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All are welcome to post their favorite tool types, sources, and uses. If you disagree with something posted, please add an asterisk, and your comments below, instead of deleting.
For cracking rocks, to extract treasure from solid rock, or to separate leaverite from goodies, you'll need cold chisels. Buy North American-made steel, imports are worthless. Good brands: Craftsman, Stanley, Mayhew, Kelly, Baltimore Iron Works. Bad brands: Dasco (temper is too hard, points crack, shanks break). Shank diameter should be at least 3/4 inch. Length doesn't matter. Many chisels today come with plastic hand guards, which are useful if you're new to using a chisel, or if kids will use it. Experienced chisel users develop the art of Zen chiseling, are able to hit the chisel without looking directly at the impact surface.
For working around vugs (pockets), longer is better ... in this case, size does matter. Shank diameter 1/2 inch or larger. An inexpensive choice is used air hammer chisels, which are available at tool rental stores, usually by the pound. Current (2009) price in Seattle is $3.00/lb.
For working in vugs, plates often have a shear or zone of weathered rock immediately above or below them. A good choice for working this is a wood chisel. Buy cheap ones, imports ok, as they will likely be destroyed in the process. If you want them to last, buy antique ones at a used tool store. An assortment of tip diameters from 1/2 to 1 inch work well. Cheap sets of various sizes are available at import shops like Harbor Freight. A good stout paint scraper works well also.
A well-designed general rock tool is the Estwing Gad-Pry, a chisel/pry bar combo. Lightweight I-beam construction, and two chisel faces, make it useful for many situations.
For breaking rhyolite (learned this trick at Topaz Mt., Utah), bring a set of center punches. Imports are fine, even long, tapered nails are ok. Pound them in a line, and the rock will magically split along that line.
For splitting fossils, wood chisels are perfect. A stout Chef's knife, with tang riveted to the handle, gives a long splitting surface. Mason's chisels, with edge 2 to 4 times the shank diameter will split the big rocks. Professionals use automobile springs, sharpened to a wide flat blade. Where large sheets of fossils must be lifted, garden edgers, a wide, flat blade on a wooden handle, are used.
Shovels: I like a round-nosed, short handled shovel for general digging. If you need to pack a shovel, Kelemen.com makes a great shovel with a detachable handle, can be broken into two pieces, each about 22 inches.
Trenchers: I like a garden hoe, moves material quickly, with minimum shock to the rocks or my old bones. Many people like picks, or pick/mattock combos. The Estwing all-metal pick/mattock is great, and practically indestructible. If only it were a little longer, or adjustable length (entrepreneurs, take note!), would make a good walking stick/digger combo.
Rakes: A three or four prong rake is great for pulling rocks out of creeks, or moving alluvial material in tight places. Just don't step on one! A regular rake, not a bamboo leaf rake but a cross bar with teeth, is best for "screening larger material out of small tailings or dust to inspect.
Garden hoe: a long-handled hoe makes short work of piles of loose material, and is a decent trenching tool as well.
Hand cultivators: There is a wide variety of tooth shapes, number, and length for hand work while sitting down.
Hand tools: Screw drivers, ice picks, pitch fork tines with a padded handle, scrapers, gougers, anything to save yout nails.
The geologist's hammer, (aka g-pick) a two-ended tool, a square-ended hammer on one end with a curved, pointed end opposite, is the symbol for geologists and rockhounds. As a hammer, I think it is nearly worthless, as it is too light, and the hard temper makes it likely to shed metal shards when struck against another hard tool. Is ok as as a digging and prying tool, but shovels, hoes, or prybars are better. The pointed end is meant for taking chip samples of rock, something most people (other than kids and geologists) will never do. Useful for fending off barbarians and wild dogs, if you don't carry a firearm.
The chisel-ended version of the geologist's hammer (aka Mason's hammer) is more useful, digs better, and splits layered rock well if kept sharp. Very useful for fossil collectors. A welder's scaling hammer is an inexpensive and durable substitute.
If you must have a g-pick, buy a good brand. Estwing is the Cadillac of hammers. The cushioned blue plastic handles last far longer than the attractive leather ones, particularly in wet climates.
For general rock whacking, a two to four pound sledge hammer on a short, wooden handle does a better job than g-picks. Imports are fine, most cost under $10. Agate collectors may want to resist whacking rocks to see what's inside, as a whack-induced fracture can ruin a cuttable stone. A good alternative is a Dremel-type portable tool, with a diamond grinding drum to grind a window into the stone to assess color, etc. Keep the diamond tool wet to preserve its life.
For work inside vugs, there is often too little room to swing a hammer. A slide hammer is a weight in a tube, which fits over a chisel. Autobody mechanics use them to punch out dents in tight places. You can make one yourself with screw-together plumbing parts: a cap fitting for the hammer (fill with lead for more weight), screwed to a short piece of pipe nipple, which fits over your chisel. A good idea is to add a bit of epoxy steel to the chisel shank at the place where the furthest slide of the hammer will be, so that you don't whack your fingers.
The Estwing Gad-Pry is lightweight and durable, but expensive. A small crowbar is a good substitute, if you can keep from knocking your knee with the crooked end. For large crowbars, the crook gets in the way.
A construction bar is a beefy tool, square in cross-section, with a tapered end good for leverage, and a sharpish point. Home Depot carries a decent 5 footer, for about $30. Any piece of hex steel can be forged into a great bar, by putting a slight bend (10 to 15 degrees) on each end, and adding a tapered point. One of the best I've ever seen was a recycled 1-1/4 inch stainless steel propeller shaft, 8 ft. long. Took a moose to lift it, but it did move rocks.
Extracting crystals from vugs:
Cushion the floor when collecting ceiling plates. The clothes off your back work well enough, in a pinch. Foam rubber works better, and is lightweight to carry. At RockCandy, we often fill vug floors with shaving cream.
When starting a spall, drive in a line of chisels, and wait. Cracks in rock propagate over time, hours. If in a cold climate, pour water into the crack and let it freeze overnight. If water won't stay in the crack, try Jello.
If you have the luxury of being able to drill a hole (18 to 24V battery-powered drills with masonry bits work well), purchase a set of plugs and feathers: tapered steel rods which are split in half, then have the feather, a thin chisel, driven between the plug halves. All quarried dimension stone used to be split this way. Old fashioned, but works well. The modern replacement is a Darda splitter, very powerful, but very expensive ... and you need a compressor.
In areas where the ground freezes, a weed burner (flame thrower) will start splits in the early spring. The same principle works for loose pieces of shale which are difficult to split: soak in water for a few days, then put in the freezer. At my hidden dig I stand the plates on end in mud and let water seep into the layers and let nature do the work. The plates separate on the largest print usually with freezing weather.
You've worked hard for those crystals, may as well protect them on the way home. Newspaper or paper towels work fine. Wrap a collar of paper around the specimen, as tall as the tallest crystals. Then tumble in more cushy paper, remembering which side is up. If the specimens are wet, use waxed paper or dry cleaner bags. For single crystals, Saran Wrap is a quick way to wrap without them touching each other. Any of these work for shipping crystals as well, just make sure the shipping box is twice as large as the specimen, and fill the extra space with styrofoam peanuts or popcorn. Really delicate specimens can be packed in soap powder (Ivory Snow or White King soap, not detergent). Seal the boxes with tape to keep from losing powder en route. The recipient only need place the box, specimen included, under running tap water to release the specimen (bonus, it will be sparkling clean!)
Specimen cleaning tools:
Crystals -- hose them off to start, then soak for awhile in a cleaning agent like detergent. Next step is acids if you know how to use them, and can keep the containers safe from kids/pets. A good acid use guide is here. For stubborn deposits, mechanical cleaning options range from dental picks to sandblasters. The link is the media blaster I use, pricey but worth it if you have a lot of valuable stuff to clean. For a couple pieces, it's cheaper to hire a professional to clean it for you. Expect to pay $50/hour and up for professional mineral prep ... sounds expensive, but can add thousands of $ in value to your piece. Cleaning quantities of minerals is about as much fun as doing dishes!
Estwing Geo-Hoe pick/mattock
2-lb sledge hammer in use.
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|rockcandyguy||Tool recommendations (page: 1 2 3 4)||65||Dec 6 2010, 2:30 PM EST by wondersofnature|
Thread started: Apr 10 2009, 1:45 AM EDT Watch
There are tool discussions going on in several threads, maybe would be a good stand-alone thread? Thought of posting a page, but would need photos for that, and I'm boycotting adding photos until Wetpaint gives us a delete option. Meanwhile, anyone have a favorite brand for collecting/cleaning tools? No offense lapidarists, but would prefer those tools be on another thread ... which I'm not qualified to post to.
Chisels: for general rock moving work (opening/enlarging cracks), buy a stout cold chisel, minimum 3/4 inch diameter, length does not matter, shorter is generally better. The tip should be no wider than the shank. Cold chisels are expensive, a good brand is worth the money. Buy north American made steel. Imports are generally worthless. Brands I like: Mayhew, Craftsman, Kelly. Brands to avoid: Dasco. Air hammer chisels (often available used, and very cheaply, at industrial tool rental places, work well. In Seattle, the going rate for used air chisels is $3.00/lb)
Chisels, for crystal pocket collecting: longer is better, minimum 1/2 inch diameter. Tip no wider than shank. The plastic hand guards which come on many long chisels are great for kids or inexperienced rock whackers, but once you've done this awhile, you'll develop the art of Zen hammering, and the guards get in the way in crystal pockets. Wood chisels are great for working along a 'spall' (fracture line behind crystal plates). Buy the cheapest ones you can, imports ok, as they'll be destroyed in the process. Antique wood chisels last a long time. A range of edge sizes, from 1/4 to 1 inch will serve you well. Discount tool places like Harbor Freight have sets of 4 or 5 sizes for cheap.
Chisels, for fossil collecting: Mason's chisels are good (tip 2 to 3 times as wide as shank). Wood chisels r good, keep sharp. My favorite shale splitting tool is a heavy chef's knife, w/ riveted tang, buy at Goodwill.
|metlmasher||Anyone ever made a wire saw for jade boulders?||6||Apr 18 2011, 1:49 PM EDT by metlmasher|
Thread started: Apr 17 2011, 12:56 PM EDT Watch
I have the grit and a few motors and kinds of wire to start with, and was planning a "try try again" approach but will welcome all insights and or experiences.
The things troubling me are how to weld/solder the wire loop itself, and grit /water feed; mix them & it will plug fast if it's gravity feed.
Maybe a cutting slurry could be recirc-pumped with a small pump but at work even the nicest sludge thumpers end-up clogging. Too thin it pumps good, but cuts less, too thick; chug.. chug....-------------------
Is all a crap shoot till it's built and then the world wants one too...
Do wire saws wander at all in the stone? Better than a hammer for slabs.
On tough stones does it chew up the wire faster? Still cheap.
Let me know what you think, Jesse
|retiredoldfogee||Refractive Index Fluid needed. Any suggestions?||3||Jul 9 2009, 1:45 AM EDT by pvjjh|
|havermap||Rock Cart (page: 1 2 3 4 5 ... last page)||136||Feb 8 2009, 3:14 PM EST by jakesrocks|
Thread started: Jan 24 2009, 10:56 PM EST Watch
That is a great idea for reusing the golf cart. I think it's a better use than golf - but that's just personal preference.
I have a Black & Decker hand truck that can be used as a dolly or configured to work like a hand truck. I have some old milk crates that I bungeed to it. It worked great for me to take a few big specimens to a rock club meeting.
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