Saturday, 4 June 2022

What Happens To The Rocks I Cut?

 My last post showed some of the local rocks I recently cut. But what happens next?

To a great degree, that depends on what I discover inside. If the rock has cracks, it will probably shatter when I grind it but if it has interesting features, I can sometimes make beautiful specimen pieces. If the rock is solid and interesting, I will use it to make cabochons. This requires me to rough cut the shape I want on my Hi-Tech saw and then grind and polish it on my Cab King.

Several of the pieces shown last time were good enough to become cabochons and I thought you might like to see the transformation.

This piece of petrified wood became ...                                                            this.

And this became ...                                                                                   this.              

This one was so spectacular I had to make several pieces:

Fantastic end result. Couldn't pick a best side for the teardrop so I finished both!

It is an absolutely amazing experience watching the transformation from a piece of rough rock to a finished piece. So if your travels take you to Digby Neck, stop by and see my shop.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

The Fun of Cutting Rocks

"Life', as Forest Gump so famously said, "is like a bunch of chocolates". He was referring to the unexpected surprises (good and bad I guess) that serve to make our lives interesting. 

Cutting rock is much the same. Surprises, both good and bad are revealed. True, if you know what you're doing, you have an inkling. But you never REALLY know.

The weather on Digby Neck has warmed up enough so that my water cooled lapidary machines can be fired up and recently I did a bit of cutting. Here are a few interesting pieces.

The first piece looked pretty good on the outside, with nice pink colouring.

But it was only when cut that the beautiful patterning was exposed, including the gorgeous pockets of fortification agate.

The next is a piece of petrified wood found on a beach. It had all the earmarks of petrified wood on the outside.

But when I cut it, the beautiful organic structure became evident and the great colouring also showed up.

Sometimes you get a complete surprise. On the outside it looked like a nice piece of agate.

But on the inside, there was an amazing array of colour and patterning. This will make a couple of amazing cabochons!

I'll be doing more cutting next week so stay tuned. And if you are in the area, come by and see our retail shop as well as my "Lap of Lapidary!

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!

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Why "The Artist's Mark"?

 The Artist's Mark has now been open for 6 years now and countless visitors have asked how we got the name and/or is my name Mark. So here's the answer. 

My wife Vickie (AKA The Real Artist) is a process painter at heart and her signature is the distinct marks she includes in her work.

Vickie will literally use anything that can transport pigment to make a mark- sticks, feathers, leather, rope, fingers, wire- if it's handy, she'll use it. Over the winter, she decided to make herself some mark making brushes by upcycling things found, especially on the beach across the street. When she had finished, she showed them to some of her art friends and they all wanted one. So after filling those requests, she's made a few for the shop and here's what they look like.

We call them Artist's Mark Brushes and while they are great for making marks, they also make an amazing souvenir of your trip to Digby Neck. In the second pic up from the bottom, you can even see that she personalized it by putting the person's name in norse runic characters and others are decorated in various ways (wood burning, beadwork, leather work etc.). She loves making them so by the time we open this spring, we should have a good selection. If you would like one and can't get here, just send us an email to the address at the top of the blog and we can give you some options.

I have also taken to leaving my mark- signs of my process- on my jewelry pieces so people can see that a human being actually took the time to make what you are wearing.

So now you know why we are The Artist's Mark and we hope to see you in person. And my name is Peter.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

A Tribute To Don Ashbee

 I was watching some match play golf on the weekend and it got me reminiscing about some of the interesting people I had played golf with back in the day. One stands out in particular- Don Ashbee.

Don was (he died a few years back) a truly unique individual. At one point a writer referred to me as an undersized overachiever but I paled next to Don- who was smaller and achieved a heck of a lot more! He had professional careers in hockey and lacrosse and in fact he is in the Canadian lacrosse Hall of Fame.


But his achievements were nothing compared to his personality. Don loved to talk more than anything in the world except for his wife Dorothy, and boy did he love her! Basically, Don couldn't keep quiet. I told Vickie about Don's habit of chattering away at his opponents while playing lacrosse and getting on their nerves. Truth is, he got on everybody's nerves- so much so that 5 minutes into a game, everybody wanted a piece of Don- including his team mates! 

Vickie didn't believe me (she loved Don) until the day he delivered the firewood. Don called because he heard I had hurt my back and wanted to know if I needed wood (I did). Next thing I know he shows up with his little truck filled- not just with wood but the best- fir and arbutus! After he unloaded, he came in for a coffee and was looking at Vickie's abstract paintings hanging on the walls. He looked at several and then turned to Vickie and said "I guess this is how you have to paint if you can't draw, huh?" I roared and said to Vickie "I told you. Join the club!"

Don was a gifted after dinner speaker who could keep you listening forever to his tales and jokes- some of which would get him "cancelled" today in a heart beat. I also heard a constant stream of them as we drove around the golf course. Here's a couple. 

We were playing at a different course (Nanaimo) and an elegant woman member approached (not uncommon since everyone knew Don). She said, "You don't remember me do you?" to which Don replied, "Of course I remember you- room 6 at the motel, but I paid you!". The funny thing is, the way he said it with that twinkle in his eye caused her to laugh her head off as did we all. Don could get away with anything.

Then there was the day we were waiting to tee off with Harold Fox, another lacrosse buddy. He said to me, "Look at Foxy over there. When we played lacrosse he wanted nothing better than to give us the business. But now look at him- just another tired old man". And then he added, "But I still wouldn't turn my back on him!"

I heard Don speak at many celebrations of life and he was perfect because he did just that- celebrate their life and make people laugh at the same time. I'm just sorry he won't be around to do mine although I'd hate to think of the laughs I'd be missing!

Don was a throwback to a time before computers so while he had one, it was pretty much a mystery to him. I was the club captain at our golf club when we switched to computers to input ours scores to calculate our handicaps- the strokes players are "given" to make matches between players of differing abilities fair. Since Don could never figure it out, he simply called me and got me to do it. Now over the years, I have found that many golfers cheat on their handicaps- most to get a competitive advantage by putting in a higher score but a surprising number by putting in lower scores and thus cheating themselves (ego I guess). But Don was totally different. Here's how a typical call might go.

I got a 6 on #1 but I didn't really try on the putt so give me a 5. On #2 I made 4 but I sank a really long putt that I'll never do again so give me a 5. On #3 I took the wrong club by mistake. I hit a six iron that I thought was a nine so give me a 7 instead of 8. And so it would go through the round. Don's handicap was based on what he thought he should have scored!

It would actually be impossible to explain Don to a young person today since his breed vanished some time back. But I'll just say this. If you had a whole country of Don Ashbees, you'd have one heck of a country! And if you played golf with Don, win or lose you had a good day!

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Winter Comes to Digby Neck

 Well, it had to happen. Apparently global warming doesn't know Digby Neck exists! We have had much colder weather than normal along with snow, high winds and the inevitable power outages and missing roof shingles.

But in between dealing with this:

we've been able to get a fair bit done in the studio. Vickie has been working primarily on art but also a bit of polymer clay. One of these is a real polar bear claw and the other a clever Vickie "fake" care to take a guess?

I've been doing a lot of work with reclaimed copper and some beautiful and unique components I recently purchased.

Also copied a design based on a silver spoon by creating a copper spoon using a technique called "chasing"- quite amazing actually to think how you can "move" metal.

As you can see Vickie is getting me out of my comfort zone- even getting me to embrace the beauty of oxidized copper patina.

And finally I got around to making myself a bracelet using a length of copper Viking chain.

So we are keeping busy and looking forward to getting into some exciting new areas in the near future.

And remember: It doesn't matter if the wine glass is half full or half empty as long as you have the rest of the bottle!

Friday, 5 November 2021

One Door Closes and Another Opens

 The days are much shorter now and the water is too cold on these old arthritic hands. So the rock lab- The Lap of Lapidary- is shut down until spring. This week was spent finishing off a few stones and cleaning the machines. The Cab King got a total overhaul after a very busy summer and a heavy job was made much lighter by my OCD artist partner in crime. 

As some readers will remember, Vickie makes some very beautiful paint from the rock dust pigment that collects in the machines and being who and what she is, the machines get a meticulous cleaning to ensure it all ends up in her bucket! Here's her Cab King haul.

I find it interesting how the colour varies from different areas. The darker stuff on the left came from the dried sediments in the bottom of the wastewater collection bucket while the lighter material was collected from the pans underneath the wheels.

I also made a big decision to install a new set of wheels. The 8 inch Cab King comes with an extra set of the soft wheels and I had bought new hard ones. The old ones have plenty of life and I'll probably sell them but I figure at the age of 75, it's doubtful I'll outlive this new set. Anyway, it's a new life goal!! And now the Cab King looks better than it has since the day after I started using it.

 So as that door closes for the winter, the door to the jewelry bench opens.

I have several new techniques I want to try and tons of beautiful stones to finish- all under the critical eye of The Real Artist who occupies her Real Art Domain beside me. Our hatches are all battened down here and I hope that wherever you are, you're set to enjoy the winter!

Stay tuned to see what mischief we can get into!