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Author Topic: Resources for a beginner dremel carver?  (Read 2121 times)

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Resources for a beginner dremel carver?
« on: June 29, 2017, 11:34:20 PM »

Does anyone know of any good resources for someone starting out with dremel carving? Whether they be books, website articles, or your own first-hand experience, it would be nice to have a thread dedicated links and anecdotes for carving gemstones.

I'm mostly looking to carve material above 5 on the Moh's scale, since most of the flawed material I see in my faceting parcels generally only has a few cracks that while fine for carving, would seriously hurt recovery if faceted. Plus it is easy enough to get carving material given the abundance of flawed peridot and garnet from Thai cutters on Ebay right now.

The big problem is that while faceting has a lot of easily researched material available, I'm not really sure of where to start with hardstone carving. At most I'll be carving a 70mm piece of chalcedony, with most of the work being done under 30mm.
My plan is to use 10mm core drills to remove crushed areas and overburden, then move to 180 grit grinders, then to 600 grit, and then 3000 pre-polish before tumbler or felt wheel polishing.
Are there any steps I am missing? I know to use a whiteboard marker in between steps to ensure I cover the entire stone properly too.

I'm unsure what tool I should use for the pre-polish stage though, toothpicks apparently work well , but I'ld like to have a tool that can also cut sharp corners at small sizes, and wood doesn't seem to be the answer.
I'm thinking copper might work but I don't know what grade would be good or if there are pre-made tools for the pre-polish stage.

Other than that, does anyone use hard stops or guides when carving? I'm thinking of modifying my dremel hand-piece with a pair of adjustable bars, so I can set them to an angle when cutting troughs so I can try to stay at angles that allow reflection. While some translucent material doesn't need it, it will definitely brighten up Montana agate and clearer pieces of gem rough.


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Re: Resources for a beginner dremel carver?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2017, 07:01:23 AM »

Probably the "bible" on carving is Henry Hunt's book.  You can order it here:

It was out of print for a while, but it's been re-released.  Amazon has it, but it's over twice the price.  It was stupid expensive when it was out of print.


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Re: Resources for a beginner dremel carver?
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2017, 08:36:20 AM »

Hunt also wrote a second very fine book, "Lapidary Carving for Creative Jewelry."  I think it may be out of print and expensive but there are still things called libraries and they have copying machines if needed.

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Re: Resources for a beginner dremel carver?
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2017, 01:47:08 PM »


It is a mistake to think that cracked material that is too flawed for faceting would be "Okay" for carving. Unless you are eliminating an unsightly inclusion and can adapt your carving to accommodate the removed material, leaving cracks in carvings is courting disaster. This is something I hear faceters saying all the time, and it annoys me because they seem to have little or no understanding that the stresses that the stone suffers during the carving and polishing process. Yeah, you can carve a piece of cracked stone, but it may disintegrate on you at any time. You are also going to be putting a lot more time in on a carving that you would a faceted stone. It only stand to reason to use the best material you possibly can. I give away my "bad" rocks to kids at the local mineral club, many of them will hold up to being cabbed.

Case in point; a humble piece of carved hematite. I'm going to try to enlarge the problem area to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. This was a tiny crack on the surface that I thought I'd be able to get rid of in the carving process. So after putting in 3 days of work, I end up with something that has this tiny, annoying crack right where it shows the most.

If you go to the archived forum which is the next to the last topic on the home page of this forum, you can find a wealth of information given by a lot of people about carving, and it's free. Things, insofar as the tools available today, have changed quite a bit since Hunt wrote his book, but it still is a really good book.

You will probably find that you will need to go 600-1200-3000-8000 to get a high gloss polish. Faceters can often skip 1200 because the facets they are grinding/polishing are so tiny that it takes little time/pressure to get the scratches out. Carving isn't quite the same. Polishing convex and concave surfaces don't react the same way flats do. If I leave a carving at 3000, some areas are still just a little bit hazy.

Regarding right angle tight spots, I have found an Exacto knife blade with diamond powder and oil is the way to go. I will do all the clean up I can first with small diamond files, the cheap ones off of Amazon. I also use Gesswein moldmaker stones. If you do a search on the other forum, I provide links where this stuff can be found.

You will probably also find that although you can accomplish a lot with your Dremel, it will never be a "great" carving unless you do quite a bit of handwork. Everyone I've ever tried to teach has done everything they can to avoid this step, as it is time consuming and not too much fun.

You may also benefit from getting some Heatless Mizzy Stones for larger removal/smoothing; Rio Grande sells them.

Sorry to sound snarky, I just spent yesterday trying to teach folks that know more than I do although they've never carved one rock, and I'm afraid I took it out on you. Check the link to my website; I've been carving for years and have done all the wrong things first. If you are a faceter, at least you probably have diamond powder and you'll be way ahead of the game. Also, you're used to seeing and looking at things under magnification and know when things aren't right.

Debbie K

P.S. Here is a link to the old forum's carving section.,19.0.html The first topic "art of gemstone carving" is like reading MANY books on the subject. All kinds of advice and information.
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