Tuesday, 15 September 2020

The Eye of the Tiger

 Summer is gradually coming to a close and the sun is appearing farther south on the horizon every morning. The mornings aren't yet cold enough to turn on heat but we're getting there.

The good old Lot-O-Tumbler is doing its last load for the year and once I have worked a few stones for "She Who MUST Be Obeyed" I'll start cleaning the machines and the Lap of Lapidary will be shut down except for the drill press that I'll continue to use for metalwork through the winter.

Last year I participated in a little product research for Hi-Tech Diamond, a great American lapidary equipment company and as thanks, they gifted me with a beautiful thick slab of Tiger's Eye. This material appears to be the type formed by altered asbestos or chrysotile so I call it the ugly duckling. It starts life as an ugly, potentially dangerous mineral and, after it has been altered by silicate fluids, it becomes an amazingly beautiful gem rock that exhibits "chatoyance" or a shimmer of light that causes the stone to look different as it moves. It's an amazing, complex process that I won't go into here but the results it produces are visually stunning.

When I got the slab, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. It was large enough for me to get 3 pendants and thick enough for me to do a complete drop- that is curved surface front and back. I needed 3 pendants of differing size- the largest for Vickie my wife (she with the agate eye), a medium sized one for my older daughter Lisa and a smaller one for daughter Sandra- the runt of the litter.

First step was to define the shapes using a magic marker and doing a rough cut of the slab. I used my 10 inch Hi-Tech saw because the slab was so thick. Then I ground out the outside shapes on my new (and much loved!) Cab King cabbing machine.

Next, while the stones still had flat surfaces front and back, I located the mid point and cut a groove around the perimeter as shown in this stone, using a machine with a 1 mm. bit that lets me cut horizontal grooves.

The groove holds the wire I use to set the stone and doing it with a flat surface lets you make a nice straight cut. I like using this technique because it doesn't interfere with the colour or patterning of the stone.

Then it was back to the Cab King to grind the curved shapes on both sides, smooth them out and then polish with a mixture of tin and cerium oxide. I love the results!

I used bronze wire to complement the golden yellow of the stones and now the girls just have to decide what they want me to hang them on. Here's a video showing the effect of chatoyance but in all honesty, it is much more pronounced in person.

I hope you enjoy this and now it's on to new adventures. We have almost completed work on our new web site and enterprise- the Seawall Emporium- and I am now figuring out how I can incorporate old guitar strings in my creations so stay tuned (get it?)  and stay sane and healthy!


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