Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ameritool Flat Lap and Saying Goodbye to Precious

Summer is slowly dwindling away. I've completed a lot of home projects (with plenty left to do) and I have taken my month off. I have done some wrapping and some cabbing. I have also been trying to teach myself how to use my new tool:  a Universal Heavy-Duty Grinder and Polishing Machine Complete with Accessories Kit. For short, I call it the Ameritool flat lap, or flat lap.

Ameritool Flat Lap
The basic principle is that as the removable diamond coated disc spins on top like a record, you hold your stone to it at varying angles to cut your cab. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, I am having a hard time figuring it out. Don't get me wrong... this is a great machine and easy to use. However, I am so used to my Gene Genie, that I find this machine to be difficult to adjust to. But, I'm still learning. I'm not giving up.

For those of you interested in cabbing, this tool is far more economical and space conscious than the Genie. This type of machine was the mainstay for who knows how long. Before there was a motor attached, there were pulleys and pedals and such. It is an ancient design.

By progressively grinding through the diamond discs, one can finish a cab fairly quickly. I have finished a number of cabs, I just find it hard to do the girdle. (I'll get there, though!)  

I got the flat lap for a few reasons. It does 3 things that my Gene can't do:  the backs of cabs, flat tops and intarsia, all of which I want to do.

I haven't tried an intarsia, yet. I haven't mustered the time or patience, but I have attempted a flat top- or buff top. Let's look at how that went.

I won this ugly rock on eBay. It is a Laguna agate. It is what is called a butt end- the first or last slab cut off of a rock. It was very thin and uneven, as you might be able to tell from the pictures. I didn't think it was thick enough to dome properly, so I decided on doing a flat top with beveled sides.  

Below, you see the front of it. Now you see why I wanted this rock. :) It has beautiful colors, a wonderful pattern and a lot of moire in the center, which gave it a perceived movement. I can't photograph it, but I assure you it is pronounced. I roughed out a shape with a pen and hoped that after the careful grinding on the flat lap, I would be able to preserve the shape and still have the thickness I needed. 

Here it is all roughed out to shape. The front looks great!

The back, however, was badly pitted. I dared not grind it any more flat.

Aside from the obvious pits and divots, one girdle side was much lower. This would pose a problem.

Since this cab was to be mine and not for sale, I decided to build up that side with a glue. I made a dam and over a period of a few days, I had built up the side and filled in the voids.

The glue worked great and it is not visible from the front.

In the next two images you can see where I ground a bevel into the side of the cab and gave it a liquid polish with Gene. The flat top still needed polishing. That's where the flat lap came in.

I began with a 325 grit wheel. (Pictured below is the 325 finish.) I then worked through the grits to the 50,000 wheel which has felt and diamond paste. I had a beautiful, liquid polish on it.....

... I also discovered that the immense heat on the wheel caused a large crack to open.***SIGH***
After all that work..... Oh well.

I still have one trick up my sleeve. There are several sealers for lapidaries. I have already ordered one. :) I refuse to let this one go. As I said, it will be mine. This has turned into quite the learning experience. I will seal the crack and hopefully have a cab that looks as good as new. I'll show you a picture when I am finished. - If it works.  Keeping my fingers crossed...


I have been trying to do more on Facebook. I have a real hard time with it. Only rarely am I able to leave a comment. Pictures are always difficult to post, too. But, Etsy always seems to manage. I can't imagine what I am doing wrong. Anyway... if you have seen this on FB, then my apologies for being redundant.

You might remember this stone from this post. She became known as my Precious. I admit. I became emotionally attached to her. I placed her for sale on Etsy and soon regretted it. But, I left it for sale. It wasn't long before someone else fell in love and had to have her.

A good client and fellow rock lover contacted me and wanted to reserve her. I agreed. After several emails, this client began to understand what this remarkable stone meant to me and offered to let me buy it back if I felt that I really couldn't let it go. I pulled up my big girl pants and told her, no, she could have it.

"Jen" was so understanding and considerate, that I began to feel very good about selling my Precious to her. It almost seemed meant to be. She felt about her the same way that I did.

I was prepared to let my rock go. But, this wonderful woman wanted me to wrap the stone, too. I was immediately intimidated by the mere thought. Yes, this stone, and no other, intimidated me. I knew that my client wanted something simple and so did I. A wrap HAD to be simple. How could one want to overwhelm this beauty? So, after expressing my angst, the new owner told me to take my time and do what was right for the stone.

I had the project in the back of my mind for a month or more and it finally occurred to me how to finish my Precious. "Jen" was so patient. She never emailed to remind me, she never sent little suggestions as to how to finish. She was so sweet about everything, that I wanted so badly to please her.

I sent her the pictures of the finished piece and held my breath. Then... no word. I waited for a day on pins and needles and started thinking about how else I might finish Precious. After Jen's internet problems were worked out she emailed to tell me she loved it! I was so relieved and happy. I don't think I have ever been so happy to have pleased someone with a wrap. After I mailed it and she got it in her hands, she loved it even more. I think that was the best and happiest job I've ever done. I'm happy, she's happy and I'm thrilled that my Precious is loved as much as I loved her. :)