Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

4.4 Completing a Lapidary Project


4.4: Completing a Lapidary Project

NoteThis activity is required for kids to earn the Lapidary Arts badge.

Your club should prepare a good supply of agate and jasper slabs, chunks of soapstone, petrified wood, onyx, and other rough materials. These should be on hand along with spools of wire, bell caps, etc., to give kids a plentiful supply of material with which to experiment and practice in crafting lapidary projects. Wire, bellcaps, and other lapidary mountings, findings, and materials may be purchased from dealers at gem and mineral shows or at rock shops, bead shops, variety hobby stores such as Michael‘s or Ben Franklin, or via cataloguers such as Rio Grande, Kingsley North, Diamond Pacific, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, and others.

Then, you should schedule and sponsor several supervised sessions with as many adults assisting to give kids as much one-on-one guidance as possible, with parental attendance required as well. Don‘t leave kids on their own to satisfy the requirements for this badge. As with any art, successfully completing a lapidary project requires training and planning, and then practice, practice, and more practice, under the watchful eye of an experienced mentor.

Cabbing Without a Workshop

Relvan Zeleznik of Stamford, Connecticut, shared this activity for those juniors groups not allowed to work in the adults‘ workshop or for those whose societies lack workshop facilities altogether. If you‘re facing such a challenge, you can turn to other activities described in Activity 4.2 (rock tumbling, beading, wirewrapping, etc.). Still, there is a way, described by Relvan, for kids to learn the basic principles of cabbing and producing a nice, finished cabochon. For this, you‘ll need someone in your club who can slab and cut soft stones (opals, common opal, Petoskey stone, alabaster, travertine onyx, etc.) as small, thumbnail-sized performs. If you don‘t have a club member who can prepare these, you might approach a dealer for a supply.

Dop the stones atop nail heads with dop wax and give one to each child, along with small square sheets of coarse, medium, and fine wet-or-dry emery. Start with the coarse emery. Placing the sheet in your palm, add a few drops of water and begin grinding the stone against it using a rocking, twisting, circular motion. Grind, adding drops of water as necessary, until the cab is domed and smooth. Then rinse the stone and wipe it clean and repeat with medium and then fine emery. For a final polish, give each child a small leather pad dabbed with a light frosting of aluminum oxide polish mixed with water on the rough side of the pad. (This can also be done on the back of one of the emery paper sheets.) To remove the stone from the nail, place it in a freezer for just a few minutes; it should pop right off with gentle pressure. While the results may not be as shiny and even as if done with an expensive Genie, this poor man‘s Genie ain‘t bad for a first-time cabbing experience.