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Carving amber


Hi, I saw a beautiful amber pendant head. A beautiful rose was
carved (hollowed) from the back side of the pendant head. In Japan
I rarely find such a pendant. I asked to my jewelry school
teacher how I can carve such a thing. But she didn’t know. How
can I make such a thin and fine carving? Would you let me know
how and with what tools I can carve on amber?

Thank you,
Takashi Tomoeda

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Carving in amber can be done with power tools or without. If you
use a flex shaft just go light on the pedal. For all types of
stone carving in miniature I prefer the Turbo Carver from Ultra
Speed ( 1-800-373-0707). I just got their
newer version non-lubricating handpiece and am impressed so far.
The Turbo Carver is a craft version dental drill. It operates at
high speed (over 400,000 rpm - not a typo) and so has a VERY low
torque. They cost about $200 and run off of an air compressor or
a CO2 tank… I’m not associated with the company other than as a
happy client. As with all stone carving the trick is not to let
your stone heat up. When amber heats it clouds. Personally though
I almost always carve in amber by hand. I do a lot of work in
quartzes and ruby and YAG where working by hand is only a viable
option if you have a rich Sponsor who doesn’t mind waiting a year
or more for you to finish. Carving amber by hand takes longer
than with power tools, but it is an almost senual experience. My
favorite tool for hand carving amber is a wooden pin vise I
picked up years ago. I get one of those multi packs of different
size and shape sewing needles. Using a belt sander (or a grinder
or a flex shaft) I grind a flat spot along the length of the
point . So it now looks like tiny little mattock or a wax working
tool (hint, hint). I can make up a bunch of different sizes and
shapes (pointed ends, flat ends, angled ends) in advance or just
keep reshaping what’s in the pin vise as I go along. (I hope this
makes sense to all. If visual aids would help feel free to email
me direct and I can send pictures) Then I just start scraping
away. I find the sewing needles to be cheap and easy and will
give really sharp lines. If you are carving reverse intaglio
(cutting into the stone from the side opposite of the viewer) on
a cabachon you need to remember that you are working with a lens.
The design that is seen be everyone else is larger than the
design you carve. Sometimes a little larger, sometimes much
larger, depending on the optical qualities of the material you
are carving, the amount of lensing in the cab, and just exactly
where in the stone your carving lies. Good luck with your new

Epaul Fischer
Gryphon Song Creations
in sunny Phoenix where summer is almost over

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When working amber, think of it as a hard but brittle plastic.
Any tool that would work for wood or bone, horn or plastic works.
I find better results with hand work for anything beyond rough
cuts, it tends to gum up power tools very easily.

Introduction to Lapidary by P. Kraus has pretty good beginning
info (ISBN 0-8019-7266-3).

Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL OR @Ron_Charlotte1


My son gave me some large chunks of amber to carve, but I don’t have
a clue how to go about it. My only experience carving is with ivory.
What should I use to rough it out, how fine does it need to be
sanded before the polishing compounds (can it be sanded?), and what
types of compounds and buffs should I use? Thank you all in advance.

Katherine Palochak