Edited and Published by Hale Sweeny
Web Site: http://www.lapidarydigest.com
Associate Editors: Geo. Butts, JR Shroeder, Steve Henegar
and Margaret Malm
This list digest contains the following message subjects:
1. LapDigest News for Issue No 243 - Sat 11/6/1999
2. NEW: Egg Making Machine
3. NEW: Need Information On Flint !
4. NEW: Dopping Problems
5. New: Pietersite
6. NEW: Cutting Small Cabs
7. RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge
8. RE: What Adhesive to Attach Rock to Wood
9. RE: Australian Jelly Opal versus Crystal Opal
10. WTB: Marra Mamba and Chrysoprase
Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No 243 - Sat 11/6/1999
Thanks for the suggestions on what to include and exclude.
Some of the following came from some e-mail conversations
with members of the list. So please READ THIS: SOME NO-NOs
AND SOME "DO FOR SURE"s:
On sending in queries:
.. Only one question per message. This allows us to keep
meaningful Archives. I've been dividing them into two
messages, but NO MORE!! I'll send it back and let YOU
.. Send all queries/responses to firstname.lastname@example.org,
and NOT to my personal address (email@example.com).
When they come to my personal mailbox, I must then cut
and paste them into the maillist software, and add the
necessary codes and format.
.. If you send in a query which has been covered before,
I'll send it back with request that you check the
Archives - which you should do anyway!!
.. If I get multiple identical answers to the same query,
I will combine them into one response to save spave.
This saves message header and format space.
And thanks for the letters of concern! It is Autumn here
and the dogwoods are bright red and the other trees are
nicely colored! And to think that some people go to the
mountains to view the 'color'!
Have fun, you guys ....
Subject: NEW: Egg Making Machine
I'm trying to find out what I can about egg making
machines. Can you offer any help or advice?
How about it, guys? Can any one of you help? I have never
seen a machine to make an egg shaped rock!! Does anyone
know who makes them? (their name and address, if you can,
please!) Thanks.... hale
Subject: NEW: Need Information On Flint !
I have bought a complete lapidary set up from a retired
couple in Upper Michigan. I was wondering which colors
are the best to cut and what is rough flint going for per
pound? I have all sorts of color from gray to a yellowish
Thanks for the help.
Subject: NEW: Dopping Problems
I tried to dop up some cutting material for Cabbing and had
some of it come apart or should I say separated before I
even put it to the grinder. Is it because I didn't get the
stones hot enough or not enough wax on the dop sticks, or
did I get the wax too hot.
There was wax already on the dop sticks I bought. How hot
should the wax get when it's on the sticks already?
Thanks for the help.
Subject: New: Pietersite
First of all, I'm looking for a source for some Pietersite
rough. If you know of a source, email me at one of the
addresses shown below.
Also, is there anyone who has worked with Pietersite and do
you have any tips you could give to a newbie who would like
to work on it? Is it a difficult one to work with?
Thanks a bunch!
While we are on the subject of Pietersite, please someone
write up what you know about this mineral, composition,
color, streak, how to orient, where it occurs, and so on.
Then we will have more in the Archives than a short note;
hopefully the thread will be complete enough to act as a
Subject: NEW: Cutting Small Cabs
Over on Rockhounds@drizzle.com, there was a very short
thread on 'how to cut small cabs'. In fact, the thread was
only three messages long, and I found them interesting
enough to get permission to copy them here, and ask for any
more suggestions. I cut a small cross and a small heart
recently, and found them challenging! Here are the three
>From Sue Nielson (a list member):
"I also use nails for dopping small cabs, and I use the
handles off kid's paint brushes, too. The plastic handles
are easy to cut square and to the length I want. I use
superglue to attach, and acetone overnight to separate on
everything but opal. Opals are glued to a matchbook cover
first, and then to the nail, I use a q-tip with acetone to
soften and a razor to separate the matchbook from the nail.
The matchbook can be easily scraped off the back of the opal
with the edge of the razor. I ALWAYS use magnification to
grind small cabs, it makes a real difference.
And from Earl (also a list member):
"It takes a light touch during the roughing stages, and a
well worn sanding belt before polish.
In my experience it is easier to get smooth cabs using worn
silicon carbide 400 & 600 grit belts than it is using
diamond. Of course there are hundreds of folks that will
disagree, but that's one of the joys of this hobby: what
works fine for me may cause a disaster in your workroom.
The last was from Kreigh, BINGO! that's three for three who
are also members of this list! Here is his:
"Beyond the issue of dop stick diameter, small cabs also need
shorter dop sticks. I usually use a #6 or #8 finishing nail.
Sand the head flat, blunt the point on the grinder, and use
super-glue to affix the stone to the head. I set the stone
upside down, put a drop of glue on the back, and hold it
down with the nail until it sets. Some recommend a small
scrap of newspaper between the nail and stone.
To remove the 'dop' stick, grasp the stone and dop stick
between finger and thumb firmly, and rap the free end of the
nail hard on a large metal object. I use the edge of my
grinder. You want to be holding the stone and nail when
done. I've only had a few chips where the glue pulled out a
chip of stone,
Hope this helps.
I would add that for very small objects, I start out on a
280 diamond wheel. The really coarse grits just seem to
grind it down TOO fast, and give me flats, and other
boo-boos before I know it!!! Be sure to use a soft hand in
grinding and sanding, and check it often.
Anyone have anything to add?
Subject: RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge
hi, at long last i am back online. Our local isp was bought
by a larger company, the transition is now complete and my
out going email works again.
Machinery at the ridge ranges from the humble pick and
shovel up to fully mechanised equipment costing $250k for
a plant. Hobby miners usually work with an electric or air
hammer, (air is much faster) a rickshaw, (special wheel
barrow) a self tipping hoist, and small generator around
5 kva for lights, hammer and hoist. A calweld bucket drill
will put a 1meter diameter shaft in for $10/ foot. You can
get into mining at this level for around $4k-$8k. If that
is too much, you can skimp a little and use an air hammer
to start mining for as little as $2k. You can get a
contractor to pick up and wash this dirt in an agitator, a
full size cement mixer for around $100 a load. you can fit
in about 2 days worth of dirt/ load. If you find opal, you
will want to buy your own trucks and agitator. Cost about
$12k. With this purchase, you are a professional and should
have some mechanical aptitude for the frequent breakdowns
that occur. You will also have muscles on your muscles coz
the air hammer has a mind of it's own. A new wardrobe or
several sets of belts or suspenders will also be required
to hold up your trousers as you will be slim by now.
The next step up is a hydraulic digger and bogger (self
loading/unloading barrow). You can shift a lot of dirt with
this rig, and muscles are not required. Now that you can
shift so much dirt, you probably want a super hoist as your
old one starts looking like a bottle neck. If you are a
great mechanic, rich, and machinery mad, a blower will be
purchased to suck up the dirt that your digger knocks down.
Most people find by this point that they have 2 sets of gear,
hammer, hoist, and bogger in their first plant; digger and
super hoist or blower for the second. So then you need 2
teams to keep the gear busy. With all these guys working on
percentage for you, increased prospecting activity will be
required to keep your teams busy, so a 9" prospecting drill
will be purchased or leased, and eventually possibly a
calweld drill, front end loader, and light plane to keep an
eye on the dozen or so percentage workers using the huge
accumulation of gear which is constantly breaking down and
costing hundreds a day in fuel alone.
Lightning Ridge breeds megalomania in miners. It is not
surprising that black opal is expensive. It often sells for
less than the production costs.
The alternative is to prospect carefully, gouge out some
good trace by hand, and whistle up a team of pros to do the
job on percentage. They will pay expenses and give you 30%
of the gross. This is common practice here, but be sure you
deal with honest men.
The season is winding down now, not so many people on the
streets now the weather is warming up. Summer is
uncomfortable but a good time for business as those
fortunate miners on opal are afraid to leave their mines to
the ratters. Good quality opal is available during the hot
weather as the major buyers do not visit so much at this
time. Last February my thermometer read 111 F at 2300hrs.
impossible to sleep unless you wet your sheets down. You
only get a few days like this in a row, and perhaps a total
of 2 weeks in the summer.
With every year warmer than the previous world wide over
the past 5 years, we are betting on climate change locally.
There has been good rain for the past 5 years and this
country is producing beautiful wheat and sunflower crops on
the black soil (gumbo in your lingo). A far cry from the
semi desert conditions in the drought.
If you are interested in some comments about cracky opal go
to www.lightningridgeopal.com/4sale My jewelry studio is all
set up now with rolling mill and lots of other fancy stuff.
Gotta run off and use it now.
Subject: RE: What Adhesive to Attach Rock to Wood
Rather than using an adhesive to attach rocks to wood,
perhaps some of these folks would be better advised to
embed the rocks in ready-mix concrete. If you have an
irregular shaped rock, just drop it in an empty milk
carton or cardboard box and cover it up with ready-mix
concrete from the hardware store. When it hardens, you
will have a rectangular piece that fits nicely into the
With a little care you can orient the rough so that your
cuts are exactly where you want them. You can even cut
multiple pieces. After cutting it is easy to remove the
This method of holding several pieces, especially if they
are nodules and hard to clamp, has been thoroughly covered
and is in the Archives.
Subject: RE: Australian Jelly Opal versus Crystal Opal
Dave! Sometimes, it's difficult to tell because some jelly
is a bit crystal and some crystal a bit jelly...hence the
term: "Jelly crystal".
Anyway my understanding after 30 years of cutting is that
the term jelly implies something just like the jelly you
can eat with ice cream. It may have a strong color but you
can see right through it and it does not have a pattern or
play of color. True jelly opal is just like that, but most
jelly opals have a bit of a play of color and most good
crystal opals have enough translucency to be able to see
into them and not just look at the surface. Depending on
the degree of both, it is either a crystal, a jelly
crystal, a jelly or a crystal jelly....
confused? hope not...
In Australia, they use 'jelly' to mean the same stuff we in
USA would call 'Jello', a gelatinous shimmery dessert! hale
Subject: WTB: Marra Mamba and Chrysoprase
Are there any lapidary members from Australia? I am looking
for a wholesale or quantity discount dealers for Marra Mamba
and Chrysoprase. Does anyone have contacts for these items
that they would share with me? Also, do any members of
Lapidary Digest have shipping company names that charge
reasonable rates from Australia to Seattle, WA? I would
appreciate any help given.
Many thanks to the many members who are contributing to the
Chatoyant Rock request that I posted. Keep coming up with
ideas as I am saving all responses and will post a list when
I get it completed.
Lenny from Seattle
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