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Turning Stone

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Mike Johnson, Dec 23, 2017.

  1. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    While visiting a museum a few years back I remember looking at some stone vessels
    that were made out of various hard stones like Granite, Diorite and Porphyritic Crystal stone.
    Several of the finer quality pieces had small openings and symmetric wall thickness throughout
    the shape of the vessel. I have turned a couple of pieces of soft stone on the lathe and I am
    struggling with understanding how they did these pieces thousands of years ago.

    egyptian vase.jpg
     
  2. John Torchick

    John Torchick

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    Interesting observation. Probably the same space aliens who built the pyramids, Machu Pichu, and Stonehenge. :p
    I marvel at how crafters built furniture with only hand tools or a lot of tools that were hand made to do a particular task, such as shoulder planes or contour planes. The wife and I like to visit antique shops. Some of the furniture defies one to find the joints in the wood.
     
  3. Lamar Wright

    Lamar Wright

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    Very interesting subject Mike. The Smithsonian in Washington DC has a great collection of Alabaster Vessel pieces that were made in the AD period. Don't know how Egyptians turned it but the pieces are beautiful.
     
  4. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    They had really sharp edges ground on those copper negative rake scrapers. :D
     
  5. john lucas

    john lucas

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    Mike Someone asked Rude Osolnik what you used to turn alabaster. He said, "someone elses lathe".
     
  6. charlie knighton

    charlie knighton

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    modern Indians use a grinder to do the Zuni fetishes.....I imagine a rotery tool would come in handy.....the Ohio region Indians (woodland) carved pipes in many animal motifs.....beautiful stuff
     
  7. Tom Albrecht

    Tom Albrecht

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    This is a great question. I hope someone can shed some light on it for us.
     
  8. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    Most of the modern stone turners use carbide tools for working soft Alabaster pieces.
    The really hard stone usually requires diamond tipped cutters to work the hard material.
    The craftsman back then were certainly masters of working stone!
    Whenever a wood turner complains about hard wood an ancient Sumerian rolls over in his grave. :)
     
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  9. olaf Vogel

    olaf Vogel

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    II've tried alabaster, using my normal scrapers at low speed. Not hard.
    Just need to work slow and put up with tons of soapy dust. But its heavy dust so it doesn't fly around.
    Its a messy job. So keep a shop vac handy.

    I was just creating stone bases for my tall, top heavy pieces. so this was very basic work.
    A vase would be much harder.
     
  10. john lucas

    john lucas

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    I had to cut some slate one day and used my table saw with carbide blade. I thought it would create a fine dust so I put my shop vac right next to the blade along with the dust collector under the blade. I thought I was so smart as I watched the dust being sucked into the dust collector hose. When I got done the whole shop was covered with black dust. apparently the dust was so fine it went right through the dust collector filter and it just blew it back out into the shop. I turned a salt block on a dare once. Never again. Took many hours of cleaning everything that had metal anywhere near the lathe to keep the rust at bay. That and it would not take a finish. Anything I tried just got soaked up like a black hole.
     
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  11. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    :) I did that too, except that it was my own idea when I saw the natural salt rocks at the feed store! :( Horrible clean-up. :eek: Last summer I ended up hosing my 14” bandsaw down in the driveway because I just couldn’t get the salt out of all the nooks and crannies. Live and learn, heh? :cool:
     
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  12. Bob Sheppard

    Bob Sheppard

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    I suspect they weren't turned, but carved in the round. I've turned alabaster, soapstone, and talc, among others. But granite is a whole 'nother material. I can't imagine how it could be turned with the tools they had back then.
     
  13. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    I was reading an article about the more difficult pieces that have been dug up over the years
    in Egypt, one of the articles noted that they were pretty sure that they used a lathe type machine
    to do the work. Several of the pieces showed signs of being remounted between centers inside of
    the vessel.

    Stoneware such as this has not been found from any later era in Egyptian history - it seems that the skills necessary were lost.
    Some delicate vases are made of very brittle stone such as schist (like a flint) and yet are finished, turned and polished, to a flawless paper thin edge - an extraordinary feat of craftsmanship.

    schist vase.jpg
     
  14. Bob Sheppard

    Bob Sheppard

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    I suppose that, since we still really don't know how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids, they could have had techniques on turning granite.
     
  15. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    Civilizations accomplished some pretty amazing works thousands of years ago.
    I ran across several articles written about a 1000 miles of irrigation canals built
    in Botswana Africa thousands of years ago. I had to do the math on this project
    to wrap my head around the size and scope of the project which can be seen from
    viewing the area with Google Earth. The canals are silted in now but when they were
    in use they could have produced enough food to feed 5 billion people a year. The canals
    were 750' wide and approx 40-60 feet deep based on changes in elevation. The earth
    excavated from these canals was close to 10 trillion cubic yards. If a person were able to
    dig 10 cubic yards a day, 7-days a week, it would take today's population of the world 4-years
    to dig the entire earth works. These canals are spaced about a mile apart from each other and
    run for 100's of miles. In today's economy it would cost 10-15 trillion dollars just to excavate the
    earth for this size of project. Not too far away is the Gold and Silver region of South Africa which
    had mining operations in place for 1000's of years. Our history books are missing many chapters.
     
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  16. Bob Sheppard

    Bob Sheppard

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  17. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    Here are several pieces that are over 2000 years old made from Quartz Crystal.
    No-one is able to do this with quartz crystal today. It was the early or Pre-Egyptian
    cultures that were able to do the fine quality stone work, the later Egyptian stone work
    was lacking in ability and quality. Try turning quartz on a lathe. :)
    They have also found drawings of basic lathe type machines dating back to 300 BC. in Egypt.
    I would assume if you were riding around in a chariot you would need to be able to
    make spokes for your chariot wheels. :)

    Crystal Quartz vases.jpg
     
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  18. Perry Hilbert

    Perry Hilbert

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    The Smithsonian also has an interesting display about the history of metal turning. It has some very crude lathes set up.

    I remember reading about a guy that bored a larger shaft hole in a ship's bronze propeller using nothing but a piece of a tree stump and a hand forged cutter. The whole cutting apparatus was turned by a donkey and a boy sat on top the stump brushing oil onto the work and brushing shavings away. we tend to think of things a certain way, ie turning the stone, when in fact, it may have been the cutter that turned around the stationary stone. Or perhaps the stone was abraded against a hard form by using grit and water or oil against a much harder stone form.

    Look at a wood lathe a bit like a pencil sharpener, except that the pencil is turning instead of the grinding knives rotating around the pencil, as in a hand crank sharpener, or the blade turning around the pencil, as in the little rectangular pencil sharpeners.
     
  19. Andy Chen

    Andy Chen

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    Alabaster is very soft, with a hardness of only 2 on the Mohs' scale. You can cut it with any tool. Max Krimmel is arguably the best living alabaster artist, http://www.maxkrimmel.com/Alabaster/MaxGallery/GalleryPages/GalleryFrameset.html.
     
  20. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    There is a video that shows Egyptian stone craftsman hand working alabaster with a brace & bit
    style cutting tool that slips into the opening of the vessel and is turned by hand to grind out the
    interior of the hollow vessel. As the opening is enlarged a large curved cutting tool is inserted into
    the hollow and the void is enlarged step by step with larger arc curved cutting bits. I can understand
    the hand working ability of alabaster which is very soft stone, but when you start working with the
    granite and harder stones they were employing some advanced methods lost to time.
     

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