Jewelry and Lapidary

On Being Wrong: A Lapidary Inevitability

I’ve been involved in gemstone identification for decades, most of my life. In the beginning I didn’t have a lot of info at my disposal. There was only really whatever I could find at the library. We didn’t have references as Mindat.Org. I did what I could.

The photograph above is of two pieces of jade that I found about 26 years ago. They are from Washington and Wyoming. Well, wait a second. I posted this on a Jade Group on Facebook and was immediately told it was Serpentine. I argued and was offended. After all, this wasn’t a Jade ID group. Mind you, I made the identification when I was young. I was looking for Jade Slicks outside of Bothell, WA and stumbled on a fresh culvert. My story was that I thought it had to be jade to survive being ground by Glaciers into this shape. It’s a nice story I told myself. But I would find out, it was just part of a story.

One of the group members challenged me to do a specific gravity test. Now my Ego got in the way and I defended my position rather poorly thinking that my expertise was being challenged on a non ID group.

You know, I would have thought they would have had a hard time with the one on the right. After all, it is gray and cinnamon colored.

Washington has worthwhile Nephrite. Some of that Nephrite is mixed in with Serpentine and we have some of the best serpentinites in the country. Recent finds have proven that Washington Nephrite can rival the best in the world. The appearance varies. I was sure that this was jade. I was sure that Nephrite could look like this. And I’m still pretty sure it’s possible. But after arguing and being offended I had to do the specific gravity test. I weighed the stone, then weighed it suspended in water and divided the air weight by the water weight and I immediately left the Jade Group and the Identification groups. I had been wrong!

It’s not the first time I found myself being spectacularly wrong. I once thought I had found a rare tektite when it was a large piece of rock salt. I once argued with someone over her own name, albeit I was inebriated at the time.

So then, did I quit because I was embarrassed? Well, sort of. Yes, I don’t like being wrong, but that’s not all of it. You see, whenever someone posts something to an ID group, there is always someone out there who knows nothing about the stuff and is willing to make some remarkable identification of Bacon, weed, or some other food or drug. They give out joke answers. Or, if something is green, it might be Emerald despite the odds. Or it’s dyed Quartz Crystal (quartz crystal can only be coated. It cannot be dyed. Quartzite and Chalcedony can be dyed).

I really don’t care if I’m wrong. It’s OK. It’s inevitable. And I do like to argue or discuss things. But this sort of thing can prove to be too personal sometimes. Not in that I felt offended by someone questioning my expertise, that stings but it’s alright, I found I spent too much time every day, looking to argue with or correct people. And why? Is it my ego or is it my desire to teach or both?

I left the Jade group. I left Washington Rockhounds. I left the ID groups. After having left them for a couple of months, I can look back and say I am happy to be rid of them.

I joined Facebook to help advertise my livelihood. Joining groups does not improve the number of followers you might have. Posting your song to a song-posting-free-for-all group does not get you listened to. Everyone there wants you to listen to them. And that is Social Medias main problem. It’s my problem. It’s an internet problem. Facebook is not much help when it comes to expanding your audience.

So, the stone on the left is Serpentine as has been identified by members of the Jade Group I left, confirmed by a specific gravity of 2.63. The piece on the right is suspected to be Nephrite from somewhere Northwest of Casper. A certified Gemologists told me what it was before I told him what I suspected it was. He was shown the cabochon cut from this stone in a necklace. I’m not sure if he read the tag on the necklace first and just said it make me feel at ease. He ended up purchasing the necklace. The stone is not going to undergo a specific gravity test at this time.

Serpentine is worth considerably less than Nephrite on the most part. Is my serpentine slick any less interesting to me now that I know it’s not Jade? No, not really. It’s still a great find and nice to look at. I never wanted to cut it anyway. It survived being transported by glaciers and glacial waters. It’s special in-and-of-itself.

Jewelry and Lapidary

Adventures in Bead Making: Part Two

I replaced the pin rest with a swiveling pin made from a wire box clamp and a used diamond drill bit. These are clamped to an “L” bracket I made from scrap Aluminum bolted to the Cabmate. This is based on the Jig by Daniel Lopacki. It works better.

This device is used for rounding the bead into heishi or blanks. The pinvise is still used for the rounding and polishing stages but the pin rest is no longer needed. It was a nice experiment and it worked, but if something works better it’s best to do it that way.

The bracket is bolted with washers on each side. This keeps the bracket from marking up the Cabmate and also keeps the nut from creeping loose whenever you change the distance of the pin from the cutting wheel.

The pin is adjusted to the size of the bead. The bead is inserted in the pin and the blank is turned against the wheel until there is nothing more to cut. You might have to reposition the pin closer to the wheel and cut again if you find your cut was not complete. Press the bead in and let it spin until the blank is perfectly round.

After some time, I realized that aluminum is not rigid enough for the “L” bracket. There is too much flex and bend to it. Steel is prefered. Flex is fine, but bending is a pain. I’ll replace this when I can.

I chose to use a 100 grit for the first rounding stage, but this is probably too coarse. 180 is fine. Maybe even 320 with some material.

After the rounding stage comes the roughing or cutting stage (or another rounding stage). This is when the bead blank is put to the wheel on the pin vise and the bead is roughed out. I’d use 100 grit for tough stones and 180 for others. The bead is allowed to spin on the post held by the pin vice when held to the wheel or disk. So far I haven’t tried bar soap as a lubricant for the post/pin. But I have heard it helps. You want to separate the bead from the pin vise. For this I use the rubber rings from metal roofing nails because I have them. Daniel Lopacki uses disks made from Jet. I’m sure you could use hardwood for this.

You want the bead to spin freely on the post/pin. You want to make sure it’s round. You can do this by pointing the pinvise upward so the angle prevents the bead from spinning off. You can hold the bead horizontal to the center of the grinding disk’s spin provided that you hold it to the disk at an lateral angle, trapping the bead to the disk.

It’s dangerous. Things fly sometimes and things break. Wear Eye Protection! Be Safe. And you can cut yourself and grind your fingers till they bleed.

Right now, I’m not sure if this method is better than cutting beads as cabochons.

I should note: it’s very important that the posts fit the beads as closely as possible. Wobble should be prevented. It can misshape the bead. Quartz can fracture and blow apart. While nothing is guaranteed, this will minimize the issue. Another trick is to make sure not to grind too close to the drill hole. Grinding too close might cause the stone to chip. It’s best to deal with the ends on a lap after this initial cutting and polishing. This is for any material you might find chips easily. Chalcedony appears to be a quartz that is not prone to chipping.

I see a benefit to using wheels instead of flat laps: the curve of the wheel might help to grab the bead and aid in the spin whereas a flat lap likes to flat lap. I’m finding that I make a lot of accidental facets that have to be corrected. I’m also finding that long beads can be difficult.

Well, that’s it for now. I actually have to make another run soon, but for now, I have to move on. I placed the steel “L” bracket on the list of things to do. I want to try some hardwood post/pin holders. But first: on to polishing in Part Three.

Jewelry and Lapidary

Adventures in Gemstone Bead Making: Part One

I Started making gemstone beads after watching John Paulas (Africa John) hand make beads at Cloud’s Gemboree in Quartzite, AZ back in 1998.

He used a Dremel Hand Tool, a diamond drill bit, and a pan of water. So I purchased some drill bits from him and decided to try it out.

I already had the pan of water and the Dremel.

Now, the thing about this technique is that it does not use a drill press. The bead blank is held to the drill by hand. It takes some time to be proficient at this. You start out by drilling a depression in the center of your blank, and then plunge the drill bit in, once the center is established. I never mark things. I prefer to just line it center by eye. You cut a little way into the stone, and then you do the same to the other side. The idea here is that you are going to cut each side of the hole until the two sides meet. This also prevents “blowout”.

I, like Afrika John, when I watched him work, rotate the stone while cutting, both laterally, and rotationally. Now for those of you wondering if this cuts short the drill life, well I’m not sure. I’ve tried cutting holes with a drill press and it seems that once the diamond is worn away from the edges, the drill bit stalls. Of course this happens with hand drilling too. So I’m not sure. At any rate, I’m happy with this sort of drilling. I also don’t own a worthy drill press. This has to be done with water. You can dip the stone in a container frequently. The prefered method for wetting a stone is via a drip tank. Some cutters use a pressure bottle and the syringe needle to position a steady stream of water. I might try this in the future, but for now, my old handmade 5 gallon drip tank works.

So, in the old method for bead making, each bead blank is cut on wheels, like you would any cabochon. This is difficult to round perfectly.

Back in 1998, Africa John had an apprentice working with him. She proclaimed she wanted to make beads like he did, but only better. Since, at that time John was rounding beads the way described above, I think I now know what she was talking about. It is harder to get them round with your fingers so close to the wheel. There has to be a more precise way. While diamond wheels won’t often cut you, anyone who has worked with them know they can still grind through enough layers of skin to make you bleed. It’s best to keep the fingers as far away from abrasives as possible.

Following this experience with Africa John, I cut a hand full of beads this way, a strand of rough Oregon Sunstones, and holes in beach stones and cabochons. I will continue this sort of hole drilling in beach rock and cabs. But there is a better way to form beads.

Recently, it dawned on me: use the hole as the handle, epoxy a nail into the hole, and then you can easily shape the bead. One problem with this notion; you need to use a solvent to get the epoxy out. Heat isn’t enough. And on really wide beads, that nail isn’t easily leaving. I cut 4 quartzite beads that are now burrins because, well, what do you do with a quartzite and nail combo… use it to smooth metal, of course.

So, not a complete failure, but there has to be a better way.

So I searched for Gemstone Bead Making. Nothing relative came up. Until I discovered Daniel Lopacki’s videos on YouTube. There appears to be, as of yet, no other videos showing the handmade gemstone bead making process at all, just videos of bead mills.

Now I have been familiar with Daniel Lopacki through Lapidary Journal from decades ago. Not only did he advertise there, but he was also a contributor. And just by chance I happen to have the August 1998 Lapidary Journal, and on page 77 is an article entitled “Cutting Stone Beads” by Daniel Lopacki. I discovered this after watching YouTube.

So, what I discovered is his use of pin vises and the use of a jig for holding the pin vise completely steady in the initial rounding of the bead blank. Daniel uses a different type of lapidary machine. He uses a multiple wheel, whereas I use disk machines; so I had to think differently to adapt some solution to the Graves Cabmate. My solution is below.

This is made with an angle adapter and a piece of scrap aluminum drilled with one end cut to a taper. A small bolt with plastic tubing is fitted in a hole drilled near the end of the taper. The shaft of the bead holder in the pin vice rests on this plastic covered bolt. When held straight to the disk, the bead can be ground to the size dictated by the placement of the bolt. The added aluminum in the back, not only serves as a handle for moving the bolt closer or farther from the disk, but it can also be rotated 180 degrees to serve as a platform. The shallow standard screw is also bolted with washers to keep tension firm, while making bead blanks (bead blanking). This makes uniform bead sizing possible.

Daniel’s Bead Blanking Jig is an awesome concept, and I really must spent time reproducing and adapting it for use with vertical discs. I think it offers more control than my simple solution. But for now, it has increased my ability to produce gemstone beads by leaps and bounds.

One note about using the pin vise, Daniel uses bar soap to lubricate the bead shaft. He also uses a graphite spacer to keep the bead from rotating against the chuck. I have yet to try bar soap lube, and I don’t have access to graphite, so instead of graphite, I use small rubber discs that are found on flat washer metal roofing nails I purchased in bulk at a garage sale. If I didn’t have this I would probably make spacers out of scrap plastic.

Once the blank is formed, it’s time to shape it. I’ll discuss this in Part Two.

So I’d like to thank the late John Paulas for his exciting my fascination for handmade gemstone bead making. And I would also like to thank Daniel Lopacki for inspiring me to further refine my process.

Album Cover general Music Visual Art

Next Album Cover

I have started Blind Congresses next work. It is to be twelve tracks of ambient/dark ambient.

Currently untitled, the cover most likely has been decided upon.

Dry Beaver Creek. Copyright 2019. Todd L Goodwin

This is an image I took of a wet Dry Beaver Creek near Sedona, Arizona.

I’ll zoom in to the tree. I love the fact that it is in island. Not sure what else will be done other than lettering at this point.

Cover of “Blind Congress: Ambiently You.” Copyright, 05-06-2021, Todd L Goodwin

Well there you have it.

It was done in Affinity Publisher fairly rapidly. I fooled around with another layer under the lettering like the last cover, but I really like the drama. Type for “Blind Congress: is Blue Highway D Type in 96 pt. Type for the title is Frank Ruhl Hofshi in 48 pt. at 3000 x 3000 px.

Sometimes simple is best.

general Music Music Visual Art

New Album “OFM”

I’ve been playing with sound since as far back as I remember. I was quite taken to keys without benefit of learning notation. I was all about the sound. I didn’t really learn much in school about music, though I had taken up the viola and the alto horn. When I was a young teen I took lessons on an electric organ from a Lowrey Organ store, on what I think was the Lowrey Coronation model. The lessons were in “Jazz Vamping”. That’s all there was with schooling. I never did learn to read music. I see it as sound in time.

About ten years later I purchased a Yamaha PortaSound, a Casio SK-1, and a few used tape decks. I traded one of my own original oil paintings to a friend, for a new EQ and tape deck. I picked up a delay for a guitar. I set up a “ghosting studio”. I couldn’t afford a 4-track, so I had a really great upright cassette deck; a Teac Stereo Mixer Cassette Deck, which allowed me to record one side, plus play a side and merge them, and have volume and output controls. This recorded to another deck. So one deck fed a sound, an instrument was played, they merged in the Teac and got recorded in another cassette deck. Then, the tape was handed to the play deck and another instrument was added. This was done on a home stereo system with benefit of EQ, recorded to metal tape and copied. I used this method from 1988 to 1994. I made only a little music from here until 1998. This changed when we acquired our first computer. A few years back my equipment evolved and I added some instruments.

So this new stuff is a bit more to the point. I still take samples and slow them down or speed them up. I don’t need to ghost. I’ve had many lanes at my disposal. And, I have digital control which is something I didn’t have in the early years and my effects were limited to a delay.

My work reflects my interests in music, which are varied from meditative to energetic. I have a Spotify Playlist which narrows it down. It represents some of the music that has been dear to me over the years.

I would say my music is somewhere between meditative and energetic. Or is that too broad?

I enjoy Vaporwave quite a bit. I like using old public domain sources. I have taken field recordings too. One thing I really like is taking normal sounds and slowing them way down, creating drones and interweaving one-another. Beats can be downloaded and changed or I can make them up. I have thousands of instruments at my disposal and hundreds of effects. And, I can play with video.

This is from the new Album. It features excerpts from “122 Eyes”, “Responsibilities of American Citizenship”, and “Japanese Relocation”, all of which are in the public domain.

The Album “OFM” will be released on Friday, May 28th, 2021. It contains ten songs and will be available at most music services.

Three other videos will be released in the coming weeks. “Working Men of all Countries Unite,” “Dim-1219-AC,” and “Prepare for Danger.”

A visual artist, I also am responsible for the graphics. I enjoy making cover art. There is really no one else that is a part of my process other than the only other person in my world, my partner, H. Maxwell.

general Music Music

Blind Congress Releases Fourth Album

Blind Congress “Oh Covid Hell”.

Copyright 2020, by Todd L Goodwin. Blind Congress “Oh Covid Hell”

Blind Congress is soon to release their fifth body of work entitled “Oh Covad Hell”. Slated for the 14th of August 2020 on Spotify.

Created between March and July 2020, and spurred on by new equipment made possible by the covid stimulus package, during the onset of the pandemic, this 19 piece work loosely chronicles an exodus from Arizona to Washington State and events in the aftermath. It is a reflection.

Downtempo, Electronica, Techno and Ambient or somewhere in there, if you are interested in this type of music, you should find this to be an enjoyable experience.

All instrumental except for some audio taken from material found at the Prelinger Archive. Track 04- “Another Fallout” relies on the soundtrack from “About Fallout (1955)” by Wilding Picture Productions, Inc which is in the public domain. Likewise the ninth track “Amateur Medical Legacy” takes excerpts from “Seduction of the Innocent” by Davis (Sid) Productions which is also in the public domain.

Taking sound files and altering them has been something Blind Congress has been doing since 1988, but then using the keys of the legendary Casio SK1 Sampler. As the modern computer age progressed, changing the speed of sound files and adding effects to them became more of an interest. Stringing them together is like a dance. There are many sources of free sounds on the internet to be butchered and changed and mixed. But it’s not all that. There is hardware in there. Blind Congress recently added a full sized synthesizer and a sequencer to the mix and these are used throughout this work.

The Artists favorite tracks from “Oh Covid Hell” include “Amateur Medical Legacy”, “Seven Mile Alternator”, “Breathing in Uncertainty” and “Mindful of Surfaces (Oh Covid Hell).” That last one is an Ambient 14:32 minute meditation. “Amature Medical Legacy” is a humorous work derived from a not so humorous American propagandist piece made danceable.

On, or about the time of the release, the work should be available from wherever you purchase your music.


Polyexpressionist Updated

I’m not going to name any names here, but hosting companies can be an issue. So we changed hosts, but it wasn’t as simple as telling the new hosts migration team to just get at it. In fact the old host stood in the way by wanting to charge $70 for backing up our sites to a downloadable form. So I had to do it all myself and in the proces lost the prior WordPress setep. So, New Look.

We decided to move to take advantage of SSL. Our prior server was problematic. Uptime was great. They just wanted to charge us for little things like free ssl or $70 for a downloadable backup.

Oh, I’ll see if I can access or recreate the old posts. Not very many people actually read them.

I have to make this blog look better first.