Monday, August 30, 2021

Skipping Over the Hard Stuff

  Skipping Over the Hard Stuff

Thanks for stopping by. The WFB is my 'whatever I happen to be in to at the moment' corner of the web. I have two other Blogger sites which are far more interesting.  
The Lost Canyon Project is the chronicle of my work photographing and cataloging the life's work of my late friend, artist Pete Hampton (1940-2018) 

The Lost Era Transcripts is the fruit of the Lost Canyon Project. It is a re-creation in book form of Pete's unfinished master work, The Lost Era. This is a good candidate for the finest work I have ever done.


The most mysterious Skinamalink


So, it's Monday  again. I haven't even looked at the morning tour of internet bookmarks. What do you want to bet that it's still all bad news and bullshit? Imagine that.

I've taken to posting every Monday morning, the same way I did when I was at work on The Lost Canyon Project. That means, of course, that the stuff I'm posting happened a week ago.  The shitstorm of current events makes "a week ago" sound almost nostalgic, like a blast from the past.

 I've spent the week drifting back and forth from the work table to the computer. I've been going through the bookmarks, reading blog posts, and comments. The mood across the boards runs from outrage, and anger, to cynicism, resignation, and despair.  Even the faith based writers, most of whom are Catholic, seem resigned to placing Hope outside the boundaries of the time we have remaining to us. I sometimes drop a note over at American Digest, or some other blog from the dozens on the list. There are times when I want to just dump all the rage into one huge shit flinging temper tantrum, and curse all the bastards to death and hell.   But more and more, I find I have less and less that I want to say. Everyone else is already saying it, anyway.

I just now tossed out a whole bunch of stuff that I wrote last week. All of it has been said.

Right now, about the only thing I have to offer is the progress on these stone projects. It isn't as interesting as the collapse of Western Civilization, but it isn't particularly stress inducing either. The newness of being back to work has worn off, replaced by the comfort of keeping to a daily routine. Now, I don't feel an urgent need to chart and record my progress everyday. I've been slack about taking pictures as well.  

Last week I jumped the gun, and posted on Saturday, the 21st right before getting to work on the party stuff. So, let's jump back  nine days ago, when the world and all of us were young and beautiful. This was the day of our summer party, and birthday thang.


 Our circle of friends takes in about a dozen people, and they all came over for the party. I did the two kettle BBQ act with mezquite wood charcoal, and big load of chicken thighs. It's easier to spread the meat on two grills than it is to crowd too much on one. Besides, doing two kettles looks all cool like you're a total pro, and stuff. 

One of Mary's friends (the woke one) showed up wearing a black face mask. She sat at the table in the gazebo with Mary and a couple other gals. I walked over, and told her to take it off. She said, "No." Wouldn't take it off.

 My temper spiked. 

So, I walked away for a moment, and took a deep breath. But I returned to the table, and told her, very firmly: "Nobody is sick here. You take off the mask, or leave. Right now. No third option."

She complied with the mandate.

And the gathering was a success. We don't do background music at our parties. All us ol' bastards are so hard of hearing that we can't keep up a conversation when the radio is on, anyway. Parties are for eating, drinking, smoking, talk, and laughter. 

But Holly brought her guitar. My old pal Jeff brought a list of songs. Bill showed up with his guitar. Mick, whom we haven't seen for years, came over, too, and he played as well.

Holly is brilliant. She's both singer, and song writer. She played a couple of her original pieces, and astonished everyone. I'm not kidding, I got all misty.

Ol' Jeff did a few traditional numbers for us. He likes the big band sound, and singers like Sinatra, or  Bobby Darin. Those aren't guitar songs, but Jeff pulled them off quite well. He sang, "That's Life", and knocked it out of the park.

And then...

  I like to sing, but only when no one's lookin'.  I know the words to zillions of songs, and I sing them when I'm alone on the bike path, or driving. I used to keep myself entertained working the night shift, alone. I never really sang in front of anyone.

Until Saturday night. Holly, and Mick were just poking around with old melodies, and Mick started playing "I'll Never Find Another You", by The Seekers. It's one of my all-time favorites, and it's my very special song for Mary and me. I had thought I'd like to sing it for her, one day, but, you know...

Next thing I knew I was singing it for her, right there in front of everyone. It was that kind of an evening.


Monday morning, 8/23, I got back to work on the gray stone. I didn't get far. I mentioned that I wasn't entirely sure that this piece was, indeed, soapstone. It is very hard, and the crunch didn't feel quite right when I cut it with a tool. The dust wasn't slippery like talc. 


It wasn't easy to get the wedge shaped chunk secured on the table, and I spent the better part of the morning sawing away, trying to get the base cut. Hack saw, bow saw, masonry saw: nothing was making much progress. Two hours of hacking away, and I was barely an inch into the stone. Uh-oh. This was just like the anhydrite. I wasn't getting anywhere.

  So, I stopped,  went into the garage, and got out a chunk of marble.  I tested both the marble, and the gray stone with a chisel, then tested one stone against the other. Whatever the gray stuff is, it's  harder than the marble, and it doesn't feel like soapstone under the the tool. Then I remembered  the pipe I made from this gray stuff a long time ago. The best I could do was to come up with a very simple shape. I seem to remember burning up a drill bit, too.

 So I looked up soapstone on line. The hardness of soapstone depends on the talc content. Talc equals soft. Low talc content soapstone is called steatite, which can be harder than marble. What I have is probably a chunk of steatite.  Without power tools, that means a very long, very slow project, and serious wear on the very expensive tool kit. I'd love to do the fender bomb shape, but not as a six-month project. Hmmm...

So here's where my old pal Carp makes his appearance, and as Julie noted a while back: Carp is asshoe. Carp always says shit like: "You're gonna' chicken out, 'cuz it was a hard project, not a hard stone. The real guys would go for it. You're just too lazy. And, of course, "NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"


 But I'm too old, and too cranky to take Carp seriously. (Well, maybe a little.) I'll do the fender bomb later, with some other stone. In the mean time I went ahead and got started on this.

It's the last big piece of rock that I have.

I'm pretty sure this chunk came from the same bed as the last one did. It has the same clear surface layer, and the same peach colored streaks. And, like the last stone, it may be irregular in hardness and texture. We'll see. The best alabasters of any color have a ring to them if tapped. The chalkier stuff has a thud. I'll have a better idea once I've shaved off the oxidized outer stone. Depending on the material I'll probably take a similar approach to this one as I did to the last one. I'll start with the shapes in the stone, and work out the design at it develops. That's a fancy way of saying, "Make it up as I go along again." Nonetheless, this will be a pretty piece of rock when it's all carved.

(thu, 8/26)

By the end of the day yesterday I wasn't happy with the start I'd made on this stone. There were two points of balance that looked good, and I went with the one that seemed to present me with the best opportunity to maximize the surface area, and bring out the colors in the material. I was thinking of a bowl-like form. But that left too much mass leaned out too far from the base. Remove material in the wrong place and the whole thing could become tippy, and off balance. 

Now, I know that a lot of sculptors like to work the whole stone. They do fully rounded pieces mounted all balanced up on tip toe, and fastened to a base with a pin. Something in me says, "no". Stone doesn't fly. It's supposed to sit with its roots in the earth, not hang suspended in the air. This is just how I see it. Others think otherwise, and they're right, too.

So today's session is going to start with re-cutting the base a little. The figure may reach up, but first it has to be grounded in the earth.

(fri, 8/27)

We've had a fairly cool summer up until now. But September is dropping in fast, and September always brings the heat. So it was, yesterday. Hot, and dry. 

I got a new base line scribed around the bottom, strapped the rock down to the table and stared in with the bow saw. Unfortunately, trying to cut through the harder stones left the blade all dull. I was a sweaty, dusty mess in no time. Do I want go out to the  hardware store and buy a couple new blades? No. So push on with the dull saw.

It took a couple hours to saw through the base, and a couple more hours dragging the stone across the sanding board to get the cut perfectly flat. It was a good decision to do so. The rock sits solid on the table. The material is firm, slightly translucent, milky white, with gold clouds running through. It has some ring to it when put it to the tool. I can have some fun with this one. So today will begin with the part where nothing happens. Part of the job is just staring at the stone.



      So here's the plan.

(Sun, 8/29)

Sunday was take-in day for the September show at the Art Association. The big white stone, and the color stone are newly finished, and ready to go on display. They're both staying put.

If I wanted to display the stones, and enter into the juried show I'd have to go down to the gallery and put up with their mask bullshit. When I entered the last show, the state-wide mandate had just been lifted. Even so, I had to assertively refuse to wear the rag. Now, there's a county order. 

So I was faced with two questions. First: Do I  submit to being masked, or aggressively refuse, and stir up some shit?

And that raised the second question: How important is it to put my work on display?

The first question was just a matter of temperament, and I'm just enough of an asshole to enjoy being a jerk about things. But, my wife is on the board of directors. If it were just for my sake alone, I wouldn't care all that much. I do care about Mary, though. I don't want to cultivate a reputation for being a jerk with these folks.

The second question raises other issues. 

I've written more than once about fending off the darkness by creating a little beauty in the world. Yet once I finish a stone I get the dragon sickness, and want to hoard it here in my private stash. It's like these are hard-to-get collectibles, and I'm the only guy I can get them from. Sorta' like Gollum, and the precious, I guess. I worked hard to complete there carvings. Should I not, at least, look forward to putting them on public display for a month?

I'm strangely indifferent. It could be a symptom of the Bleakness creeping in. (Carp says I'm being an asshole.) So I talked it over with Mary. She reminded me that there was only one man on the board who works hanging the shows, and he wouldn't be there. None of the women would be able to hoist up a sixty pound chunk of rock, and lug it around. One slip, and that carving would break like a pot. 

There will be other shows. 

I did not want to work Sunday, but I got restless, and started refining the sketch on the stone. 

The most helpfullest Skinamalink  hopped up to give me some pointers.

Considering the possibilities


Let me show you how it's done.

There. much better!




Saturday, August 21, 2021

Between Ends and Beginnings

Thanks for stopping by. The WFB is my 'whatever I happen to be in to at the moment' corner of the web. I have two other Blogger sites which are far more interesting.  
The Lost Canyon Project is the chronicle of my work photographing and cataloging the life's work of my late friend, artist Pete Hampton (1940-2018) 
The Lost Era Transcripts is the fruit of the Lost Canyon Project. It is a re-creation in book form of Pete's unfinished master work, The Lost Era. This is a good candidate for the finest work I have ever done.


Between Ends and Beginnings

Monday, 8/16

Gray Soapstone


Mostly I avoid politics, and current affairs here on the WFB. I spend altogether too much time on the internet reading about the aforementioned topics.  Sometimes I'll drop a comment at Fran Porretto's Liberty's Torch, or trade remarks with the regular visitors at Gerard Van der Leun's American Digest, but I leave the editorializing to bloggers who are smarter, and better informed than I am. I try to keep my focus close to home.

Even so, the news as of late has been horribly depressing. The idiots and mad men in charge seem hell-bent on the destruction of this nation, and indeed, all of Western Civilization as we know it. I take the measure of my daily life. It is hard to believe how fast we've fallen in such a short time. And the decline into totalitarianism continues at an ever-increasing pace. Where does it hit me next?

At times it seems petty and selfish to worry about our own small affairs when we’re looking at the collapse of Western Civilization. But how many small, precious things that we cherish will be corrupted or lost? How staggering is the loss of liberty already. Note the insanity in France, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand.  This is global. There is no escape. In the short term we’re already learning to live like the Russians in the old USSR.

We use code speech when discussing certain topics on line, lest the algorithms detect an improper sequence of keystrokes. We’re learning which small businesses won’t enforce the mask rule. We’re even having to find work-arounds to escape the totalitarians messing with our recreation and hobbies. I recently learned that my favorite polishing compound has been banned in California. Luckily, I found a vendor who would put  the stuff in a plain brown wrap, and UPS it  to me from Texas. Every day items are becoming scarce, gray-market, and even black-market trade. I won’t even go into guns. You know.

I’ve retreated to my back yard hermitage.  I go off grounds maybe once or twice a week at most. My only real outing is getting together with the bike gang to cruise the beach. I cannot stand the sight of the faceless. It brings up that “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers” horror in me. 

I have enough stone left for three major projects. That should carry me into the winter. The stone work is a gift from God. It’s a primitive, dirty task, as primal as any human activity gets. But gives me a sense of purpose. What do you do in the face of all this? 

Make like a cave-man, and pound on a rock. Anyone got a better answer? Grab a picket sign and stand on the street corner? Make an angry comment on a blog?

I have a stone, and a new project all ready to go. In the mean time I'm just taking a couple of days away from the table. Tomorrow's my birthday, so I have a good excuse to just fart around, and...

Oh wait, I don't have a good excuse. We're doing a party Saturday, and I have to get the grounds straightened up, do some of the shopping, and all that.
So I spent the morning raking out the bushes, and cleaning up my work area. The table is just the right height for everyone to use as a bar, perfect for leaning on your elbows, and nursing a drink.
But my heart wasn't in it. It's always this way before hosting a gathering, even a small one. 

Do I really want to do this? Maybe just cancel. No, can't do that. Yes I can. It'll suck. No, just shut up, and keep working...

And the work went much faster than I expected. By ten in the morning, I had the perimeter all raked out, and the greenwaste dumpster filled.

I messed with the stone a little. This wedge of rock was supposed to be soapstone. It probably is. Soapstone (talc), like alabaster, can vary in hardness from too mushy to work, to only slightly softer than marble. This chunk is hard. Soapstone has a very distinctive "crunch" when put to the tool. There is something strangely addictive in that tiny vibration between the steel and the stone. Once you feel it in your fingertips you want to do it over, and over again, and it's hard to stop. I
t's like nibbling at a handful of pistachios. The dust is fine and slippery. No surprise, ground up soapstone is talcum powder. 

This gray rock is hard, but not unworkable. I carved a pipe out of it for a friend many years ago. It doesn't take a glassy sheen like the alabaster. Wet sanding up to 2000 grit, plus a lot of rubbing with Simichrome gives it a satin, yet almost metallic finish. The polished rock is deep gunmetal gray, but if you look close you see it's shot through with flecks of rusty orange. This will suit my purpose perfectly for this project.

This won't be a free-carving exercise. It won't be a swoopy, biomorphic composition, either. I planned this for the anhydrite, but this gray soapstone is actually better suited for what I want to do.
So, what is it? Don't keep everyone hanging on the edge of their seats.

OK. I'm gonna' make me one of these:


Uh... cool. I guess. But, just what is that?

That, my friends, is the fender bomb from a 1950's vintage Schwinn/Whizzer motorized bicycle.
I love retro-futuristic. And this project is going to present me with a real challenge. There will be no Pee Wee Herman, "I meant to do that" excuse, if a chunk of the carving breaks off. No making it up as I go along. Round has to be round, not sorta' rounded. Both sides have to match, and all that.
I'll have to take measurements, draw up a sketch on graph paper, cut the stone into a rough blank, use a compass or something to mark out the round part, and work the whole thing as methodically as I can to get the symmetry and proportions right.

But difficult is more fun than easy. I need all the fun I can get.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Taking a Soft Approach

Thanks for stopping by. The WFB is my 'whatever I happen to be in to at the moment' corner of the web. I have two other Blogger sites which are far more interesting.  
The Lost Canyon Project is the chronicle of my work photographing and cataloging the life's work of my late friend, artist Pete Hampton (1940-2018) 

The Lost Era Transcripts is the fruit of the Lost Canyon Project. It is a re-creation in book form of Pete's unfinished master work, The Lost Era. This is a good candidate for the finest work I have ever done.



Taking a Soft Approach




Well, this didn't take long. I started a post in the middle of last week, but I got too lazy to put the photographs into the computer. So I put it off a day, and then I put it off another day. Stuff came up with the stone. Stuff has a way of doing that, you know. In this case, "stuff" was the rock itself. I noted early on  that the material had areas that were quite soft, even chalky. Other layers were hard enough to work. I would like to have shaped this into something with some open work, or thin, wavy, fan-like curves, but the material won't hold an edge. Everything had to be played close to the surface. 


Shapes on the raw surface suggested the jigsaw curves. I hoped to cut deep enough to achieve some sense of separation between the two interlocking figures, and make the overall shapes bold enough that it would give the illusion of being two pieces. So let's go back a week to last Monday, right after I posted the last exciting adventure.
 Mary has a Tai Chi class at nine on Monday mornings, and she follows up by going out for coffee with her friends. This leaves me with the grounds all to myself. 
So, last week at this time, I re-heated my  coffee, and took a stale cup, and a fresh bud out to the gazebo to get a start on the morning.

Buddy the Cat followed me out, and came plodding across the lawn to join me. A minute later The Skinamalink came over the wall after bumming a snack from the neighbors. Buddy hopped up on the table, and  Skinnies took the chair right next to me.
 The coffee was hot, and bitter, and the morning sweet and cool. The yard was quiet. Ol' Buddy stretched out on the table, and rested his chin on my left wrist. Skinnies curled up in the chair, and snoozed. I took a sip of coffee. 
The world's in a bad way.
I know.
Despite ...*everything*... there are still these moments when life can seem to brush up against heaven.  I have become so intensely aware of the blessings that surround me, and how very fragile they are. I am so deeply grateful for even the smallest among them. The sweetness of this is moment...
 I took a nip of the bud. Amazing how little it takes anymore. It takes a little while before the tweet hits home.
 Part of the job is just staring at the stone. From the gazebo I can look across the yard, and focus on the basic shape of the material I have to work with, rather than on the details of the surface. Five minutes later I was still sitting there staring at the rock. 
The local speakeasy had this weed as a Sativa. It passed the smell test, OK, but it's a hybrid, and I'm not all that crazy about it. 
Those who don't care about this kind of stuff can skip the next few paragraphs, while I digress.*
If you're not familiar with weed you may not be aware that there are many different strains of cannabis. There is also a significant difference in effects from strain to strain. In the most general sense there are three families of bud:
 Indica is the old-world strain. The smell is dank and spicy. The buzz is heavy, sleepy, and dream-like. Smoke Indica, and sit in the recliner with music.
Sativa takes  in the new world varieties. The smell is sharp, and close to citrus, or pine. A Sativa buzz is stimulating, and very cerebral, sort of like coffee in technicolor. A couple tweets of a good Sativa, and you're off cleaning the house, or writing the Great American novel. Sativas are pretty much all I smoke.
And then there are the Hybrids. Some few of them have a distinctive character. Most do not.
I'll swear, every bootleg botanist must get the same notion: I'll cross a real sleepy, couchlock Indica with a real jumpy, cerebral Sativa, and come up with a buzz that has the best features of both...
 But it seldom works that way. It's like trying to come up with purplish yellow, or greenish red. The vast majority of hybrids produce a  non-descript  buzz with the good properties of both strains cancelled out. A good sativa fires that creative energy.  I'll be out of my seat and at work before the second tweet hits home. I'll lock in on the task, and won't look up until I'm getting hungry, and hitting that pre-lunch flat spot.
This hybrid injects that indica lethargy into the stream, and just leaves the buzz dull, and flat. I sort of have to push-start the work. Once I'm moving  I stay focused, and the works goes along OK. Still, I'm not all that crazy about this weed.
* So enough bullshit about pot.
By Tuesday afternoon I found myself up against the limits of the material at hand. You can see in the cross section: 

The white stuff is hard. Everything else, isn't. Some areas on the surface polish up like fire opal. I don't want to sacrifice that natural rock face for a swoopy curve. I already knew that thin, wavy stuff is out. And now, deep undercutting has to go as well. The best I can do is to smooth the ridge lines, and emphasize the jigsaw contours on the chunk as it sits. If I try to get all fancy I'll either break it, or end up with something too fragile.

But by the end of the session Wednesday, I realized I had pretty much achieved what I set out to do, which was to take that odd shaped chunk of stone, and bring out what was best in it. The rock was telling me, "OK. This is fine. Don't take me any farther."
Thursday was wet sanding. Friday was finishing day 


...And by dinner time Friday it was done.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Soft Colors

Thanks for stopping by. The WFB is my 'whatever I happen to be in to at the moment' corner of the web. I have two other Blogger sites which are far more interesting.  
The Lost Canyon Project is the chronicle of my work photographing and cataloging the life's work of my late friend, artist Pete Hampton (1940-2018) 

The Lost Era Transcripts is the fruit of the Lost Canyon Project. It is a re-creation in book form of Pete's unfinished master work, The Lost Era. This is a good candidate for the finest work I have ever done. 



Soft Colors


Well, I jumped from a stone too hard to work to a stone that's just a little softer than I'd like. Just no pleasin' some folks. This little beauty weighed in at 40 pounds. I've had alabaster like this before. Some parts of the stone are chalky, and some of the layers are firm, and solid. 

I just got a new, and very aggressive horse rasp from the Stone Carving supply gals, but I don't even need it for this piece. I got the take down done with a piece of 80 grit sanding belt, and the curved blades on the new rifflers I just got.
I had a plan in mind when I began work on the big white stone. I spent a lot of imagination time visualizing what I wanted to do. I made a whole bunch of sketches, took measurements, and essentially did my homework before starting the project. Of course I had to work within the confines of the rock, but I imposed my shape on the material.
This one isn't like that.   The chunk is oddly shaped. Both ends have narrow ridgelines. One side is mostly concave. If I cut this down to a workable block I'd waste most of the cool stuff in the stone, and a lot of really pretty material would go into the scrap pile. So rather than invent a shape, and impose it on the stone I have to modify the shape that I'm given.
 I think working like this is called this "free-carving", or something like that.  It just means I'm makin' it up as I go along.

So here's where we are. The most mysterious Skinamalink hopped up on the table to get in on the photo session. He is the most helpfulest of cats.
The profile suggests a human skull, while the front view sort of looks like a sheep skull. Overall, I'm working toward two interlocking figures. I'll dig some of these curves into concave, and others into domes. The object is to create as much surface are as possible, the better to show off the colors in the stone. I'm not sure yet about doing any cuts all the way through the stone. If the emerging figure calls for them, I'll drill. A little too soon to tell just yet.
Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Just how hard is it??

Thanks for stopping by. The WFB is my 'whatever I happen to be in to at the moment' corner of the web. I have two other Blogger sites which are far more interesting.  
The Lost Canyon Project is the chronicle of my work photographing and cataloging the life's work of my late friend, artist Pete Hampton (1940-2018) 
The Lost Era Transcripts is the fruit of the Lost Canyon Project. It is a re-creation in book form of Pete's unfinished master work, The Lost Era. This is a good candidate for the finest work I have ever done.


 Just How Hard Is It?



I bought the chunk of anhydrite from Dodd Roth around twenty years ago. He had a finished piece done in this stuff. I've mentioned this before; it polished up to a beautiful metallic sheen, almost like hematite. But Dodd  often worked in hard stone like calcite, and even onyx. That kind of work takes power tools. Where I have a long row of files and rasps, he had a five gallon bucket holding half a dozen angle grinders, and die-grinders, all with different cutting heads. 

I was looking forward to working this stone. I had a sort of science fiction theme in mind.

 Monday I set the rock up to cut a base. It was a much easier set up than with the big white rock. I got the stone blocked up level, and strapped it down on the table with a ratchet tie down. I started, as always, by scribing the base line out with pencil, then a hacksaw. By the middle of the day the groove I cut in the rock was barely the depth of the saw blade. I experimented with rasps. The material was hard, but the tool seemed to cut OK. I couldn't get a smooth pass with the chisel, though. This was odd, because a few days ago, I rubbed out a corner of this stone with some 80 grit sandpaper, then a few finer grades. It took very little effort to get a nice finish on the stone.

This wasn't looking good. But it coincided with lunch break, and while the burrito was in the microwave I checked the email. There was the weekly email from the Stone Carving Supply gals up north. Coincidence is always important. They recommended an organization called NWSSA, Northwest Stone Sculptors Association. I looked them up, and perused their web site. And, what do you know? NWSSA had a brief guide posted, describing the characteristics of the various minerals popular with sculptors. I read some stuff I already knew, but I also learned some new stuff about my stones.

Now, I'm not going to pretend to know anything about chemistry, here, but this is interesting. Alabaster is an evaporite stone. It is formed in layers from salts that remain on the floors of dried lake beds. Alabaster is hydrous calcium sulfate. The molecule is composed of calcium, sulfur, and, oddly enough, water.  On the Mohs scale of hardness* alabaster generally rates a 2.  Anhydrite is the same molecule only without the water. It is much more dense, and it rates about a 3.5 on the mohs scale, a little harder than marble.

The guide confirmed my experience. Anhydrite, I have learned,  is a poor choice, for working with hand tools. The stone is too hard to work with rasps and files; it tends to be brittle, and fractures easily under the chisel. Another drawback is that, like alabaster, anhydrite will not weather well. Over time, the stone will actually absorb water, and slowly morph into alabaster.  That's why it was easy, at first, to get a groove started, or sand down a corner of the stone.  The surface of the stone had weathered, and softened a little over the years. A few cuts in, and I hit the hard stuff.  This is power tool territory: diamond saws, and grinders. It's an entirely different way of sculpting. I have only some small experience shaping this way, and I don't have the tools to do it. This stone is a no-go. bummer.

So, it's back to the finish.  Before starting in on a new task, it's important to finish the last one. I wasn't happy with the finish I achieved on the big white stone. There were tool marks, and scratches, and dull spots that remained even after two days of sanding and polishing. So Tuesday, I brought the beast back out to the table, and started over from scratch. (ha ha) I started wet sanding, making four passes, each with a new sheet of 320 grit. Each "pass" means going over the stone, head to toe, until I wear out a new sheet of sandpaper. I worked the stone through four or more passes each of 400, 600, 1000, 1500, and finally, half a dozen passes at 2000 grit finishing paper. That's a wet mess of sanding.

 Finally, it was time for the soft cotton polishing cloth, Simichrome polish, and, at long last, carnuba wax. There is something zen-like about going over and over the same surface of the same shape again, and again, and again. The routine becomes hypnotic; with each pass the stone looks just a little bit better. Each improvement is an enticement to make another, and time evaporates. I knocked back about nine hours on this thing.

Much more shinier

Too bad about the anhydrite.
And the big white stone was the last of the crystal. Except for some scraps, the crystal is gone. I doubt I'll ever see the stuff again. Even so, I have two very nice chunks of alabaster left. I started this one today.

The picture above is of the flattened base.  Notice the layers. I sprayed the stone with water to bring up the color. This is a softer stone. It'll take a gentle touch, but it's going to be candy store pretty:


 I don't have a plan in mind, yet,  except to emphasize the beauty of the material. Lots of surface. Lots of color. Lots of curve. The last piece was kind of staid, and serious. I want to do something a little more fun. We'll see how it turns out.

* The mohs scale rates stone from soft to hard: talc (soapstone) at #1, to diamond at #10.