Agate Carving

Hi there! Are there any agate carvers out there? I have been carving
agate for about a year and am having trouble finding suppliers for
decent sanding tools. Have tried the usual Diamond Pacific, Daniel
Lopaki etc., but I find that they are fairly limited in their
assortment. I guess I am looking for someone with pads that have a
higher concentration of diamond that will cut faster. Have not seen
much on carving on this list, maybe we can get a discussion going on
tecniques etc. Thanks Gerry

Having recently taken a workshop with Lew Wackler. I can tell you
that the best way to get what you need is to make or modify what you
have. Lew makes many of his own tools. As far as the initial grinding
you can have tools made to order. Or cut larger pads down to a size
that works for you. In the workshop we made our own diamond paste and
charged or own pads and tools. Michael

For most of my carving points, up to about 600 grit, I use those
made by Lasco in California. the usual disclaimers, I have no
affiliation with them etc, just like theri stuff.

my best luck for polishing (1200, 3000, 8000,14000, 50,000) points
is to make my own. I punch leather disks, roll them through the
rolling mill to make them dense, drill holes, mount them on a
mandrel, coat with crazy glue, press into diamond dust of the select
grit, dry with some ventilation under a heat lamp, then use with
oil. I also use toothpicks, matchsticks, diamond paste, diamond
dust, and whatever else I can think of.

for larger carvings, i also use a diamond pacific titan. also an
ultratech faceting machine, depending. Also have 3 machines I’ve
made myself, for which no commercial counter[part exists, so I am
not sure what they should be called.

And,… when all else fails, cuss.

Mark Zirinsky
’private cutter buying rough and collections’

Hi Gerry

For carvings I like using my Nova cabbing wheels as much as
possible, outside curves, etc. I also use the very edge to get into
inside corners, directing a water stream right to the edge. I also
use their mini points. As for mini discs, a dealer once suggested
using one size larger disc on your mandrel, like a 1" disc on a 1/2"
mandrel to give a more flexible edge, nice for inside curves. However
I haven’t found any that don’t need continual recharging.

Persistence and patience!

oh, I left out an important step.

one of the touchiest parts of the polishing seems to be getting a
good finish, with no subsurface fracturing, at about 1200 grit. i
say about, as the apparent grit size varies with the material.

a favorite trick: to polish a small, inside curve, chuck a toothpick
or matchstick into a #30 foredom handpiece. after grinding the curve
with a lasco diamond point, ending at 600 grit, form the matchstick
or toothpick to your curve by spinning it against the material, for
1 or 2 seconds, without any compounds- the result is that the shape
of the material carves the matchstick. Now, coat the matchstick with
diamond powder or paste, and start polishing. I use an occasional
drop of light oil (aka diamond extender) to keep the surface

A few months ago, I developed this technique to complete a solid
jade Torah breast plate, one surface entirely finished in concave
cuts, the other a series of convex surfaces, onto which are
superimposed some 800 or so concave lenses. about 25 minutes per
cut, x 800, do I have too much time on my hands or what?

Mark Zirinsky
Denver, Colorado USA
’private cutter buying rough and collections’

All you need to know may be found in Henry Hunt’s books. You have
to make your own tools. K Kelly

Hi, and welcome to the wonderful/frustrating world of gemstone
carving. The easy answer for sanding tools is: there aren’t any. But
there are several tools that almost work, Rio Grande has two rubber
wheels that will do a good job of coarse sanding:

Rio Grande Part #'s
AdvantEdge Plus

Wheel	332-750/10
Knife-edge	332-751/10
Floppy Disc	332-754/10

AdvantEdge Air Flex Wheels
Coarse Wheel 332-712/10

I use both types, mostly, I use the Air Flex Wheels and the
AdvantEdge Plus Knife-edges. They are not without their problems but
do a good job. Diamond Pacific’s Nova points require some patience
but will sand concave surfaces OK. Eastwind
( has some diamond discs that have a
good reputation but I haven’t had a chance to try them yet.

All of the tools will get you from the diamond burrs to a smooth,
ready to fine sand surface but from that point most carvers I know go
to diamond compound and bristle brushes. If you carve a lot of very
fine detail that is probably your best bet. For really good polishes
though I found I had to make my own wheels and knife edges from cut
up Crystalbelts glued to 1/4" rubber wheels and diamond compound.
When I started teaching carving several years ago I found that these
wheels were the easiest for students to use.

It seems that there are not a lot of carvers around, I am headed for
Quartzsite Friday via Avi maybe if there are any other carvers headed
that way this year we could schedule a time to get together and
exchange ideas.

Dick Friesen

Absolutely THE BEST sanding discs (and belts) are available from
Doug Klein at Eastwind Diamond Abrasives.
PO Box 302, Windsor, VT 05089 USA
802-674-5427 (phone and fax)

I have used Doug’s discs for years and love them. Usual disclaimers,
just a happy customer.


Hi All, Stone carving is an area I’ve always wanted to try so I am
enjoying this thread. For those of you who are experienced at this,
I would like to ask a few questions:

  1. What kind of set up do you use to catch the throw-off from the
    wheel that still allows good visibility and accessibility? Pictures
    would be great.

  2. Do you primarily use a flex-shaft tool?

  3. What is your preferred method; to fix the handpiece (assuming
    you use a flex-shaft) in place then move the stone to it with the
    hands or vice-versa?

  4. If you fix the handpiece in position, what orientation is
    usually preferred? Handpiece pointed to the side or toward you or
    away from you?

Thanks in advance. I’m sure I will think of more questions as soon
as I hit the send button. Best Regards, Dale

G’day; I have carved quite a bit of jade and agate, and they are
both hard stones, though I prefer jade. I draw the pattern on
paper or print it from the computer then lightly glue the paper to
the slabbed stone. I use a very hard and sharp punch to gently
punch little dots close together through the paper. The paper
washes off easily and then I improve the dot pattern to make it
easily visible with a tiny diamond ball burr in a flexshaft… Next
I use a thin diamond slitting saw to rough out the outline of the
pattern, in numerous straight line cuts. I use an 8 inch lapidary
grinding wheel at about 800 rpm with water dripping on the wheel to
take the shape down to the line, and smooth the curves… When
necessary for a fairly intricate shape I have cut it out with a
diamond coated wire in a jeweller’s saw frame using water as a
lubricant and coolant… Then comes work on the surface, sculpting
hollows and general shaping etc with various diamond burrs in a
flexishaft. This and any drilling which needs to be done is
performed in a small tray or dish under water, with the water
changed whenever the white paste of stone dust begins to obscure
things. Then comes the arduous work of smoothing every part with
various wet-'n-dry papers, some held in a split mandrel, some by
hand. The final shaping is done with 100 grit diamond dust, some
using a slow speed flexshaft, some by hand. This process is
continued using smaller and smaller grades of diamond grit until at
150,00 grit one can arrive at a brilliant polish finish.

Patience is the main virtue! A few suggestions. When using very
thin strips of abrasive paper to smooth internal holes, etc, fasten
lengths of plastic electrician’s tape to the back of the paper and
cut with a sharp knife and a straight-edge. This will reinforce the
paper. When drilling, place the work on a piece of very thin
plywood with the lot under water, and lift the drill very
frequently, Do not use high speeds. When the drill breaks through
the stone, the bit of wood will stop the drill going through the
bottom of the tray - I use the plastic supermarket meat trays, made
of a foam plastic - cheep and cheerful!

If you might feel happier with hand tools, remember you can buy
little diamond coated files in a large variety of shapes: at my
local DIY store I bought a set of 20 for NZ$45. So they don’t have
to be expensive, but do use them with water as a lubricant and so
they don’t clog.

A brilliant polish can be obtained on jade and agate using a
leather disc ( I used a bit from a very old leather school
satchel) backed with a wood disc. Coat the leather with a slurry
of tin oxide and water, and have it rotating at about 600 to 800
rpm - any faster and it will spin the paste off at you. This of
course is used after finishing with 400 grit paper, dry. A
brilliant polish will be arrived at if you press the work hard
against the disk and will begin when it starts to ‘snatch’.

I am open to questions, but please keep any missiles soft and

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ

Hello, Here is the address where I have bought my diamond carving
tools; Winter Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH & Co. KG Winter
Werkzeugmaschinen - Postfach 12 27 45 - 55719 Idar-Oberstein,
Germany They are very good tools. I also have carving tools made here
in Turkey, but without diamond embedded. For polishing, I use even
chop sticks, Q-tips etc…dipped in baby oil and diamond powder,
baby oil is good for my hands and smells good. Happy carving… Kind
regards from Turkey, Oya Borahan

Dale, Get Henry Hunt’s book Lapidary Carving For Creative Jewelers.
It will answer all your questions. Henry is the patriarch of North
American Gem Carvers and has been sharing gem carving information
for 30 years. This book is now in its third edition and has many new
photos, diagrams, etc. A well spent $25.

It’s published by Henry himself.

The Desert Press
phone or fax


Hello Dale, I wish everybody would answer the questions on line.
Because these digests are so educational everybody should benefit
from the answers. I have photos and some simple explanations about
sugilite carving. As the procedure goes I use the same steps for
agate. For quartz varities cerium oxide gives better results then
diamond powder. To prevent water to splash around I have cut a hole
in one side and put around my carving machine a semitransparent
plastic box, 3rd photo, in the same picture you see the corborundum
wheel for shaping the sugilite. In the fourth picture you see my
diamond carving instruments which I bought from Germany. I have sent
the address in yesterday’s post. I will put a picture off the
machine itself in my website soon I will let you know.

Kind regards from Turkey,
Oya Borahan

Hi all Another trick you may consider with a fixed handpiece for
carving points. Put a small piece of sponge in a third hand and
position it against the back of your carving point. You can drip or
pour water over it to keep it wet and it catches the majority of
flinging water and slurry. I prefer this over a splash shield and it
keeps my face clean! It can get clogged with stone material on
coarser grits requiring rinsing out, easy with a small tub of water
on your bench, but it keeps the point lubricated nicely. Keep in mind
that if you’re using loose grits, change out the sponge between grits
to avoid grit size contamination.


Here is the address where I have bought my diamond carving tools;
Winter Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH & Co. KG Winter Werkzeugmaschinen -
Postfach 12 27 45 - 55719 Idar-Oberstein, Germany They are very
good tools. 

Oya, do you have a product number for those carving tools? I found
their website, , but could not find the
tools listed. I’d like to write them and inquire further. Thank you.

Trevor F.