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Using Sandstone or Alabaster for turnings


WeekendMiniaturist

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WeekendMiniaturist

I really like the translucency of alabaster or sandstone and recently found an article in a woodworking magazine on this subject.  Has anyone else turned in alabaster?  I think this could be a wonderful medium for ornamental turning.

 

(Fine Woodworking Jan/Feb 1989 page 55.)

 

www.maxkrimmel.com - he is still turning...

 

I imagine turning a planter.  I can also imagine wonderful posts for the interior where I want to present a marble type of interior... why faux paint resin if you can use a soft stone instead, and turn the columns or index the column? 
A long time ago I saw a "chunk" of sandstone at Hobby Lobby, but it was not large enough for a column...I had that feeling that I should buy that chunk, but did not know why.

 

I realize the necessity to use a dust mask, and also know that I can turn acrylic, but as AKA indicated in a previous post, I'm also drawn to the natural materials.

 

I think we still have an annual rock / gem show, so perhaps I will attend and see if I can find something large enough to turn some columns.  It is always nice to pick out your materials in person.

 

I do not know where this question belongs in the forum, so If it doesn't belong in General, please advise and I will move it. 

 

Tamra

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Yeah I was going to say Woodcraft sells them.    Here are some things I've made from stone. I made this floor lamp and turned the "marble" base from Italian Evergreen soapstone.   And this hearth I c

Gisele, I believe that the tagua nut would be pretty translucent if it were thin.  This shows a 12V GOR bulb stuck inside a tagua nut vessel, which isn't particularly thin (since I see it has a crack

Tamra, here is a link that mentions mopane's hardness. http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/mopane/ I tried another vase and was able to go quite thin with the wall of the vase

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miniarquitect

Hello Tamra,

natural materials are better and more realistic. But if you are doing miniatures, they are not always the best solution.

there are some beautiful woods whose grain, when you work in 1/12 scale can look like a spot or a flaw.

the same with some stones such as granite, many marbles, travertine.. you can reduce sizes but not the texture of the original stones. Real stone tiles in miniature many times don't give you the feeling of reality, sometimes are more false than painted wood!!.

besides, in small thicknesses, they are very fragile and it is difficult to work with mechanical tools and you need laser cutters for thin slices..

 

Francisco
 

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WeekendMiniaturist

:D :D :D  Francisco... duly noted about the materials being in scale... but as alabaster in sense of hardness of a stone, it is my understanding that Talc is a 1, gypsum(drywall) /alabaster 2.5, and diamond is 10...

 

But can you imagine translucent alabaster hat stands??? 

With the beautiful lights hitting it just right?

 

Turners... we just like to chuck up different mediums... someday I have to try it!  I can't resist as it is calling me...

 

Tamra

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karincorbin

Because the stone will quickly dull regular steel turning tools many turners use the carbide tipped lathe tools for alabaster and those would work for sandstone as well. Those are the ones with the small replaceable carbide insert you attach to the tool holder with a small screw. You can also purchase carbide tipped tools for the metal lathe both with replaceable insert tips or bonded in place carbide sections at the tip.

 

You will want to use a water cooled diamond coated slab or tile saw to size the material into appropriate sized blanks for the lathe. If you don't have a saw like that you can rent tile saws from the tool rental stores or you can talk to a stone sculptor or a jeweler who has a slab saw and see if they will cut some small blocks for you from a chunk you have purchased.

 

It is not too difficult to find random sized chunks of the stone with some cut as well as some natural split edges in some of the larger artist supply stores. They have bins of a variety of stone types used for sculpture work at Artist and Craftsman Supply in Seattle, it is sold by the pound. A& C is a chain store with a number of other locations in the country on the West and East Coast.

 

As a side note the A & C stores carry a wide variety of the sculpting clay products for doll making. Generally an all around useful store with a good variety of materials for artist and craftsman and the prices are decent.

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ElgaKoster

I went to an African market in Johannesburg two weeks ago as I know that they use soapstone a lot in making tourist souvenirs, hoping to find a small piece of stone to experiment with but they only had finished items. I got talking to a very friendly guy that told me when I asked where he was from (a lot of the people who do this is not South African but from countries north of us) he told me that he was half Ethiopian and half Kenyan, his face gave him away as coming from quite far North.

In any case after I explained that I wanted to try and make a thin table top he suggested that I buy one of his little boxes to experiment with and since I don't have time to find suppliers of stone right now I did so since it wasn't expensive at all. I asked him a bit about how they work with the stone, they use axes to hew pieces out, they use handsaws and drilled holes to cut the big pieces into smaller pieces, to get the box shape they drill out the extra stone and chisel it away.

I have read that you can cut it with a bandsaw too, since I will only maybe ever want to make the odd thing from stone now and again I will just try conventional tools that I have and see how that works.

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ElgaKoster

Tamra, I was curious to see how easy the soapstone would be to work with, I have no idea how it compares to alabaster but the soapstone is very easy to work with, I cut the corner out by hand with my jewellers saw and a 4/0 blade, it was easier to cut than mopane wood which says a lot. I then squared it in my table saw, put it in my four jaw chuck and just freehanded the turning with my gravers...oh this was fun, I see all kinds of marble miniatures in my future.

I am going to drop my daughter off for an hour at a place 5 minutes drive from the African market tomorrow, I think I will go and visit the friendly man again and see if he is willing to bring me a piece of stone back when he goes home next time, he said he brings it with him, I am not sure which country is his home country, he was quite interested when I told him about my miniatures and asked if I had a website where he could look. They use permanganate powder to stain the stone with in different colors.

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WeekendMiniaturist

This morning I woke up thinking I need to turn a large nut instead of alabaster for a vessel.  I wonder how large of a nut I can find to turn a hat stand.

 

I do not think our bandsaw is variable speed... but I do have a water cooled glass cutting bandsaw that I purchased for stained glass that I can use.

 

MaxKrimmel's website has a lot of info on it - so I have been reading (and dreaming.)  Max has made his own scrapers - which of course I find fascinating.

 

Karin, my husband was just telling me to purchase a set of replaceable insert tips turning tools many times since I've started turning, and I've been so resistant... as I think part of my journey requires me to learn how to sharpen and shape my tools.   There is much satisfaction of learning how to create the tools to turn the piece... and it makes the simple accomplishment of turning a beautiful shape on a lathe even more enjoyable.

 

I keep thinking of Roy Underhill's Woodwright shop, and how a pedal powered lathe is so applicable to turning alabaster.  I wonder if he ever turned alabaster on the show.  I'm glad that I have a VS lathe...

 

And.... for our master miniaturist in residence... could he turn alabaster on a rose engine???  I know he is busy preparing for the world's largest miniature show.... but I think that turning speeds on the rose engine are slow and this medium seems so appropriate for a holtzapffel turning.  For those of you reading in the forum that are not familiar with Holtazapffel's work, think of spirograph drawings in 3d applied to a turning.

 

I'm looking forward to some stone hounding this year.

 

Tamra  

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WeekendMiniaturist

What a sweet little vase Elga.

 

Mopane is so hard... I was looking at a wood hardness table last night and didn't find the species listed in the table... but yes it was in the back of my mind in terms of hardness.  I wonder if there is an integrated table of hardwoods and stone that people have compared the hardness of wood & stone.  I just ordered replacement blade for our planer yesterday as we killed the blades when we planed the mopane. 

 

I have to go to the store and see if I can find some soapstone.  I'm going to look up the supplier in Michigan too... (one of my neighboring state...)  Did I buy the chunk?  Will have to go digging through the magic basement.

 

Tamra

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WeekendMiniaturist

Thanks Gail... Do you  know where I can get tagua nuts in the states?  I can probably get brazillian nuts now at the supermarket, are they the same thing?  Can you see me going through the whole bin - what a 4 cubic foot box  and picking out the largest nuts at the supermarket?  I have my 1" scale hat stands sitting next to me on the desk... and am wondering if I can get a nut large enough to try this... it will be close...

 

Wouldn't nuts be fruits?  The vegetable reference is so confusing. I'm going to have to look that one up too.

More internet shopping...

 

Ok, 1lb extra large nuts $6.75 + shipping.... I'm going to order some, but I'm going to chase down some alabaster...

 

 

 

Tamra

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ElgaKoster

Tamra, here is a link that mentions mopane's hardness.

http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/mopane/

I tried another vase and was able to go quite thin with the wall of the vase, it is standing on a Lego block, I will need to find thicker sandstone, I would love to make a mortar and pestle. The piece I have will make perfect table tops, it has a lovely scale grain in it.

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WeekendMiniaturist

Thank you Gail & Chris... have you both turned tagua?  Did you create bowls or vases?

 

Chris there are a lot of nut options from your contact.   

 

I called the Alabaster supply co today and he is putting together a box of alabaster rocks for me...

 

Tamra

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Gail Geiger

Tamara, No, I have never turned tagua myself. I have only seen small vessels after they were turned- I think It was at a wood carving or woodworking show somewhere. gail

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MeezerMama

Yes, Tamra, I have turned tagua nuts.  I seem to recall making some type of vase-like vessels.   They are soft (relative to wood) and turn easily.  They turn to a nice luster and can look similar to alabaster.  However ...   they sometimes have interior cracks that won't be apparent until you get to that point in your turning.  One of the challenges of turning with nuts is that they are not uniformly shaped.   If you are freehand turning a vessel, then you can adapt the shape of the vessel to fit the shape of the nut - but that might be a little harder to do if you have a specific shape in mind.   A hat stand would be pretty made from tagua nut but it might take a few attempts to find a nut that wants to be that shape.

 

BTW, I think that my local Woodcraft sells them, so yours might also. 

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miraclechicken

Yeah I was going to say Woodcraft sells them. 

 

Here are some things I've made from stone. I made this floor lamp and turned the "marble" base from Italian Evergreen soapstone.

post-51-0-95486200-1454650358_thumb.jpg

 

And this hearth I cut easily on the band saw from Brazillian soapstone.

 

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And here is a cat I carved  from Brazillian soapstone, sitting on a chunk of it.

 

post-51-0-77738500-1454650701_thumb.jpg 

 

And a horse head from the Italian Evergreen.

 

post-51-0-64045400-1454650789_thumb.jpg

 

Stone is a lot of fun. Of course it's not so fun when you are carving way and come to a vein running through and half of it falls off! Same with turning.

 

 

 

 

 

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ElgaKoster

I love all your soapstone pieces Linda!

I did go back to the guy Peter that I bought my soapstone box from, the stone he uses is the Kisii stone from South Western Kenya.

http://www.ebay.com/gds/Kisii-Soapstone-The-Soapstone-of-Kenya-/10000000000748290/g.html

http://www.tenthousandvillages.ca/kisii

He was very taken with my little vase, what I like about this stone is how much it resembles white marble, I have found quite a few nice antiques with marble tops that I want to make, Peter is going to Kenya in a month's time and will bring me a few small blocks of the stone.

Here is a 1.9 mm thick 29mm square little practice piece I made yesterday afternoon, I was worried that it would chip on the edges when you go thin but it gave me no problems, I love the grain in this piece and it looks even better in real!

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WeekendMiniaturist

This is so much fun...an electronic collaboration over mediums for turning.

 

Chris, I don't have the population that you have, so my local woodworking store isn't at your status... no nuts in that store that I have ever seen, and I was just there last month...I'll call to make sure...  I went in to look for boxwood to try to use my marples wood thread cutter.... nada.  I suspect when I ask for nuts... it is going to be a nada response.  Have you used super glue to make up for the issues of imperfections in the nut?  Sounds like a Michelangelo moment,,, finding a nut that wants to be the shape of a hat stand....

 

I know that Max Krimmel indicates he now uses Weldbond for the veining or fracturing issues... sounds like I need to find my weldbond this weekend, as I am hoping to receive my alabaster next week.  By the way, if anyone is going to search for Alabaster, the color of alabaster is regional specific...

 

Elga, your top looks great...and very much in scale... you have to be pleased yes?

 

Linda, are you using Italian Alabaster or Italian Marble?  I think Italian Alabaster....

I think from your examples you have used alabaster and soapstone... did you like one medium over the other?  Soapstone doesn't appear as translucent to me.

 

Tamra

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ElgaKoster

Yes, Tamra I am very pleased and very happy that Peter is willing to bring me some blocks of the Kenyan soapstone. I will bring my practice pieces to Chicago.

What thickness of boxwood are you looking for and how much do you need? If you don't need a big amount I can bring you a piece.

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You guys got me thinking, I have been wondering what to use to make 3 cylinders shaped hanging lamps over my kitchen counter (miniature, of course), tagua nuts may be a good choice.

They are available at Lee Valley, 1 1/2"- 2", 1 lb for 11.50. They have loads of other neat things and fast shipping too.

Are they quite translucent when thin? I would like some light to shine through.

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WeekendMiniaturist

Elga, that is such a nice offer, but I want to cut the boxwood for a life size needlework stand from Beth Russel's book. Assuming I need 1" x 1" blocks to turn down to the right size to use the marples cutter.  Is boxwood native to your neck of the woods?

 

We can do a trade if you like... I have a stash of walnut, cherry and birdseye maple... let me know your dimensions...I'm still waiting for my planer knives.  And next week I'll have a box of rocks too.

 

Gisele, I love this idea of turning a lamp shade.

 

Tamra

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MeezerMama

Gisele, I believe that the tagua nut would be pretty translucent if it were thin.  This shows a 12V GOR bulb stuck inside a tagua nut vessel, which isn't particularly thin (since I see it has a crack on the inside I suspect I stopped turning at that point).  It was photographed in a regularly-lit room, but of course the illumination inside the pot fools the camera.

 

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