Goal #37: Lapidary

Back when I was researching locations to take a glass flamework class, I came across an introductory lapidary class. I had never heard of lapidary. According to the class guide:
This class will show participants how to take a rock from its rough and natural state to a polished stone ready to be used in fine art projects and jewelry pieces. In this one-day workshop, students will learn how to trim stones to size and use the grinding and polishing wheels of our circular and flat lapidary machines.
Neat! I immediately added it to my list of 40 Things.  

I found two friends who wanted to take the class with me and we all signed up using the online registration. Well, sort of. Sheena and I signed up successfully, but our friend Jennifer was wait-listed. We all crossed our fingers that someone would cancel and she'd get to join us. But when the big day came, nobody had canceled. Bummer.          

Sheena and I headed to class, excited about what we'd be learning. We arrived about 15 minutes early and found the instructor, Ian, setting up. He surprised us by saying we'd go ahead and get started. Turns out they only enroll two people in a class! We'd all been hoping someone would cancel so Jennifer could come too, never dreaming that Sheena and I were the ones who would have had to cancel for her to be enrolled!

After a brief demonstration, Ian had us jump right in. First, we picked out stones. There was a big tub with lots of choices. I had no real goal or plan in mind other than to learn the basics, so I grabbed the first stone that appealed to me.

Since I had no plan for the finished piece, I just started cutting it freehand to learn how to use the equipment and get comfortable with the procedure. At first, it was really scary getting my hand so close to the blade, but Ian assured us it could not do real damage to skin. Still, it's hard to believe that something that eats through rock so quickly and easily wouldn't cut through skin just as quickly! 

After I did a rough cut of my first piece, I slid down to the next machine to start grinding. There are six wheels that have a successively finer grit to grind down and then polish the stone. Here's Sheena using the coarsest wheel.

Meanwhile, I had moved down toward the polishing end.

I was annoyed at myself for not having taken a "before" picture for my first stone, so I made sure to do so for my second. I chose a chunk of agate with pinks, golds and greys in it. I used a template to trace a circle.

Then I used the saw to make a rough cut.

Here's how it looked after a few minutes of grinding on the coarsest wheel. My hand is wet (complete with wrinkly fingers) because the stones and grinding wheels have to remain wet through the whole process.

At that point, I moved to the right, one wheel at a time, until the stone was beautifully shiny. I set it down on a paper towel to dry and moved on to my third and final rock. Here are all three sitting on their paper towel. Once they were dry, any scratches or rough patches became quickly apparent.  
And here they are, complete. You can definitely tell that they're the work of a beginner, but I am very pleased with how they came out. I already mentioned that the circular stone is agate. The golden one is jasper and the "Earth" one is a picture jasper. My plan is to add magnets to the back of these. They'll look beautiful on the refrigerator.

If you have the chance to take a lapidary class, I'd encourage you to do so! If you're in Northern California, I highly recommend Ian as an instructor.

Goal #37 completed! 


  1. Awesome! As you know I love your 40 list! I want to start now...wonder if I could come up with a list of things for each of my 37, 38, 39 and 40th birthday years!

  2. So interesting! I really love that you've made such a dent in your 40 list, too! :)

  3. I'm running behind on my 32 in 32 list. I've accomplished a huge chunk of it, but there are some that are just not happening so far. I think a few of the things that I chose are unreasonable. LOL I love that we both wrote about rocks on the same day too. Great minds...

  4. You amaze me, Cindy! I always learn something new when I come to your blog. I love what you did with these rocks! They look beautiful! I would have never guessed that lapidary was about making these beautiful stones from their natural state! Tahnks for sharing!!!!!

  5. I definitely learned something new today! How fun to take a class like this. :)

  6. Very cool!! I loveeee how they turned out!!

  7. congratulations for the work, I also really like this profession, I am lapidary and I love what I do.


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