Saturday, 16 April 2022

The Lap of Lapidary is Open!

 I often see people asking how to set up a lapidary shop so I thought I'd show mine. First off, decide what you want to do- cut, grind, shape, polish, make jewelry- the options are endless. Lapidary equipment can take up a lot of space and be expensive so you might have to be selective. In my case, I have a dedicated powered shop 24 ft. X 12 ft. so I have lots of room. I could even fit a few more pieces in if anyone wants to make a donation (heh,heh)! Here's the set up.

The window (not shown) and fan provide good ventilation and it is well lit. I also run an air filter. I made most of the tables and they are sturdy and solid- a real must.

In my case, I decided I didn't want to cut really large rocks so my two largest saws have a 10 inch blade. The oil saw was made 60+ years ago by a company in Edmonton Canada (long gone) called Mercury. It is cast aluminum so will last a lot longer than I will!

It has a motorized feed and rock vise that I rarely use since I run the rocks through by hand. I made the splash guard and my daughter Sandra installed the new 1/2 HP  motor last year. Notice my rock filing system in the background! I use it for cutting large rocks for specimens and slabs.

My other large saw is one of my favourite pieces. It is also 10 inches but is cooled/ lubricated by water.

This saw is made by Hi-Tech and I have a sliding vise and bridge for it. It is made from an amazingly sturdy and rugged polyethelene which means it won't rust and is much easier to clean. And it is so much easier (and I think healthier) to work with water. I cut slabs with this saw but can also cut shapes from the slabs with the thin blade. I can even use it to cut glass.

I am very fortunate to have a wife who loves to comb the nearby beaches and since every visitor to our store gets a free local rock, I need a tumbler. Mine is a Lot-O-Tumbler that holds a 4 LB load.

It is an absolute horse and I run it all summer. Since it is a vibrating tumbler, I go from rough to polished finish in a week or less so I will do about 25 loads each year. The concrete base stops it from going on a tour of the shop.

It is only after I have cut a rock that I can decide what I want to use it for. Since we have fantastic local agate and jasper, many become polished specimens that are sold in the store. And for this task I have another amazing machine called a slant lap.

This machine is also made by Hi-Tech and extremely durable. It grinds a flat surface by use of round plated that vary in coarseness and is cooled by water so very easy to clean. I hang my different plates on wooden dowels above the machine. These machines are also available with a horizontal top but I find the slant angle mush easier if your back is as old as mine!

I have a flat top grinding machine that I use for a variety of purposes.

This machine has a rotating spindle to which I can attach either a cutting or grinding bit. I use it for shaping stone or glass but can also use it to cut grooves around pieces to allow me to use a wire wrapping technique. It is also cooled by water. The black object behind is my air purifier.

In order to drill holes in rocks, it must be done under water. And while some can do it by a hand held tool, I much prefer a drill press.

Here, I have a diamond bit installed and a tray so the piece can be drilled under water. If you want more info on this operation, just contact me.

I have to say that while I like working with all the various pieces in my shop, if I had to whittle it down to a favourite, it would be the Cab King!

This machine allows me to polish surfaces and create high polished cabochons for pendants. I have had other similar machines but there are a few things that set this one apart. Most importantly, the wheels are cooled by water that comes from above (as opposed to below with some other machines). This avoids contamination. Secondly, when compared to other units, this one is quite quiet. Thirdly, the wheels on one side can be removed and replaced by an 8 inch trim saw running off the same motor and it is a really good trim saw! And the motor is powerful enough for two people to work on wheels on different sides at the same time. Lastly, it is very easy to clean.

If you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them and if you happen to find yourself on Digby Neck, in Nova Scotia Canada, come on by and see them in action.

So there you have it. And while some might prefer to live in the lap of luxury, I much prefer living in The Lap of Lapidary!

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