by Mark Bostick
Tools of the Trade
I remember being a kid and pretending I was the well known secret agent 007, James Bond. Never mind that James Bond was a British agent. Forget the fact that Bond always got the woman and has unbeatable charm. What attracted a young boy to the spy world was the "spy gadgets". The exploding pen, the car with every imaginable weapon just a button away. In my kid world, it wasn't the man that saved the world yet again. It was the tools of trade. The study and collecting of meteorites has its own tools. No, you can't tap them three times and make them inflate or turn into personal jet packs. But, then again our tools won't explode if you drop them.
Meteorites are expensive, and the more you spend, the more it seems you want. Be careful however that all your budget is not going to the extraterrestrial treasures we covert. But also to the accessories that enhance our collecting and study. Perhaps you wish to someday do some fieldwork or show a display in that extra bedroom. If you are like many of us and have been bitten by the meteorite bug. You are in a constant personal battle. Should you buy that achondrite slice that is a "must have?" or should you buy that newer metal detector?
I have started with the cheaper and one of the most important tools. The jeweler's loupe. A loupe is basically two or more lenses that fold out for use. While they were originally made for the jeweler, they were very quickly used in all levels of the mineral world. Go to any of the larger mineral shows and almost half the people wondering around will have one in their pocket or around their neck. Loupe's range in price and quality. The better ones have lens that correct color and do not get blurring towards the edges. Prices start at $2.00 for a plastic one and go up to around $50.00 for the nicer glass models. This is something you will use constantly. Whether looking at the slice from a dealers table to examining a rock in the field . Spend a couple extra dollars and buy one of the nicer loupes. Very nice models can be purchased off eBay for about $30.00. I like to hang mine around my neck on a cord while I'm working, so one with an eyelet is a must and a recommendation from me to others.
GPS units are cheaper and more user friendly then ever before. I personally use the Garmin eTrex Venture model. I find it is very easy to use and it came complete with a download cord. Buy the Garmin Maps CD and you can download maps directly into the unit. I have used my GPS unit to successfully navigate to impact structures (and back). Always mark a waypoint where you park and finding your way back to the vehicle can be done with a couple of menu toggles. Plus there is always the hope that I will find a 3 kilogram lunar stone. GPS in hand I will be ready to record the coordinates...:-) There are many brands and models to choose from. Just learn how to use the model you have and you should be fine. Users in the United States have an added bonus of knowing where every communication satellite in the Northern Hemisphere is at. As with all electrical devices, if your looking for a bargain, check eBay.
Meteorites, cats, grease and Gremlins have something in common. Neither of them agree with water. Keeping meteorites from being submerged in water is easy, just don't do it. However, that is not the only water you have to deal with. Let us not forget humidity. It's what I hear people complain about more then the temperature. Humidity, aka relative humidity is the amount of water in the air. 30% humidity means that the air is holding 30% of the maximum water vapor that it can hold. This gets tricky because the amount of water vapor the air can hold verys with the temperature. To put it in real simple terms. The higher the temperature, the greater amount of water the air can hold. Deserts have the highest temperatures and therefore have the ability to hold the most water. However, deserts are so dry that it is not a concern. Our homes and houses however, are another story. Air Conditioners, Refrigerators, and even your body is letting humidity into the air. This can be fixed by a Dehumidifier. A small Dehumidifier the size of an end table is large enough to pull most of the water out of the air of a small basement or a one bedroom apartment with little ease. The dehumidifiers have bucket collectors that collect the water in the back, tend to get hot and make a lot of noise. Expect to spend about $200.00.
Electronic Weather Stations have been available commercially for several years now. The price on them has dropped considerably and the features increase every year. These neat devices measure humidity and temperature while offering memory that shows you the highs/lows of the last 24 hours and remote sensors. The remote sensors are logical additions that allow a person to see the temperature and humidity outside, while still being inside. I use a remote sensor inside one of my display cases. Now a quick visit to the main unit shows me the vitals of the collection room, inside and outside the displays.
Harvey Nininger was the first to use a "meteorite cane" to collect meteorites. A meteorite cane is simply a stick with a magnet attacted to the end. This is used in the field while searching for meteorites. A quick wave of the stick around a suspected rock on the ground and the pull of the magnet will tell you, or not tell you what you found. It's not that uncommon to hear of a small unseen meteorite that jumped onto the cane of a hunter. While these are easy to make, I buy mine from fellow meteorite collector/seller John Gwilliam. John makes his from a golf club, which he welds a bent screwdriver to the end. He then welds a small plate that an earth magnet is attached to. I was so happy with the first one I bought that I purchased a second. (You should never do field work alone if avoidable).
No respected geologist would find himself in the field without a rock hammer. A rock hammer looks like a common home nail hammer only instead of a claw on the end opposite its hitting head, there is usually a wedge. I use Estwing hammers. They are unbreakable and easy to find. Most major hardware stores carry Estwing hammers. If you have a local rock shop, the owner, can order you an Estwing in your choice of handle length and overall hammer weight in a kit that includes a leather thing that holds the hammer on your belt and a set of goggles. Goggles should always be used when using a rock hammer.
Riker Boxes have a couple advantages and have become a permanent fixture in meteorite collections. The boxes are cheap, attractive and effective, a combination your rarely find in anything. From 2 1/2 x 2 inches to that larger 8 x 10 inches and larger, they are made in many sizes. These cardboard boxes have a glass top that make visual display of the specimen enclosed easy. Add a gel packet inside and it is safe from moisture. Be sure to change out the gel packet from time to time.
The brain child of Roman Jirasek, Meteorite Labels, are small and attractive. Roman, owner of D&S Signs and a meteorite collector has put his two interest together. No longer must a collection go displayed unlabled or with a custom handwritten label to have uniformity. Measuring 1 1/2" by 1 3/4", there little aluminum labels are attractive and affordable. Roman's labels have made their way into collections around the world including my own. Currently 139 different labels are available and more will continue to be added to the line. They come in two styles flat, or with the bottom bent so that it stands up self supporting. I buy the flat ones and stand them on little plastic stands. For more information on the labels, see MeteoriteLabels.com.
Meteorite Thin Sections
Thin Sections are ultra thin polished meteorite slices cut so thin that light can shine through them. It is how rocks and minerals are studied and each thin section is a world under a microscope. I could write a whole book on meteorite thin sections (just not sure if it would be worth reading). So what will I mention here is not the thin sections themselves but on how to store those pesky little glass slices...often of different size and somehow smaller then the normal thin section. I store thin sections in small plastic cases made for sport cards called "top loaders" (they load at the top). Using a plastic card sleeve to help keep the thin section from moving around I go one further step and out the top loader into a "team bag". A team bag is a plastic bag, made again for the sport card market, large enough to hold 30-50 cards or a team set. These bags are self-sealing and are resealable. The thin section in the top loader can now be easily viewed without ever touching it. Michael Cottingham was the first I ever seen use the top loaders for thin sections. They are both cheap and practical. Boxes are made that hold the top loaders but you will need about 200 to use a box effectively. Top Loaders are sold in lots of 25 for around $3.00.
A collection of meteorite books will help increase your knowledge easier then a collection of meteorites. While meteorites have never been a main stream subject, the science of meteoritics has been around for over 100 years now and a collection of books can be built with little energy (and lots of money). Try searching online at Amazon or other like book search engines. Mike and Bill Jenson (www.jensenmeteorites.com) and Eric Twelker (www.meteoritemarket.com) are two of the many meteorite dealers that offer meteorite books.
Digital scales come in a large selection of models and weight measuring abilities. Most meteorite collection have specimens that range in weight from a gram or less to several pounds. This makes collectors need multiple scales. I use three different scales and still have use for another. The small scale is a Diagem model that measures in milligrams and up to 10 grams. The second scale I have; and the most used is made by RightWeight. It measures up to 600 grams in 0.1 gram measurements. I bought one of these scales and liked it so much that I started selling it. The larger scale I have measures up to 6000 grams in whole grams. Larger meteorites and impact specimens sat on my shelves unweighed. A testimony to the fact that I need a scale with higher limits.
The focus of your collection or desires will decide what tools you will need to make it enjoyable. I have left many items off this list to keep it article size. A small Diamond Saw, a microscope, a metal detector and an All-You-Need polishing machine are other items I recommend to all. There is no better way to really understand meteorites, then through working with them, both under the microscope and in the field. To new collectors many of these items May seem like a big expense. As a general rule I spend about 25% of my meteorite funds on accessories. Purchase the items that will help you the most first. One of the "habits" I try to keep is always having a different meteorite book on the way. I enjoy reading meteorite books and have found old harder to find books great for resale. Whatever you decide, have fun and enjoy the hobby.