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Written in Stone, Learning how to Carve Gemstone


Dear Fellow Orchidians, As a goldsmith, I am venturing off the path
now. I could blame it on curiosity but let’s call a spade a spade.
Once again my need to control every aspect of my design has led me
to learn how to cut my own stone. If anyone out there is looking to
learn how to carve, facet or master the art of working with gem
material…I am going to save you a lot of time finding someone to
teach you.

After much asking around, one name kept popping up. "Lew Wackler"
people kept saying. However, it was usually prefaced with “but I
don’t know if he’s accepting any students now.” Yes, yes he is, I
want to tell you! If you are serious about learning, he is
accepting students for private and semi private instruction at his
studio in Boulder, Colorado. I had a crammed crash course of
everything I wanted to know and then some, all into two weeks.

Have you ever wondered how you can tell what a big dirty rock will
polish up to look like? My first day started with Lew showing me
how to look at rough and how to buy it. “Is this a bag of rocks or
a bag of gems?” I asked myself. Lew pulls out several parcels of
rough sent straight from a miner and shows me how to “look” at it
and how to ascertain it’s value in relation to what I am designing.
Transforming the rocks into gems, the days are filled with learning
the fundamentals. Cutting, Grinding, Polishing, Equipment
Selection, Laps, Glues, Polishing Compounds, and Tool Making, all
crucial, but it is soon obvious that they are all backdrops to the
process. It’s about “seeing” and then the process of taking a stone
to finished perfection. We covered everything. Sometimes even
veering off to discuss a goldsmithing technique that might apply to
my overall design. He has a well lined library that fed fuel to the
flame. Never running out of challenges and technique to discuss and

They say “necessity is the mother of invention.” In lapidary no
words were more true. Being resourceful is a necessity. Many of
the tools used, you must make yourself. If you have ever had to
resort to modifying your tools or equipment to get them to perform a
specific task, (and I am sure that you have) then you can appreciate
someone like Lew who has gathered an arsenal of tricks specific to
lapidary (but useful elsewhere), that will save you time. All
things being equal, this translates to the “time is money” theory.

Before I close I want you to know, this is not your “Grandpa’s
Lapidary” anymore. No offense to any Grandpa’s out there, but you
know what I mean. I’ll explain why. It was obvious to me right
away. You couldn’t help but notice sitting smack in the middle of
Lew’s “Workshop Wonderland” several antique Rose Engines.
Refurbished and in beautiful working order, Lew demonstrates how he
has brought them up to speed, turning out modern works with this
centuries old technology. Beyond engraving onto gold and silver,
Lew has perfected the use of these engines, cutting into wood and
stone. Combined with his goldsmithing, his turned out works were as
inspiring to me as were the daily lessons.

At one time I was afraid lighting might strike me if I even dared to
think about altering what was already carved (as if it were written)
in stone. Intimidated no longer, I can create or modify any stone
to complete a design that I have in mind.

In my career, I have been lucky to find true Masters along the way
to teach me what I was ready for. If you are in need of a Lapidary
Master, I hope you are lucky enough to get Lew Wackler! If anyone
is interested, you can email Lew at Phone (303)
499-7850. Or you can contact me offline to discuss what was covered
in my instruction.

One very happy student!