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text 2018-04-16 16:52
Rocks -- Befores and Afters (pic heavy!)

Murder by Death asked about some before and after pictures of the rocks I collect, cut, and turn into jewelry.  As it happened, I had some examples handy because I had them out for the studio tour last week.  And I love love love talking about rocks!

 

First is an example of what they look like in the wild.

 

 

Looks like a plain rock-colored rock.  But at the right-hand edge, you can sort of see . . . something.

 

 

Though it's rough and broken, it's kind of quartzy-looking, but with a somewhat waxy consistency.  So you turn it over some more . . .

 

 

 

 

And what you have is a banded agate.  Or at least part of one.  The banding isn't clear in this particular piece because the edge is all broken and dirty and rough.  This was part of one of my estate lots, so I have no idea where it came from, but agates like this are very common around here and pretty much anywhere there's been volcanic activity.  They aren't directly volcanic in origin, but form from water that seeps through volcanic material to dissolve the silica minerals and then deposit them in empty pockets.  I know, I know, TMI.  ;-)

 

This is another rock, one I did find, that I cut to make sure a new saw blade was installed properly.  I knew the rock was mostly the volcanic ash matrix the agates form in, but with a crust of chalcedony on one side.

 

 

You can kind of see the chalcedony -- that waxy-looking quartzy stuff -- on the end, though the other side shows it more clearly.

 

 

As with the first example, the inside is what matters, and I was pretty stunned when I cut this one.  I wasn't expecting anything very exciting.

 

 

 

 

In the picture directly above, you can see the matrix on the right hand side of the slice.  I usually have to trim this off with either the saw or an old pair of side-cutter pliers.  It's fairly porous and somewhat easy to remove most of the time, but it can be very difficult on occasion.  And it will not polish.

 

To give a better idea of the size, since this is larger than the little purple pieces I cut the other day, here it is with my favorite (and only!) Arizona quarter.

 

 

I did a little enhancement of these photos to try to bring out the patterns in the agate/chalcedony parts, but the truth is that when they're dry, they don't show up very well.

 

 

Upper left above is a slice of lavender sagenitic agate from the Sheep Crossing north of Phoenix. Lower center is from Brenda.  The other three are from the Chickenman place.  ;-)  They've been cut on the saw, tossed in kitty litter to get the oil off, then washed in water and dish detergent.

 

These next two show how dirty the little cavities can be.  Some of this is ordinary mud that gets into them over the years/centuries that they're out in the desert, if they have an opening that mud and water can get through.  Some of it is hardened ash that got in when the agates were forming.  That stuff has to be dug out with a dental pick, and sometimes it just plain won't come out.

 

 

 

After they go in the tumbler for six or seven weeks, the rough edges get ground off and rounded, and the exterior surface polishes to a nice glassy shine.  Much of the time, those little cavities turn out to be filled with tiny, tiny sparkly crystals, and they tend not to be affected by the tumbling process.  But I'm not good at capturing them with the camera!

 

 

In the shot above, the stone on the far right has a little depression filled with those tiny crystals, but they wouldn't sparkle for the camera.

 

Because the stones are unique, it's actually not hard to match up a before and an after picture of the same stone. Later today or tomorrow, I'll get some more shots of a few individuals so we can have a reference for particular befores and afters.  But the middle stone above came from a piece of rough that is actually still sitting by the saw.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it.

 

 

 

 

I hope this helps, MbD!  More to come anyway. . . .

 

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text 2018-04-15 20:07
More cactus flowers, more rocks

It's been a hectic morning as I've tried to get ten hours of work accomplished in four, but I'm making progress.

 

Cinnamon dot cactus flowers are going crazy:

 

 

 

This is a tray full of the stones I cut yesterday and Friday, minus the ones I already put in the tumbler to start their 7-week journey to becoming polished goodies.

 

 

And some close-ups:

 

 

 

Weather forecast looks like we might have some cool days later this week, and if so, I will try to get on the saw again.  I've already sorted out some material to be cut, and I'm hoping to do the same tomorrow morning.

 

This afternoon, however, I have to do my taxes.  Ugh.

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text 2018-04-14 22:42
Agates - Surprises!
Agates: The Pat McMahan Collection - Pat McMahan

I've met Pat McMahan a couple of times at rock shows and have even bought a few rocks from him.  Best of all, I found some special agates in a place where he insisted there weren't any!  Ha!

 

But there's no way I can afford this book.  Many of the photos in it used to be on his website, www.AgatesWithInclusions.com, but he took most of them down when compiling the book.

 

Yesterday -- Friday -- I finally got to spend a little time on the rock saw.  I cut some petrified wood and some chalcedony, but nothing particularly spectacular.  My plan was to put in at least two hours, but after only one hour, I jammed the blade and had to take the whole thing apart to clean it up and reposition it, which took the better part of an hour.  By then I said the heck with it; I did a quick clean-up and planned for more time this morning (Saturday).

 

The weather was perfect, so I was at the machine by 8:00, with a tray of rocks I wanted to cut.  I zipped through some more chalcedony and a piece of jasper from Brenda, AZ.  Still, nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Then I picked up a small agate nodule I had started to cut last year.  The end was cut off, exposing a nicely banded white interior, which is common for these little "bomb" agate nodules found out at 4th of July Butte west of Phoenix.  Sometimes they have hollow centers with crystals, and sometimes the crystals form a solid interior.

 

To my surprise, the next slice showed a faint purple haze.  Purple is not exactly common in 4th of July stones, but it's not super rare, either.  I've cut a few pieces before with nice purple coloring.  But this particular little stone turned out to have bands of subtle orange, too! 

 

 

I ended up with three nice little slices from this stone -- which was no bigger than a pingpong ball to begin with.  They'll go in the tumbler for polishing, then I'll wrap them in wire for next season's shows.

 

Excited after that discovery, I scrabbled around the bucket labeled "Agate Nodules" and found a couple promising specimens.  Most are obviously white, so I was looking for stones that weren't quite so obvious.

 

The first was light colored, but it had a slight blue tinge to it, so I thought it might be worth the effort.

 

 

As you can see by the quarter, this wasn't a very big rock!  But it had its surprises, too.

 

 

 

I was flabbergasted!  I couldn't believe the first one I picked was also purple! 

 

The next one actually had more promise.  The exterior was dark, though that could also mean the inside was nothing but black.  One that I cut last year had a gorgeous rim of dark blue and white banding, but that rim was only about 1/16th inch thick, and the rest was yucky dull black stuff. So I didn't get my hopes up for this one.

 

 

It's a little bigger than the other, but still a small stone.  So I put it on the saw and started slicing.  This time I was in for an even bigger shock.

 

 

 

None of them are very big, obviously, nor are they top quality.  But I was still pretty damn excited! 

 

Between the two sessions Friday and Saturday, I cut quite a few stones.  Some are pretty good, some are just so-so.  Some will be good enough for jewelry, and the rest will refill the freebie jar**. They'll take six to seven weeks to polish; I'll sort out enough to fill at least one tumbler barrel and start the process probably tomorrow morning.

 

Watch this space.  ;-)

 

**The freebie jar had gotten so full that I decided to try selling the polished rocks by the bottle.  Starbucks Frappuccino bottles are perfect.  To my surprise, I sold out in two shows and now have to polish more freebies!  There's always a supply, however, for the kids [of all ages] to pick a free one or two.

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text 2018-04-13 18:58
Everyone feeling better . . . . and rocks

It turned out to be too cold this morning to start up the rock saw, but the forecast for the afternoon looks perfect.  And BF will be gone, so I won't have to worry about him coming out and telling me how to do what I already know how to do . . . and he doesn't.  ;-)

 

Biscuit ate a little bit of supper last night -- I gave her about a quarter of her usual serving -- and seemed fine.  She ate a little more this morning and seems back to normal.

 

The ibuprofen I took at 6:00 a.m. or whenever it was didn't kick in for several hours, but it took the edge off the elbow pain long enough for me to clean up the last of a batch of rocks in the tumbler.  I put them in for 24-48 hours just to knock off the dirt and other debris, not to polish or anything.  These are the last of the small pieces from the bucketful I rediscovered a couple weeks ago.

 

Some of them have turned out to be nice little specimens to wrap in wire just as they are:

 

 

 

While I was cleaning up some of the junk in the workshop, I discovered a small plastic container of some more of these small pink pieces, already cleaned and ready for wrapping.  Yeah, some more of the stuff I've half-forgotten about!

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text 2018-04-09 22:36
I am exhausted and I ache e v e r y w h e r e

 

I got a good night's sleep, but I'm still tired.  With temperatures predicted into the mid 90s the next few days, I was up and outside by 7:00 to begin moving everything from the front patio to the studio.  The distance is only 20 yards/meters or so, but it was more than I could handle last night.

 

It's now Monday afternoon.  Just about everything (except tables) is put away in the studio. Table covers are all washed, dried, folded, packed in their storage tub until next fall.  BF will help me with the tables later, probably tomorrow.  There's no rush on them.  They, too, will be set in their little storage spot for the summer, awaiting the next show in October.

 

My intention was to take today easy, especially to let my foot heal.  It's better, but it's still sore, and the more walking I do, the worse it feels.  And I just plain ache all over.  Back, hips, shoulders, ankles.  The elbow tendonitis is still twinging now and then.  I really need a long nap!

 

That's not in the cards. 

 

Weather forecast is for a few days of daytime highs in the mid 90s, followed by a week of more moderate temperatures.  I'm hoping to use that week to accomplish a whole lot of outdoor and workshop tasks preparatory to next season's art shows.  In advance of that work, I have a ton of inside work to do first.  Paperwork, taxes, even just cleaning that's been left ignored the past month.  Even while taking care of the show clean-up, I'm hitting some of this support work, too.  And yes, even while I'm almost falling asleep at the computer.

 

I wanted to go outside and check on the cactus for new flowers, but alas, it's too hot and I'm too tired.  So this is from yesterday, two flowers that started to open early in the morning and reached full bloom by afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This particular cactus plant is very large and is covered with buds.  There's another plant in another part of the yard, and it's even more covered.  I got one quick shot Sunday morning.  At that time, none of the buds were even close to opening, but I haven't looked at it today.

 

 

I'll take a look at it later this afternoon.

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