Lapidary Supplies For Setting Up Your Own Shop

By: - Hobbies - July 3, 2011
lapidary supplies for setting up your own shop

Cutting cabochons is addictive. There’s something about working with a rock that looks like, well, just a rock, and teasing a work of art out of it; the whole process can grab your imagination and make you want to just keep cutting. Eventually everyone who really gets into cutting stone wants his or her own lapidary supplies equipment.

The Basics
Setting up a small lapidary shop isn’t all that difficult; you won’t need nearly as much in the way of lapidary supplies equipment as you may think. In fact, it takes less space than many hobbies, unless you also get addicted to collecting large amounts of lapidary material (rocks!). There are several companies that build small lapidary units, including Lortone, Diamond Pacific, Covington, and Graves.

The first piece of equipment you need is a trim saw. Unless you’re going to be cutting full time, you probably want a six inch saw, and you want one that will run with water, not oil. Water saws are messy enough; unless you’re going to be working in a garage or outbuilding, you don’t want the mess and odor of an oil saw.

Next you need a cabbing unit. When it comes to setting up a lapidary shop, this is the most expensive item you’ll purchase in the way of lapidary supplies and equipment; a good unit can run close to $2000 if you buy it new. For this reason, many people elect to purchase used cabbing units, which can be considerably less expensive. Each of the companies listed above has its own version of a machine on which you can cut cabochons; some of them are combined with trim saws or have trim saw attachments. Look for a unit that has a recirculating water supply so you don’t need a drainage bucket or a hookup to a water line. One good place to look for used lapidary supplies of all kinds is on Craig’s List.

You’ll also want a dopping station. You can buy one, or you can build your own. To build one, get a metal 1-gallon coffee can and cut a hole in the bottom that a smaller can will fit into. Then mount a light bulb socket on a board so you can set the coffee can over the bulb. When you plug in the light and set the coffee can over it, you’ll have created a heat chamber for the dop (the small can) and made a heating surface for your cabochon preforms (the bottom of the coffee can).

The Small Things
From that point, the rest of what you need in the way of lapidary supplies is just little things. First, you need dop sticks. Quite a few companies will sell you manufactured ones, but save yourself some money and cut your own out of dowels of several sizes.

If your cabbing unit didn’t come with grinding wheels, you’ll need to get a set. At the very least you need grits of 100, 220, 280, 600 and 1200. If you want a complete set that will take you all the way to the best possible finish, add a 3000, 8000, 14,000 and 50,000. One word of warning: don’t mix brands when it comes to grinding wheels. Each brand cuts a little differently and you won’t be happy with the results if you mix different brands on the same machine. Add some templates, green dop wax, and a plastic apron to keep you dry, and you’ll have all the lapidary supplies you need. Now you just need some good rough or slabs to start cutting cabochons in your own lapidary shop at home.

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