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The Stone Corner

The Stone Corner - Anhydrite -Sept/Oct 1997

Anhydrite has not been a widely popular stone, but its availability on the west coast of North American and the beauty of its finish is likely to result in more sculpture exbibits in the future. It has the pearly luster of alabaster and yet carves and finishes more like the harder stones.



Anhydrite is both a mineral and a sedimentary rock. Its name comes from the Greek for "without water"; essentially it  is the anhydrous form of calcium sulfite (CaSo4). Anhydrite is the sister or brother of alabaster (gypsum), which is the hydrated form of calcium sulfate. Two molecules of water are attached to each molecule of calcium sulfate in gypsum.


Anhydrite commonly is found in white, gray, brown and light red or pink. It is heavier than alabaster, weighing in at about 187 pounds per cubic foot with a specific gravity of 3.0. One of the key differences between alabaster and anhydrite is the hardness: alabaster is 2 and anhydrite ranges from 3 to 3.5. It is insoluble in hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid; however, it is easily attacked by water. in the earth, anhydrite converts to gypsum when it absorbs water; and in your yard, it will break down with facility if exposed to the elements.


Anhydrite is one of a group of rock-forming minerals called evaporites, so called because they form by the precipitation of the minerals from evaporating brines or salt water. The other evaporties are gypsum and halite (salt). They form in shallow salt water seas that are alternately submerged and de-watered. Beds of the rocks can be found in the thicknesses of a few hundred feet. Which mineral is precipitated at any time depends n the temperature, pressure and salinity of the water. At higher temperatures, anhydrite is the first one to precipitate, followed by gypsum, however, at lower temperatures, te opposite is the case. Halite is normally the last to form. In the laboratory, and presumably in nature, gypsum and anhydrite can be made to convert to one another by the changing of pressure and temperature. It is also known that anhydrite can be changed to gypsum by the addition of water, such as during the weathering process; and conversely, the reverse can be achieved by the baking or drying of gypsum.


In North America, anhydrite is found in the salt domes of Louisiana and Texas and in stratified deposits in Nova Scotia, New York, New Mexico and British Columbia. It is also in large layered salt deposits of Poland, Germany, Austria, France and lndia. It is not considered an important industrial mineral. In large deposits of gypsum, it is considered to be a contaminant. It is used as a source oj sulfuric acid, as a retardant for concrete, for a filler in paper and as a soil conditioner.



Although anhydrite is relatively hard stone, it is somewhat easy to mine because it si cut by numerous joints. Therefore, for the quantities needed for sculptural purposes, it is not necessary to blast to obtain. If blasted, this stone would probably shatter and much of the stone would be unstable. It is removed from the ground or rock face by hand tools or with a backhoe. The best method for determining the integrity of the stone is to tap the stone with a hammer and listen carefully for changes n the ring.


Working Anhydrite

Anhydrite is brittle and hand tool working is not recommended. Although a harness of 3 to 3.5 is not extreme, sculptors who have worked the stone definitely prefer the use of power tools for working this stone. Chisels tend to create small chips corners are commonly lost because an unexpected piece breaks off. The good part is that anhydrite unlikely to bruise in the manner that alabaster does.


It can be worked with a hand-held grinder as well as a stationary wheel, and the stone cuts very evenly and easily with such tools. Anhydrite takes well to a grinder, and carbide disks will show little wear after working the stone.


Anhydrite can be taken to a 70 to 600 grit finish. depending on the pattern of the stone, and buffed with tin oxide using a wet rag or a mechanical buffer. Of all of the colors, white produces the most lustrous finish although brown may have the most interesting patterns.



Cracks and joints are not common flaws in anhydrite. In general, it is a solid stone. The white variety tends to be the most consistent in color and hardness. The brown stone can be more variable in hardness, containing scattered softer spots. Sometimes, small white spots may be present in the stone.


Although not exactly a flaw of the stone, a major weakness of all anhydrite is its susceptibility to water. It must be kept indoors before and after carving. If left outdoors, it will absorb water and start to deteriorate.



No particular safety hazards were reported for anhydrite; however, we all need to remember to protect out lung, eyes and ears at all times. Be a sage and safe sculptor.



Thanks to Randy Zeiber of Vancouver, British Columbia for his quarrying and carving expertise and Carol Way and Vic Picou of Seattle, Washington for sharing their carving experiences with me.


Editor's Note: I could not locate a picture of a sculpture done in anhydrite for this issue. I hope to have one for the next issue. This concludes the series on stone. I know I speak for the readers of Sculpture Northwest is expressing appreciation to Bill Laprade for this interesting and informative series.

The Stone Corner - Slate - July/Aug 1997

Slate is a rather mundane, common stone that we remember from our school days. Recall those days when the teacher asked you to do your math problem on the blackboard (slate, in the olde days) and the dog had eaten your homework. Perhaps you could have pulled out your carving tools, turning it into an art class, and rendered a spectacular art piece right there in front of the class for a bit of diversion. In the hands of an artist, this stone is indeed anything but mundane. Reliefs of beautiful and varied texture can be rendered from this stone.



Slate is a metamorphic rock, found in many places throughout the world Its main constituents are quartz, illite, sericite and calcite, but other minerals such as plagioclase feldspar, chlorite, dolomite, pyrite and graphite are also found Where the slate is colored red, it probably contains a significant amount of hematite. Its particles are very small; less than 0.001 millimeters in diameter. The parent rock for slate is shale, which was formed from the deposition of mud (clay and silt). Slate is a very close cousin to argillite, also used for sculptural purposes, and associated with the Haida of the Northwest Coast.


Slate is moderately hard, but it is very brittle. Its durability is one of its chief attributes. Its unconfined compressive strength ranges from 7,000 to 10,000 pounds per square inch. Its very low porosity, less than 2 percent, is responsible for its impermeable nature and the reason that it has been used for roofing for centuries. It is difficult to assign a hardness to this stone, because it depends on the direction in which it is worked; however, it normally falls between 1.5 and 2.5.


Slate is formed deep beneath the earth's surface by the slow pressurizing of fine grained sediments, such as shale and claystone. The pressure increases from the addition of overlying sediment, slowly squeezing the water out of the pores. Then folding causes the individual mineral grains to realign and form parallel sheets. The resultant rock has very pronounced directionality, known as cleavage; that is, the rock will split easily in one preferred plane. The plane of cleavage is usually not the same as the plane of the bedding, and in fuel, the original bedding of the stone may be very hard to discern. In natural deposits of slate, veins of quartz and dikes of intrusive igneous rock are not uncommon, and the rock may be severely fractured along fault zones.


Although black is the most common color of slate, it is also gray, purple, green and red. It is found in France, Fiuland, Scotland, Peunsylvania, Vermont and California. In Washington State, poor quality slate is present in the western part of the state, but commercial deposits are found in Stevens County in the northeastern corner.


The highest quality slate is used for blackboards and pool tables. Because of its high electrical resistivity, it is used for switchboards and electrical panels. It is also used for mantles, flagstone (interior and exterior), haseboards and roofing. As there is very high wastage in the production of dimensional, the waste is crushed and used for roofing granules, insulating material known as rock wool, and for filler for paint, linoleum, acoustical tile and brick.



Because of the extreme directionality of the cleavage in slate, quarries sometimes continue at near-vertical angles to depths of 700 feet. Drilling and blasting are utilized to remove the weathered rock, but discontinued thereafter owing to the sensitivity of this brittle rock to shock.


Primary cuts are made by channelling or wire saw. Individual blocks are then separated from the quarry floor by splitting parallel with the cleavage. Large blocks are then subdivided in a similar manner. Due to the brittle nature of the stone, the percentage of waste in a dimensional stone quarry may be 60 to 90 percent.


Working Slate

The most common manner of carving slate is in low relief; however, it can be used to create a truly threedimensional sculpture. Isamu Nognchi prodnced some large scale pieces with thick slabs of slate, and Barbara Hepworth fashioned a piece called "Two Figures" in which she pierced two large pieces of slate in a stunning slate sculpture.

Slate can be obtained from a salvage yard or thrift store where it may have been part of a blackboard or pool table. These are the highest quality slates available. Alternately, flagstone slate can be bought from a stone yard or landscaping materials supplier.


In relief, slate can be worked in a similar manner to wood. A drawing is copied onto the flat slate surface, either by freehand or with carbon paper. The outline of the drawing is scored deeply with a very sharp instrument. Although a diamond tool may be the most efficient, any sharp steel tool will do. It is best to pull the instrument toward you to maintain control ofthe tool and to avoid chipping. The subject is then highlighted in relief by carving from the outside into the incision. Great care must be taken to avoid advancing past the incision, because the layered slate will chip easily. Standard softstone carving tools can be use for this stage, such as flat chisels, ronelles, and toothed chisels.


After completing the outline, the interior body of the sculpture can be modelled and curved with rasps and rifflers to create effective shadows and a sense of threedimensionality. Polishing is started with 220 grit and can proceed to 1200 grit to obtain a high sheen. If desired, the surface can be waxed andbuffed Outlines should be retraced with a sharp tool to remove the wax in the grooves.


Texturing can be very effective on slate. This can be accomplished with a rasp, a toothed chisel or even a frosting tool, provided that the sculptor is very light-handed wooden mallet would be advisable for such work. Slate can be cut with a hack or coping saw, but care should be taken that the brittle nature does not cause the stone to break in a place not desired.



The chief flaw in slate is the separations between the individual layers along the cleavage. Look very carefully at the slate to see if there are any weak planes. As with other stones, tapping the stone with a small harurner or the butt-end of a chisel will tell a tale, but tap gently with slate.


Pyrite and quartz crystals are much harder inclusions that will ruin the integrity of the carving surface, so if some are showing on the surface, there very well may be some more on the interior.



Because no hammering and power tools are reqnired, no eye protection in required with slate; however, the stone is finegrained, so a mask would be prudent if you are making dust.



Thanks to artist Ward Lynch of Everson, Washington for sharing his slate carving experiences with me.

Stone Corner - Bronze: Concept, Material and Process - May 1997 Jan/Feb 1997


Sculpture, ahh, sculpture. Poetry in form and light. I was introduced to bronze and sculpture together in 1980. Coming from a 2-D background where I was employed as a scrimshander (engraving on mammoth ivory), I was initially attracted to sculpture as a way of stretching artistically and bronze as a method of preserving the hundreds of hours I have a tendency of dumping into my work.


The journey that began back then has become the core of my experience. It has led to the founding and operation of North West Artworks, an art casting foundry in Sultan, Washington, that I helped establish with my father and brother. Casting for others has introduced me to many different styles and how bronze relates to them. In my own work, bronze's nature and soul play an important roll in the statement I want to express. My intention for this article is to not ouly illustrate the process of lost wax casting, but also that bronze is more than just a material to reproduce sculpture.



Bronze is 50% to 93 % copper. There are many kinds of bronze and brass alloys, the differences lying in what's been added to the copper to change undesirable characteristics such as low fluidity, gassing and weak castings. Common additions include tin, zinc, lead and silicon.


Most art casting is done in a silicon bronze, a lead-free alloy.Evedur and Hurlaloy are the two types of silicon bronze available. The main difference is the amount of zinc present. Each foundry has its own preference (Evedur being ours), but the desired characteristics are basically the same: fluidity, attention to detail, reparability and finish.


Bronze is bearing metal, which means it is soft and slippery or resistant to  surface friction. This gives the metal a unique tactile quality. It is very malleable and can endure pounding and bending (cold work) without tearing.


Bronze is permanent (our insurance company claims it has a life of. 100,000 years at the bottom of the ocean). Bronze is musical (325 Ib. ingot resonates when dropped).


There are many ways of finishing bronze using chemical patinas. Some can accent the form and texture of a piece; others can give a depth of color rivaled only by stone. A faux granite, marble, and sandstone can be achieved with patinas.


Bronze is a structural material making it possible for expanded delicate forms (fingers, etc.) and a great versatility in scale. These and other characteristics make bronze an ideal sculptural medium.



Bronze has been linked into the evolution of civilization since its development 5,000 years ago. In the Near East, it was discovered that the addition of tin to copper created an alloy that was extraordinarily versatile in the production of tools, weapons, housewares and art. The lack of tin in the Near East created an expanding trade network that eventually encompassed Europe and the Far East.


The technique of lost wax casting is almost as old as bronze and has remained relatively unchanged until the 1960' s, when high-tech, high-temperature ceramic investment was introduced by the aerospace industry for use in precision castings. This, coupled with the development of silicon and urethane rubber used in the molds, made high detailed casting more achievable. But even with the modern advancements, art castings remain a hands-on, labor intensive, highly skilled craft.



There are two styles of lost wax casting. The difference is in the type of investment in which the wax is encased: traditional plaster investtnent and ceramic shell. Since we use the ceramic shell, the outline below addresses that method:

1. The original artwork is sculpted by an artist in wax, clay. plaster, wood, or stone.


2. From the original artwork (or from a found object), a reusable master mold is made. This master mold consists of a flexible inner mold and a rigid exterior mold or mother mold. The rigid mother mold is designed to hold the flexible inner mold in place and retain its shape. A single master mold can take from three days to several weeks to complete. The flexible inner mold is usually made from polyurethane or silicone rubber and the rigid outer mold from fiberglass or plaster.


3. From the master mold a wax pattern is made using a slush technique (i. e., pouring molten wax into the mold, allowing it to cool slightly and then pouring out the excess wax). This process is repeated several times to achieve the proper thickness (1/8" to 3/16"). Wax patterns for small pieces are usually cast solid. After the wax pattern is removed from the mold, it is chased (correcting in'Iperfections in the wax form) and dissected into pieces to aid in the casting process. This can take a week or more to complete.


4. Wax sprues, gates and risers are added to the wax pattern. They direct the way in which the wax evacuates or leaves the invested pattern and metal enters or fills the ceramic shell, and are crucial in controlling shrinkage of the sculpture as the metal cools.


5. After the wax pattern has been sprued, it is then chemically cleaned and invested (invested means creating a secondary waste mold around the wax). The waste mold consists of a "dip and stucco" technique using a silica slurry with stuccoed layers of imported sand. The result is a fireproof ceramic shell surrounding the pattern and the sprues, gates and risers. One layer of slurry is applied each day for at least eight days.


6. Burnout involves removing the wax pattern from the ceramic shell investment by using heat and pressure. The wax is evacuated when the cerantic shell is flash fired (plunged into an 1800 degree F furnace for 1-112 hours). Hence, the term, "'Lost Wax" .

7. Inspection of the evacuated shell takes place after it has cooled. The shell is vacuumed to remove carbon ash and patched if any cracks were created during burnout.


8. The pour involves melting the bronze in a silicon carbide crucible or cup. The molten bronze is then poured at 1950 to 2150 degrees F into the shells, which have been preheated to approximately 500 degrees F (preheating the shells reduces the chance of flashing and metal shrinkage).


9 The finish work involves:

(a) Knockout, or removal of investtnent;

(b) Degating, or removal of the sprues and gates;

(c) Welding and refabrication of the sculpture;

(d) Chasing the sculpture or fixing any casting flaws;

(e) Cleaning or sandblasting the sculpture;

(I) Patina work or aging, coloring and sealing the metal;

(g) Mounting the sculpture or making the base and fastening the sculpture to it.


Smaller sculptures can be cast in one piece, whereas larger or complex sculptures must be cast in many sections and refabricated. "Temple," an 80% life sculpture (pictured), was cast in seven pieces.


Turn around time is usually four to eight weeks (without mold work), depending on the scope of the project and the work load of the shop.


Costs are hard to generalize, but a 9" solid standing figures runs around $120, whereas a life-sized fignre is in the range of $4,000 to $6,000 without mold work. Costs can be cut dramatically with the artists participating in the labor.


Bronze offers an artist an expanded arena to express hislber vision. I am conducting a continuing series of workshops (see the paid advertisement in this newsletter) to introduce the fundamentals of reproducing sculpture. The artist can enter at any phase of the workshops to gain experience in a particular area of interest. The workshops are intensive, but give the artist a practical fundamental base on which to build.



If you have any questions concerning the current workshops or future workshops you would like to see, please contact me directly at: PO Box 777, Sultan, WA 98294; (360) 793-0783. If you need information about having your pieces cast, please contact: Todd Pettelle, clo NW Artworks, PO Box 658, Sultan, WA 98294; (360) 793-2412.



I would like to thank Bill Laprade and Sculpture Northwest for giving me the opportunity to contribute my perspective on this wonderful, though often misunderstood, medium. 1'd also like to express the privilege I feel to be a part of this exceptional organization. Welcome back, Bill.

Stone Corner - Sandstone Jan/Feb 1997

Sandstone has been a reliable utility stone throughout the centuries. Many cities, both ancient and modem, take advantage of its fine qualities. It is easy to quarry, found throughout the world, is relatively easy to shape and carve, and resists erosion in most climates. While it is limited in colors, it is commonly uniform, compared to other stones, and therefore provides the architect with a useful building stone.



In very basic terms, sandstone is a sedimentary rock that is nothing more than cemented sand grains. If the grain size gets too large, the rock is a conglomerate; if the grains are too fme, the rock is a claystone, shale, slate or argillite. There are several types of sandstone: arkose, arenite, graywacke, orthoquartzite and protoquartzite. The classification depends on the kind of cementing agent and the percentage of quartz and feldspar sand particles. The chief types of cementation include silica (quartz, opal and chalcedony), calcite, dolomite, clay and limonite. The cementing agent can either be deposited at the same time as the sand particles or at a later date.


The sand grains themselves can be derived from any other existing rocks that are nearby, and they may be any shape, although they are commonly rounded to subrounded owing to the collisions with other particles during transportation. They may have accumulated in ancient sand dunes, on river bottoms, in the shallow portion or deltas of fresh water lakes or in a shallow marine environment. Very slowly over millions of years, the deposits of sand are compacted by overlying rock strata. The pressure and the cement cause the rock to gain strength. As a general rule, the older the rock, the higher the strength.


Because sandstone is deposited in environments where organisms live, fossils are common. For similar reasons, concretions, hard nodes with interesting shapes, are also found in sandstone. The concretions themselves are sometimes mined and their interesting shapes are objets d'art.


As a sedimentary rock, it is deposited in layers, and is commonly interbedded with shale, limestone and coal. Where the four repeat in sequences, they are called cyclothems. Where higher depositional energy is involved, the gravel or cobbles change the rock designation to conglomerate.


As a rock (as compared to a mineral), sandstone does not have a designated hardness. Its hardness ranges considerably because of the wide range of cementing agents and degrees of weathering. Caveats aside, sandstone probably ranges from 3 to 6 in hardness. There are, of course, softer sandstones; however, they would probably not hold any sculptural detail and would spall badly in the elements. The hardness of sandstone is nonnally expressed in terms of its unconfmed compressive strength; the strength obtained by compressing a cylindrical piece of the stone to its breaking point. Unconfmed compressive strengths of stone suitable for buildings and sculpture are between 5,000 and 30,000 pounds per square inch (psi). Wilkeson Sandstone is reported to be one of the strongest sandstones in the world. Sandstone weighs between 136 and 166 pounds per cubic foot.


Sandstone is most commonly brown or gray; however, white, yellow, green and red exist. Can you guess what rock type are the "brownstones" of eastern U.S. cities? Some sandstone has layers or streaks of red iron oxide, which may make it attractive for sculpture, but not desirable as a building stone.


Its most common uses worldwide are in buildings, curbstones, bridge abutments and retaining

walls, because sandstone can be quarried relatively easily to very close tolerances. It can be pulverized into sand particles to use as sandblasting material or foundry sand. The hardest sandstones have been used as grindstones and sharpening stones.



Sandstone is extracted in large open pit surface mines, generally from large faces of exposed rock. Because of its stratification, it naturally divides in one dimension. The somewhat horizontal bedding provides a convenient plane on wbich the rock breaks. Planes of weakness in the other two planes commonly develop during compression or tension of the earth's crust. However, these planes of weakness may not be the correct size for building or sculptural stone. Therefore, cutting, drilling and light blasting are sometimes required to remove the stone.


In Washington State, Wilkeson, Tenino and Chuckanut sandstones have all been removed by cutting channels or slots in the rock and then drilling a row of holes aloug the bottom of the channeled rock. A row of drill holes across the back of the channeled section also separates the stone from the mountain. The width of the channels can be varied to render different thickness of slabs or blocks. Feathers and wedges can be used to bring the stones closer to the desired size. Tbe need for carbide or diamonds for the drills is governed by the strength of the cementing mineral.


The rectangular blocks of stone are then milled by gang saws and planers to a predetennined size that closely fits the fmal carved stone. Carvers of architectural stone use a multitude of models to copy.


Working Sandstone

Sandstone is chosen commonly for its uniformity of color and grain size. A unifonn block is essential for a good sculptural stone. Some of the most common flaws in sandstone that are unique to that stone are coal seams, fossils and concretions. In addition to being unsightly, the coal seams are weak and can cause the piece to split. Fossils can either be harder thau the stone or much softer; if softer, they can fall or spall out leaving a hole in the finished piece. Concretions are hard nodes within a softer rock that fonn around a small nuclear particle and bonded with a harder cement, commonly iron oxide. As with many rocks, small seemingly undetected fractures in the stone can result in the splitting of the stone after it has been worked for some time.


Sandstone can be roughed out with a diamond or carbide skill saw. A point can be used to take the shape within about l/2-inch of tbe final shape. Shaping is then accomplished with a toothed chisel, flat chisel and a cape chisel, a narrower version of a flat chisel. A "bull-nose" chisel is used to create concave surfaces. Sandstone carvers have traditionally used wooden mallets instead of iron or steel. The wooden mallets are strong enough to work sandstone and yet they reduce the noise and seem to absorb much of the energy before it reaches the hand and arm.


Smoothing of sandstone can be perfonned witb different implements, depending on the desired final effect. Initially, a carbide scraper or rasp is used, and then final polishing can be done with another piece of sandstone or with a diamond file. The latter is definitely recommended when working with Wilkeson Sandstone.


Sandstone can be either an indoor or outdoor stone, the main differentiating factor being porosity. If the stone has a high porosity, such that water can fill the voids, it is likely better indoors. Left outdoors, moisture and freeze-thaw would soon soften the surface of the sandstone and ruin any details. Look at a piece of sandstone on a building sometime and note the occasional scallop out of the stone facade. Many of the older buildings of Europe require restoration after a century or two. The most effective deterrent is periodic cleaning of the stone.


And remember! Keep your goggles and mask on. The dust is very fine grained and more than likely contains silica. Silicosis can be debilitating and even fatal.



Thanks to stone carver Keith Phillips of Tenino, Washington for sharing his knowledge and expertise of sandstone with us. Keith's enthusiasm for the history of quarrying and carving of sandstone are an inspiration to all who meet him.

Grin and Barite - Nov/Dec 1999

Barite is a horrible name for selling stone. It has no cachet whatever. If anything, the name has the ring of something you don't want even close. It sounds radioactive. Before now, no one has even suggested using barite as a carving stone.


Here is some information on a new stone for the sculptor. Barite, mined worldwide, has many industrial applications. Barium-the element derived from barite, the mineral-is used in the manufacture of glass and paint and is used as "drillers' mud" at oil rigs. It is used medically. In diagnostic enemas, doctors don't hesitate to put it memorably close to patients. Unless you drop the heavy stuff on your toe, barite is no more harmful that most any other rock. When I inquired with OSHA, I was told it could be considered benign. It is not radioactive. Too bad barite sounds like something that could light your bones green. Terrible name. There has to be something better, a trade name.


Barite is very seldom found pure in nature. It typically comes mixed with other minerals of varying nasty hardness and ugly colors. This explains its lack of history as a sculpting media. Different, the barite from Prince of Wales Island is virtually pure as found. A report of chemical analysis conducted for past property owners by a private metallurgical Jab describes the barite as "a finely crystalline white rock containing no visible impurities." Alaskan Barite is typically Ivory Soap white but has occasional blue-grey, lavendar, and gold tones. For so dense a mineral, it is surprisingly translucent. With a hardness similar to that of alabaster, it carves easily with hand tools. It comes from a deposit far too small and remote for commercial barium production.


How about calling it "Alaska Heavy Stone?" The name "barite" comes from the ancient Greek word for heavy. Its weight is perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic. Barite is 4.5 times heavier than water. By comparison, calcite, the main component of marble, is 2.7 heavier. When you place a sculpted piece of barite on the table, it wants to stay put. I used it as a ballast in my boat before I could afford pigs of lead. Because of its great relative weight, barite might make excellent base material for sculpture of other materials.


It has been hard to get people to try it. Janet Willing was the first to take the chance. A few unwillings have tried it, usually convinced only after great brow beating on my part. 1 asked Nicky Oberholtzer to write her appraisal.


Barite is a very pleasing stone to carve. It responds well to the die grinder and the angle grinder. For beginners, who are using hand tools, it is ver)' easily worked. Caution should be exercised when using chisels as the stone is fairly brittle and more may come off than you planned. For those who hate sanding and polishing, the stone is a welcome surprise because it takes less effort to sand than most and the results are immediate. It takes an incredible shine without much effort und is silky smooth to the touch by the time you have finished with 220 grit.


Nicky is now recommending barite to her students. But. what to call it? How about: "Alaskan Wonder Stone?" No, that one gets a finger down the throat.


l once had on the boat a young intern geologist with the USGS. From Texas, he identified the mineral "BAY-rite." For the rest of our trip his veteran colleagues dubbed him "the BAY-rite kid."


Alaskan barite comes from the tip of a penn insula that protrudes into a very open area of ocean. Like most beach cobbles (note the barnacles) the stone can only be gathered when the seas are at their calmest. The location might be accessible only thirty days a year. Typically, I anchor my bigger boat in a protected cover about a mile away and go to the barite site in my skiff. If you happen to be there at a very low tide, you can also gather abalone and rock scallops. That happened once.


My first two attempts to collect there this year were unsuccessful. Twice I believed a favorable weather report. Twice I was foiled by the seas-the waves pounding on the exposed beach would have pooped the skiff at the landing or swamped it at sea had I dared a heavy load. The location is seven hours by boat, one way, from my home port of Craig. A lot of time and diesel were burnt for naught.


"Bear-ite" might work. Think of the possibilities if I could get the native population here to use it, instead of soapstone, to carve polar bears. In spite of barite's near perfect color, all my attempts in this direction have failed. I've heard a similar story of a Canadian sculptor who failed to get Eskimos to work a beautiful white marble in their back yard.


I did not use the Hyak on my third attempt. A couple of fishermen, who live on a boat moored near mine, offered the hire of their backs and their boat to gather stone. Better than my boat for the chore, theirs had a large fish hold and a boom that could be used to swing aboard tone delivered by skiff from the shore. The trip took longer than expected. By the time we got to the location, the tide had already covered most of the barite on the beach. The tide was not going to be low enough again to gather stone until around mid-night. We anchored and discussed possibilities. It was either gather stone in the dark of night with a flashlight or wait until around noon the next day. They said they had to be back in town and offloaded before a pending commercial fishing opening. We set the alarm for eleven p.m. and crawled into our bunks for the couple hour wait for low tide.


The tide was still dropping when we got to the beach. It was necessary for one of the fishermen, wearing chest waders, to remain standing in the surf to hold the skiff-it had to be kept in water shallow enough to be loaded but also deep enough for it to not "high center" on one of the random boulders of the intertidal zone. The other fisherman and I carried barite cobbles in the dark, holding little plastic flashlights between our teeth. We carried the stones, one or several at a time, out into the water to the tops (sometimes over the tops) of our rubber boots. The man in the chest waders, splashing phosphorescence, relayed the arm loads of stone to the side of the skiff, where he placed them over the gunwale.


"BARITE." It's a lousy namefor a finecarving stone. but, I'll just have to accept it. Grin and barite. '"