and you can tumble 4 pounds (8 if you buy the double) from rough to finished in less than a week! If you are in Nova Scotia, you may be able to get one from George Johnston who has set up a supply business called Scotia Prospecting Supplies in Chester and if you buy one, get an extra bowl for the polishing stage to avoid grit contamination. Believe me- it is worth it and so is the tumbler! It just might be the best piece of lapidary equipment I've ever used.
I give you the Lot-O-Tumbler.
You should be able to put any of your cut rock in here and tumble it to a high shine IF THE ORIGINAL MATERIAL IS A SILICATE or MICROCRYSTALLINE! You can't get a shine on rocks like sandstone (unless there is a lot of silica) or limestone. All you need is some grit and polishing material that George can probably sell you as well.

So that's all for this week. next week, I'll do another blog on taking it to the next level. And if you have questions, I'd be happy to try my best to answer them.
One last thought. If you have friends who also enjoy the hobby, form a club and pool your money to buy equipment you can share. As a last resort, I charge $30 an hour to work on other people's material.

Monday, 2 October 2017

New Batch of Stones From The Tumbler

Just finished another load in my Lot-O-Tumbler and some truly beautiful stones came out.

A couple were stones that I had originally cut and shaped (the 2 on the left) while others were just put in raw. There is an absolutely beautiful piece of fortification agate which I'll probably cut for a pendant.

There were also some beautiful blue stones as shown below.

I am pretty sure this is pietersite and again, it will be cut or shaped for jewelry.

On the knitting front, Knit City is now over and apparently Seawall Fibres hit it out of the park. After day#1, sales had way surpassed what had been hoped for for the whole event and after 2 days, they were about 3 times what they had hoped for. Best of all, we got great feedback from our customers and about 15 new members of our Seawall Fibres Ravelry group. There were several approaches by retailers wanting to carry our yarn but Lisa is determined to stay small and do it right.
I'll do another post when Vickie gets home.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Seawall Fibres Huge Success at Knit City 2017

I finally made contact with the girls last night after they had gotten home from Day #1. Apparently, business was brisk to say the least.
Vickie at the desk processing credit cards.
The girls say they estimate they sold about half the skeins they had shipped out there and that there were only a few of Vickie's hand painted yarn blanks left.

People lined up waiting their turn at the cash.
So they have already gone way past their sales goal for the entire event!
They said that it was great to meet so many knitters from the Ravelry group and to hear the comments about the quality of our yarn.
Today should be another busy day and I'll update tomorrow.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Knit City 2017 Set Up Day

As you know, the shelves are bare in the yarn section of the shop as Lisa and Vickie are out in Vancouver for the big knitting trade show- Knit City 2017.
On Thursday they got the various props they needed for the booth and yesterday at noon they were able to start setting up. here's how the booth looked when they got there.
Vickie assembling a display unit.
After the displays went up, they started putting up some of the yarn and finished goods.
Lisa doing up tags.
The show runs two days and apart from the regular colours they will be featuring Vickie's hand painted sock blanks and a commemorative colour dyed just for the show. Here it is.

And here is one of Vickie's hand painted sock blanks:

Believe it or not, knitters actually take these things apart and knit them and when they do they get two identical socks. But several of the people I have shown them to say that they would just hang them on the wall as art!
We'll keep you posted as to what is going on.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Dirty Side of Lapidary

I really enjoy working with my machines but every once in a while, you have to do a repair and/or cleanup. Today was the day.
My 200 grit wheel on the old Mercury grinding arbor had gotten nicked somehow and it had actually become dangerous to use.
Wheel on the left is nicked on the left edge
That meant taking apart the whole arbor and essentially rebuilding it. The first problem is getting the wheels off the shaft.

To do this, I used an old lapidary trick. Basically, you stand the shaft on end and pound it into the floor (so much for the precision instrument image, huh?). Eventually I got it all off and was able to clean the pan.

It is absolutely amazing to me how much garbage you get when grinding rock but when you clean it like this, you find the beautiful little pieces that you cursed over when they came off.
It took me most of the day but here's how it looks now:

So now the 200 grit wheel is gone (it will be replaced by a new 220 grit diamond wheel on my Lortone unit) and in its place is a 600 grit wheel (to replace the 600 grit sanding wheel on the Lortone).
So now, on this one machine, I have 400, 600 1200, 3000 and 8000 grit wheels, a leather polishing lap on the right end and a 12,000 grit flat lap on the left end. I also replaced the drive belt on the motor and that soft purring sound you hear in the background is how it sounds now.
Everything is relative and while I think the above machine is perfect, that's where Carey Serhan at Black Mountain Artisans STARTS! What he does when he reconditions a machine is truly amazing and you should check out his facebook page under Black Mountain Artisans.
So tomorrow, I'll be tackling my little Rock Rascal trim saw with the 100 grit grinding wheel. Here's the before pic.
You will probably not see much of a difference here because it is mostly changing the oil coolant and dressing the blade a little. I will probably change the belt on this unit as well.
Vickie being in Vancouver makes it a perfect time to do this because I can get myself (and the towels) as dirty as I want. (heh,heh)

Friday, 22 September 2017

Necessity (Or Laziness) is The Mother of Invention

Now that the rock Lab is all set up and has a name, I realized that it was going to be a pain moving my water drip cooling system around to the 3 machines that would need it. The idea of just getting a really long tube to reach them all was briefly considered but deemed impractical so I had to get innovative. Fortunately, two of the machines are side by side so I just needed one more system. But a new Lortone tower was going to cost me $54+ tax and shipping and those who know me are well aware of my "frugal" nature and would quickly realize that this was out of the question.
So I had to use a combination of outright thievery and McGyverism to come up with a solution. I give you the Turner Advance Lapidary Cooling System (TALCS for short- a little bit of lapidary humour there):

The drip bag I stole from Vickie. At some point she needed it for some kind of medical condition but she looks just fine to me now so I didn't feel bad taking it. I already had the pipe, funnel and tubing so all that was required was a trip to Canadian Tire to buy an $8 shut off valve fitting. While there, I also purchased a socket driver set that I'd had my eye on at 70% off (how do they DO that?) and went next door to buy some wine in case Vickie found out about the bag.
I set it all up and voila! It leaked like a sieve!! So I took the fitting apart and used more plumber's tape and voila #2- it works perfectly and doesn't leak. I left the full bag overnight and the tray was bone dry this morning.
So I would say that the VT Rock Lab is now fully operational.
Just a reminder to the knitters that the shelves are BARE so don't disturb my lapidary work until Vickie comes back from Knit City in Vancouver on the 5th.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Cupboard is Bare! (Temporarily)

Just to let you know, last night we cleaned out virtually all of the hand dyed yarn to send out to Vancouver for the Knit City Trade Fair.
Vickie will be back on the 5th of October and we will know then the status of our inventory.
So if you want Seawall Fibres Hand Dyed Yarn between now and then, you'll just have to fly to Vancouver!
And for all you knitters, I'll be posting pics from our Knit City booth as I get them.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Rock Lab Has a Name

As you go through life, if you are fortunate, you get to meet some really interesting people and, happily, I've met my share. It's an added bonus when they are not only interesting but nice.

Since moving back to Nova Scotia, I've come across several, one being Vaughn Tidd.

Vaughn used to own the Whale Cove Campground further up The Neck and has been a "rock guy" all his life from the looks of it. Over the years he started doing more than just finding them and began acquiring lapidary equipment to be able to showcase the amazing beauty of the rocks found in Nova Scotia. A few years back, he decided to downsize and started selling some of his machines and I was fortunate enough to buy a trim saw and grinding arbor. Then, this year, I bought a larger (10 inch) saw and beautiful little rock tumbler and last week, Vickie and I drove over to the south shore where Vaughn now lives and come back with this nifty little flat lap.

A flat lap is a machine that allows you to grind and polish rock on a flat surface, using plates embedded with grits of different coarseness. I modified it a little by changing the water cooling delivery system and tried it out and it works great! I am really impressed. Also, I got the blade put back in the big saw and actually cut a few stones yesterday. It too works great.

So now the lab is complete with all the equipment needed to do what I want to do with the beautiful material we are finding but it was still missing something important- a name!

Coming up with a really good name is not the easiest thing in the world. It has to reflect what goes on and also, hopefully, the personality of the person inside and I think I've found the perfect name for it. I give you:

Now some who know me might say, "Oh isn't that nice- he named it for Vickie", but while I'll take the compliment, it's not the case. Whenever I have bought equipment from Vaughn, I have always said that he was free to drop by and use it since I know that it is really hard to give something like this up totally.

So my little man cave will henceforth be known as the VT ROCK LAB in recognition of the guy who made it possible- Vaughn Tidd. And I hope that by hanging this over the door, Vaughn will feel comfortable to come by and use his equipment any time he wants. And I hope that you too will want to come by and see what a well equipped lapidary shop looks like and some of the beautiful things it can produce.

And speaking of beautiful things, one of the pieces I came away from Vaughn's with is this beautiful amethyst crystal which he had found on The Neck.

I actually used the new flat lap to clean off the faces and now will continue to smooth the facets and polish it up really nice because it is going to someone special who really likes amethyst- my daughter Lisa.

It is a standing family joke that every time Lisa comes here, she looks for a piece of amethyst and never finds any, even when we "seed" the area. So perhaps this will fill the void.

Although we are very busy gearing up for Knit City at the end of the month, I will be staying here except for when I drive Vickie to and from the airport so the shop will be closed Sept. 27-8 and October 4th. Other than that, we will be open regular hours or longer if we are here.

We are so excited to be able to present our gorgeous yarn to such a large piece of the knitting community andI'll be posting some shots of our booth at Knit City when they are available.