Q: Where can I go to collect my own stone for carving or for bases?
A: First, a word of warning. Every bit of stone out there belongs to someone; individuals - companies, state governments, federal governments. I strongly advise determining ownership and getting permission before collecting any material. This can be more difficult than finding the stone itself. With individual landowners and companies it may be as simple as just asking. Most state and federal agencies have permit systems and nominal fees for noncommercial removal of small amounts of stone, although some will allow collecting only from existing or abandoned quarries rather just anywhere on their land holdings. Check with district offices of the U.S Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. In the U.S., staking a mining claim for decorative stone or building stone is not valid.
Every state and province has a geological survey (although it may go by a different name) that publishes geologic maps identifying the rock types in given areas, often specific topographic quadrangles. Many maintain lists of active quarries or can guide you the appropriate regulatory agency that does. Most also have an industrial minerals specialist on staff who will be knowledgeable about decorative or building stone. An index of state geological surveys can be found at www.stategeologists.org Look for geologic maps in areas of your interest and check for reports on building stone. There are few such quarries in operation any longer in either Canada or the U.S., but a century-old report can be useful in locating old quarry sites. It will be helpful to learn basic geological terminology, how to read geologic and topographic maps, and how to use the section, township, and range system of locating land parcels. You won’t find GPS coordinates in a 1914 report.
If such a systematic approach is not to your liking there is always the option of simply exploring beaches, riverbeds, and road cuts.
And now a final word of warning. Most stone quarries produce crushed aggregate for concrete and asphalt. Those uses require hard, tough stone - perhaps not the best choice for carving. The first stage of crushing is usually blasting with explosives to produce maximum shattering. Similarly, road cuts are drilled and blasted. Any pieces left over big enough for carving may contain incipient fractures that will break open during carving, often as you are working on that final delicate bit.