Adventures in lapidary – tile saw for rock cutting

My wife and I decided to branch out our skills for our small business and learn some lapidary skills. Both of us have alway loved to wander around and collect agates and then just run them through a rock tumbler to polish. Normally these tumbled rocks just end up in the bottom of the big fish tank or scattered around shrubs outside. But lately we realized that we have been finding some larger rocks then we can fit in the tumbler. Which brings us to the tile saw

If you look around there are tons of reviews and DIY options people have done all over the internet and forums. Depending on your budget you can get a nice oil cooled lapidary saw that can do some very large slabs on the high end or you can get a small tile saw for the smaller pieces on the low end. Since this is our first rock saw of any kind we decided to go with a 7 inch tile saw that can be used to cut rock, tile or ceramics up to two inches thick. Our local Harbor freight had one in stock that we picked up along with a continuous diamond edge saw blade to fit it.

Both of these two below are nearly identical to what we picked up and at nearly the same size: aka the cheaper route

If your budget allows there are some great reviewed rock saws out there. But they are not what I would call cheap. Or really I am cheap.

For the tile saw we picked up it has the same case, water cooling system, and tile fence on the one from Amazon as the one at harbor freight. So many of these kinds of things are made in the exact same factory and all they do is change a color and stick a different label on it.

These saws are very simple to set up and get going. Ours did not come with a blade installed but all it takes is removing 4 screws from the water guard below and then install the blade and tighten with the included two wrenches and then screw the water guard back on. Push the water tray back on and you are good to start up. From all the videos that I could find on it the preferred way to cut a rock is to turn the saw around and then pull the rock towards you as it cuts. This keeps the water from spraying all over you and if you do get a rock bound up in the blade it will toss it away from you. Also with using a continuous blade there is no chance of it cutting you like a wood blade with teeth would do. Using a continuous blade you might get a little skin rubbed off but nothing bad. I used a fresh pair of garden gloves to increase the grip on the rock and if it did slip and I hit the blade it would just rub off a bit of the rubber coating.

slow and steady. Always let the blade do the work and don’t try to push it through harder then it can grind.
Seam agate cut across into a long slender section
I am actually not sure what kind of rock this is but it may polish up nice
out of all we cut on the first time use this red jasper I found while fishing is my favorite. It is a little larger then the blade can do in a single pass so I had to spin it a bit to get it cut.

As a first try at cutting rocks we had fun seeing what was inside. Our next step is to run them through the rock tumbler with some other jasper and agates and see how that does to make them into suitable pieces to create jewelry out of. Once we get some out in a month of tumbling I will get some more pictures of the results.

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Rockhounding Oregon: Santiam river

Rock hounding is a fascinating hobby that is enjoyed by many people around the world. It involves searching for and collecting rocks, minerals, and gemstones from different locations, often in natural settings. If you’re interested in rock hounding and happen to be in Oregon, then the Santiam River is one of the best places to explore. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at rock hounding on the Santiam River and what you can expect to find.

The Santiam River is a beautiful waterway that flows through the Cascade Range in Oregon. The river begins at the crest of the Cascades and flows westward for over 100 miles before joining the Willamette River. Along its length, the river cuts through various geological formations, creating a diverse range of rock types and mineral deposits. This makes it an excellent location for rock hounding enthusiasts.

Oregon Agate

To start your rock hounding adventure on the Santiam River, you’ll need to get a permit. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries issues permits that allow you to collect rocks, minerals, and gemstones from the river. These permits are valid for one year and can be obtained online or in person at the department’s offices.

Once you have your permit, it’s time to hit the river. The Santiam River has several locations where you can find a variety of rocks and minerals. Some of the best spots include:

  1. Quartzville Creek: This creek is a tributary of the Santiam River and is known for its deposits of agates, jasper, and petrified wood. The area is easily accessible by car, and there are several pullouts where you can park and explore.
  2. Three Pools: Three Pools is a popular swimming hole on the Santiam River that also happens to be a great spot for rock hounding. You’ll find a mix of agates, jasper, and petrified wood in the area.
  3. Detroit Lake: Detroit Lake is a reservoir on the North Santiam River that is popular for fishing and boating. However, it’s also an excellent spot for rock hounding. You’ll find a mix of agates, jasper, and quartz crystals in the area. As a reminder you cannot rockhound inside the lake boundaries due to restrictions by the Corp of Engineers
  4. Quartzville Road: Quartzville Road is a scenic drive that runs alongside the Quartzville Creek. The road offers several opportunities to stop and search for rocks and minerals.

When you’re out searching for rocks and minerals, it’s important to follow a few basic rules. First, always respect private property and obtain permission before entering any private land. Second, be mindful of the environment and leave no trace of your visit. Finally, be safe and wear appropriate clothing and footwear.

Rock hounding on the Santiam River in Oregon is a great way to spend a day or weekend. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can find a variety of interesting rocks and minerals that will make great additions to your collection. Just remember to obtain a permit, follow the rules, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Santiam River.

Some books and equipment that can be helpful. We receive a small advertising fee for anything purchased through links. Any fees go to more fishing trips and more videos and blog posts

Jasper rock tumbling with a Tumler tumbler: loading it up

So you like to wander around and pick up random rocks to bring home. But once you get them home what do you do with them? Or in my case my wife brings me rocks, and then I need to figure out what to do with them. Since our ancient Lortone tumbler motor went out and no one seems to have a replacement in stock I ventured out in the market for a new tumbler to do something with my endless supply of incoming random rocks. And yes I do add to the pile but mine are mainly just agate and jasper.

If you are ever in the market for a new rock tumbler there seems to be an endless amount by different brands out there available. The most common seem to be the small hobby models that hold about three pounds of rocks. For most people this would be the perfect size. But for us we would either need several of those or get a bigger one which is what I did. Thumbler Tumbler has a nice 15 pound model that while a bit spendy it is easy for find replacement parts for if anything wears out. Many of the smaller models are very hard to replace any worn out parts.

To polish rocks you really just need a couple things:

and really that is all you need. Put in rocks, add grit and water. Then plug it in and wait a week for stage two. For this one we are just doing the first stage only. The video below has the full process to load and go for this first stage of rock tumbling.

The model B is nice and sturdy and very quiet to run
My partial pile of jasper to tumble
Sliced and ready to go along with a bunch of smaller rocks