Garage Make Over

This month I undertake a long postponed task of getting my lapidary workshop organized. I had to move the large saw from my father’s garage to my garage. It seemed like a great time to begin getting the other equipment set up and placed permanently. The last time the vibrating lap was up and running was about five years ago. It finds its use in the near optically perfect surfaces we put on large Muong Nong layered tektites. We have a lot of really large individuals of Thailand tektite to use it on. We also have some slices that were taken off for research by Darryl Futrell. They should be really wonderful when lapped and polished. However, it is a very long process involving an extremely clean environment. Something I have not had . Hopefully I will after this makeover.

So I unbolted the Highland Park combination saw that had been at my father’s for nearly fifty years and will clear some bench space at my garage for it. But, I decided that I would plumb the water to it and put in a better drain then dad had. So a water purification system is now getting set up in the garage. I have needed a source of chlorine free water for a long time. This will set me free from using distilled and purified water in bottles.

Well, it is not very clean in this photo from before it was moved. But, it is being cleaned and repainted and readied for another fifty years of service. Highland park was a well made machine.

I have been a little concerned that soon I would be having trouble keeping all the material we have to cut organized and together as its going through all the stages of work. I am sure there are dealers with literally tons of material stored to cut. They must have a real problem with keeping it all separated and labeled. We are at the point that I need to think seriously about keeping things organized. I am going to take a lesson from Paul’s pharmacy work and set up processing areas where the material can move from stage to stage in plastic containers.

At the end of the workflow will be an area now for weighing and bagging the final product. There will be an area for cleaning and preparation at the front end. I am thinking that rather then set up an area in my already crowded home office for photography I should convert my defunct darkroom into a digital photo studio. I have already given away the two enlargers and all the developing trays and grain focusers and almost everything else. I actually only kept the antique contact printer and the glass negatives I had collected. It is a nice little room built in my garage with a counter that I can put a photo booth on with great lighting. It has been our goal to move some of the specimen photograph responsibilities to me. When I have finished with the lapidary work I can immediately take the photos for the online store. I am going to weight them and bag them anyway. I think I’ll put a computer out there to do all the image work on.

It is inevitable when you are cutting that you will generate some pieces that are just too small to really do much with. And many of the NWA meteorites are quite cracked and fall into pieces that are small as they are being sliced. They are not high value meteorites so I have been thinking that when I retire I would get back into making silver jewelry using some of those meteorite pieces. All my childhood cab making equipment will be over at my garage now so I can do that. I have stayed in practice with silversmithing over the years doing a few contract pieces and making some items for fun each year. I am looking forward to doing meteorite jewelry. I moved from jewelry to antique clock repair about thirty years ago and have a few clocks out in the garage that I have never gotten around to. I may just put them away for a few more years. We have plenty of clocks in the house already and I have given away enough for a while. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show conflicts with the big Los Angeles antique clock show every year. As a result I have been out of the clock club loop for years anyway.

Its interesting how lives twist and turn around and how decisions we make lead down new avenues which eventually determine the place we end up. I could easily have stayed a jeweler/silversmith, or been a college professor. But, either of those directions would have taken me somewhere else entirely. It was tough being in business with all its difficulties. Yet I have my family and my friends of today that I would never have had.

The Highland Park combination saw is only 10 inches and it uses a full thickness 0.040 blade. But, I only make the initial cuts on large meteorites with it. All the rest of the cutting is done with thin blades. The grinders and sanders will not find much use in specimen preparation. All of that will be done on the diamond laps. But, the grinders and sanders will be invaluable in the making of the stones for jewelry. I might even break done and get an actual dop wax melting pot and give up using a candle after fifty years. I know there are individuals that consider the use of meteorites in jewelry somehow disrespectful to the material’s origin and rarity. Yet, much of the NWA material that has totally lost its iron to weathering and is cracked up and falling apart would be unappreciated. It can be enjoyed as jewelry and used to promote meteorite understanding in the public sector, preserving material that would otherwise never be seen or enjoyed at all.

I have a few pieces of meteorite jewelry that I have made. I wear them occasionally. I think I am interested in making items to sell more right now. I have casting equipment and a kiln in addition to all the regular jewelry tools. So I might expand the work to some other things I have wanted to do. I think it is going to be great fun working will gold and silver again. I will leave some room in the garage for my wife to do her stain glass and jewelry work as well. Now, all I have to do is make it to retirement with enough energy left to do these things.

Until next month enjoy.

About the Author

James Tobin
The Meteorite Exchange, Inc. was born in 1996 with meteorite.com and Meteorite Times Magazine in 2002. Still enthusiastic about meteorites and all things related to them, we hunt, collect, cut and prepare specimens. We travel to gem shows and enjoy meteorites as much now as in the beginning. Please feel free to share any comments you have on this or any of our other sites.
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