Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thar's coins in them thar rocks......

Yesterday was my first experience with selling rocks and slabs, and I thought it turned out rather well. It was Tampa Bay Mineral & Science Club's monthly rock exchange day, and I took a box of slabs along.

I couldn't believe it.......I made $41.50! Sold some cheap stuff for 50 cents, and one really nice piece of what one of the instructors thought was Coyamito agate for $15.

I think I need to be a little less cavalier about all the rocks I scraped up off the guy's garage floor at Easter, because that slab came out of that mess. There's turning out to be some really, really nice stuff in all of it, like the piece of agate in the picture. I don't know what to call it but "ribbon agate," because it looks like it has an orange ribbon running through it. There's a lot of that kind of thing.

I can't wait to get some of it on line and see how it sells.

I have my order for the African material ready. I'm just waiting for details on one thing he sells--I want to be sure what it is. Then we're ready to roll.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

African rocks

Well, it looks like the African shipment I've been working on is really going to come together. I have the wholesaler lined up, I have the Customs broker, and I'm waiting for shipping information.

I know I'm going to order some nice picture jasper, and some Orange River chalcedony. I'm not sure what else yet.

I expect it to arrive in four 55 gallon drums that will sit in my driveway until I have time to sort them out. But that's a couple months away yet.

But I'm eagerly waiting.........

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Boy, rocks will fool you. I've slabbed some really nasty looking rocks and had them be gorgeous inside, and just this week slabbed a big rock I thought was going to be great but it's not what I thought it was.

The Tampa Bay Mineral & Science Club has this rock pile. People toss stuff out there and others of us dig through it.

Two Saturdays ago I was digging in it and came up with about a 15-pound black rock. One of the instructors said he thought it might be black jade, so I carried it and several smaller rocks home and slabbed them to see what was inside.

I could just barely vise the big black rock, and it took me three days to break it down completely into slabs. The more I cut, the more I felt that it's not jade but flint. And when I took some of the slabs in to the club last night, the instructor looked at it and agreed with me.

So now that begs the question, how will it polish? It's a deep enough black that it still might make some nice cabs. But goodness, I have a lot of it!

Then there was this other rock. Heavy for its size but not heavy enough for hematite. Yet the rust lines in it indicate that it probably contains some hematite.

This one generated some head scratching. Finally Greg and Charlie, after studying the slabs and conferring over them, came up with the idea that it's probably a meteorite that someone tossed into the pile without knowing what it is.

They want me to polish a piece of it so they can put a drop of nitric acid on it and see what happens. I don't know the "whys" yet, but I'm going to try to get one small surface polished tonight and then see what happens. This could be cool.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

For want of a nail......

Sometimes it's the little things that get you. Like a set screw.

Sometime during the night it dawned on me that if the drive motor had quit the whole slab saw would shut down. So it had to be something else.

It also occurred to me that the drive motor is attached to the driveshaft with a single set screw.

So a while ago I pulled the housing for the drive motor off.


I was correct--it was the set screw.

I took the housing off and the bushing just fell off the end of the driveshaft and into the housing. I cleaned it up with Shooter's Choice degreaser, put it back together, and it's out there chewing on a really neat piece of agate that is dendritic on one side like Montana, and grades into a golden amber on the other side.

The one problem with all of this it that the thing is so old that a little oil seeps through on the driveshaft and lubricates everything, including the set screw. So it's not a question of "if" it happens again, it's a question of "when."

The distance between the motor and the cabinet of the saw is also so tight that you can't get a regular Allen wrench in there--it really needs one about 6 inches long.

I didn't have any Loc-tite, so next time I go to Home Depot I'll get some, and also look for a long Allen wrench in the right size so I can get some torque on it.

While I was at it, I took the tumbler apart. That one's easy. The motor is shot. No biggie--$14 at Graves. Cheaper than buying it from Lortone.

But that said, I surely do like my Lortone equipment.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Busted Again

Well, it looks like my old Lortone slab saw is down again. By the time I can afford a new one, I will have taken this one apart so many times I'll be able to build one!

This time it looks like the drive motor has gone bad. I have no idea what it will cost to replace it. I'm going to take it apart tomorrow in the daylight--I can think of one thing that might be wrong that I can fix--the Allen screw on the shaft may have worked loose. If that's not it, then it's a new motor.

It's a good thing I'm handy with tools!

In the beginning.........

OK, let's start with: I love rocks. I remember being about six or seven years old and reading a magazine article about mining opal in Australia. The idea of digging something so beautiful out of the ground, one small rock at a time, fascinated me. I wanted to go to Australia and own an opal mine!

When I went to college--Florida State University, class of 1975--I majored in biology but I had to take a few other courses in other sciences. I chose a geology course, thinking I would learn something about rocks.


It was about planetary formation and plate tectonics and stuff like that, and after the first two weeks I was bored to tears.

Then real life intervened and I was busy making a living, and fast forward to four years ago. I happened to be in Michael's and saw a tumbler kit for sale and bought it on a whim to tumble some rocks. It was a miserable failure, but it whetted my appetite for rocks again.

So I got on eBay and bought a Lortone tumbler and some tumbling rough and got started. Now I have five Lortone double tumblers and ten tumbler loads going at any given time.

Then I found the local gem and mineral club--Tampa Bay Mineral and Science Club--and started learning wire wrapping. It wasn't long before I was cutting cabochons and learning silversmithing.

Then some equipment became available and I bought a very old Lortone 12-inch slab saw and a used Lortone combination saw/cabbing unit.

See how this thing kind of snowballed?