Coolants used in lapidary

Greetings to fellow jewelers! I have a question as it pretains to
coolants used in lapidary stone cutters and trim saws. I have been
told that anti-freeze will work good as a coolant. However, I am
concerned about the safety of anti-freeze as far as skin absorbtion.
On the other hand I also can’t stand the smell in my shop of some of
the comercial stuff. Does anyone have some advise on what works well,
is safe and doesn’t give off the chemical odor? Thanks,

For years the French added anti freeze to their wine, and watercolor
artist use it to keep wet on wet going longer.

Rio Grande sells a very good trim saw lubricant. It costs about
$15.00 a gallon. It seems to be mostly water with a small amount of
oil in it and isn’t strong smelling.

Norm; I use a product called “Aqua Oil” made by the Graves Company.
It’s a water additive. I think I got it from Alpha Supply. It doesn’t
smell and it keeps the blade from rusting. Jerry in Kodiak

I use RV antifreeze in the slab saw. It’s non-toxic. There is an
odor, but I don’t find it offensive. In the small trim saw I use plain
water with a few drops of detergent. There are blades advertised as
designed for water cooling.


Norm - There are at least two different sorts of anti-freeze discussed
at Lapidary Digest on this string; one is for cars, and will kill you;
the other for winterizing RVs, which cam be used. The best saw
coolant/lubricant is a food grade oil, followed closely by a good
grade of mineral oil. For trim saws and grinders water with an
emulsifier and rust retardent added are used. I use distilled water for
both trim-sawing and grinding. I rarely put in any additives, with the
exception of when I’ll be sawing agate cab blanks, then I use one of
the commercial additives. I also empty the sump of my saw after each
completed session, and my cabbing machines are “flow through”.

Jim Small from SMALL WONDERS


Ethylene Glycol (Anti-Freeze) should never be used except in your
car’s radiator, which is what it is intended for. There are several
non-toxic (less toxic) material out there for lapidary work. On small
saws with the appropriate blade, water based coolants do a great job.
If you don’t like the smell of water-soluble oil products try an
additive like Crystal Cut - it is made by the Crystalite Corporation
and acts as a lubricant and anti-rust agent. Crystal Cut has no smell,
odour, or taste (just kidding). It is also cheap and easy to get.

There are lots of other products out there too that aren’t water
soluble oils, some blade manufacturers also market these products and
blades (stainless steel) specifically for water based work as well.
Some water soluble oils contain sulphur compounds (helps lubricate)
and oils that can get a bit rancid - this is and the petroleum bases
can make them a bit stinky for indoor use.

If you can drain the saw after each use (assuming it is a small trim
saw not a large slab saw) - just use water with a shot of dishwashing
liquid soap. Your rocks will come out lemony fresh and you won’t be
absorbing (or breathing the mist of) any toxic crud.

Safe sawing,

Cameron Speedie
Island Gem and Rock

What I’ve been using is Dia-Cut concentrate from Graves. It has no
discernable odor, and is isn’t oily. It is not reccomended for
blades larger than 10inch.
Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL OR @Ron_Charlotte

Seems to me that I read some time ago that, all things considered,
saws that are lubricated with oils last three times as long as the
ones using water. Rose Alene McArthur @O_B_McArthurs

   But their "anti-freeze" is obviously not the same as ours! We
have several types, and one is VERY poisonous! 

I’m surprised, given the alcohol content of wine, that the French
needed to add anti-freeze! (Unless they were just taking a short-cut
to increase the natural alcohol content of the wine.) margaret

Just read a lapidary note that stated Peanut oil is used as a
lubricant. Peanut oil is safe and 100% non toxic. Also olive oil, but
it is more expensive However, once again, ALWAYS remember to wear a
mask, no matter what ! The only thing our lungs are designed to SAFELY
inhale is OXYGEN, anything else poses a threat to our health, even
peanut oil. RnL

Do not use antifreeze! depending on the size of your saw. 6 or 8 inch
for example. i suggest that you get water blade. it,s good because
you can cut opal and turquoise wich you can,t do with oil. if your
saw is bigger, use cutting oil. i use pella A it does smell a little
but it,s not toxic. a good trick also if you don,t like the smell of
cutting oil is to put vanila extract in your oil. Eric in Vancouver.

Finy, When I bought my used trim saw the old timer who sold it to me
had been using automatic transmission fluid in it for years! But, I
use a product called Lube Cool, its water soluble and mixes 10 parts
water to 1 part cool lube. I cut everything from agate to opal using
it. No smell or skin irritation either. Diamond Pacific @ 1 800
253-2954 carries it. 16 oz is about $10.00, comes in quarts and
gallons too. Gary in Redding, Ca.

norm - comparison of anti-freeze to commercial coolants for rock
cutting: it’s cheaper & has very little adverse effect difference
skin-wise. you might try keeping a large bowl of water & liquid
deteregent near your saw for dipping slabs & fingers after sawing -
it also cools piece more after sawing. remeber the key secret in rock
cutting: a decent diamond blade - quicker cutting means lower
temperature! heat is caused by friction & the longer the exposure to
the blade, the more the friction, the higher the temperature. ive

There is a type of anti-freeze that some lapidaries use in their saws
but please be sure it is the RV antifreeze (used I suspect for water
systems during a winter lay-up). Ordinary vehicle anti-freeze is
definitely toxic. I, and most others I suspect, use either Pella or
Almag oils in larger saws. I use a water based coolant designed for
metal machining in my trim saw, I only know it as ‘gluten’ I am
afraid. Everybody recommends cleaning out and drying off the saw after
every use but I am lazy - clean it every few months and no sign of

Andy Parker, Agate House Lapidary
Ulverston, Cumbria, England
Tel: 01229 584023

The 2 types (Actually there are more) are Ethylene glycol which is
the old traditional permanent anti freeze and is TOXIC. This material
has been used illegally in Europe to sweeten the flavor of wines. It
tastes sweet and is easily consumed accidentally by pets,. children
and adults who can’t read. This is very bad stuff to consume
internally. The other type is Propylene glycol which is being sold as
an environmentally friendly anti freeze. It is not toxic and is in
fact a legal widely used FDA approved food additive. It is used as a
moisturizer in many food and cosmetic products, read labels. This is
a safe compound although it is only 1 carbon up the chain. Jesse

Norm: Plain water will work with softer stones, probably up to about
seven in hardness. Rust inhibitors added to the water help, and
should be available from the lapidary suppliers, such as Alpha
Supply, which has an 800 number which I don’t have available right
now. Some blade manufacturers, I believe, now specify that water can
be used even for hard stones. I use water with a thin blade used
mounted to my faceting machine, and I plan to use it with corundum
— if the blade wears out, another is just about $12, so it is
easier to just use the water rather than worr with the oils. I would
think that any blade would last longer if used with oil. If you are
cutting a lot of agate or harder with a big saw, you use oil because
the blades are expensive, the saw is out in a shop or garage and it
has a good cover (stay out of the mist with any oil). The oldest
standby was kerosene, but this is not preferred for obious reasons.
Pella oil is something I once used in my six inch saw, got it from
the local optometrist shop. Almag is a similar product. I think
Pella is from Shell, Almag from another big oil company.

Probably the best of both worlds are water soluble oils, and these
are also available form lapidary suppliers. I would suppose they are
about as good as the Pella, etc., but I’ll bet they are more
expensive. I guess you could experiment with deodorized lamp oil
from Walmart for a small trim saw. You would stil probably want to
be in the basement or garage, though.


   For years the French added anti freeze to their wine,  and
watercolor artist use it to keep wet on wet going longer. 

G’day; Perhaps I should mention at this point that some of the
French (and some Italians too) who were caught adulterating their wine
with anti freeze suffered considerable penalties, for ethylene,
diethylene, propylene etc glycols, which are used for anti freeze are
very poisonous. Indeed it is a humectant (helps keep things damp) as
well as not freezing until the temperature is far below the freezing
point of water. But it’s use in wine adulteration was as a sweetener,
for it is sweet, and thereby lies many a death and severe illness. And
the reason it was used was because it was stolen/cheap! Some folk
will do anything to make a buck. A far better humectant to use if the
substance is to be ingested is good old fashioned glycerine - which
also happens to be a sweetener too, though it is more expensive. The
glycerols have a similar molecular make-up to the glycols. Glycerol
isn’t very poisonous at all - they even put it in cough medicines.
Artists would do well not to use glycols either, even although many of
their pigments are - or were - poisonous. (Arsenic, chromium,
cadmium, mercury etc.) Oh, and by the way, I never quite understood
why glycerine is so expensive; after all, it is a by product in the
manufacture of soap (lye or sodium hydroxide plus waste fat from the
meat works = soap plus glycerol)

I reckon the best lapidary coolant is water with a few drops of
detergent per gallon. Only thing is that you have to not be lazy
about cleaning, drying, and oiling the saw and other metal parts after
you finish; CRC556 or WD40 work well for this. Cheers,

        /\      John Burgess
       / /
      / /    
     / /__|\
    (_______)   And Mapua is having a lovely warm bright spring.

A couple of years ago, I had to start looking for a new saw coolant.
(Why I had to is a story for another day) What I finally decided on
was a food-grade hydraulic oil. Virtually no odor. I would assume that
since it is used in food processing equipment that it’s relatively
non-toxic. Cost was about $40.00 for a 5 gallon bucket from the local
petroleum distributor. Now, I love it even more than my old coolant.

Michael Howe
Trigon Holding Co.

hey people, saws using oils for lubricants may last 3 times longer
than those using other coolants, but my 10" star diamond rock saw
using antifreeze is already over umpteen yrs old & my cabmate using
water is over 20 yrs old - the question is this: do i really need for
my tools to outlive me? if they survive me, how do i know that
someone will give them a good home? do i really need to have to worry
about making arrangements for their care when i’m gone? will they
even function for someone else if that person actually knows how to
use them - or have they become so accustomed to my self-taught
pragmatic ‘what the halite’ approach to lapidary that they would not
want to acclimate to a possible retentive new user? so people, please
consider the aspects of more than just ‘is oil the best lubricant to
extend the life of my saw unto the’ third millennium’? ive