Craftsman of the Month
Cover of Rock&Gem V1N1 March-April 1971

Colleen Butler - August 1999 - Slab Clocks

The Craftsman of the month for August, yet again, is another woman. Let's see a grassroots campaign, dear readers, for this column to be called Artisan of the Month from now on! Her name is Colleen Butler and she hails from Fair Oaks, California. Study the pictures before proceeding to read her write-up of this slab clock, which follows.

"The best part of making a slab clock is finding just the right rock. Slicing, polishing and etching it are also quite a pleasant adventure. The darker the rock the better, because the sandblasted details will be easier to see because they'll have greater contrast with the rock. The more pronounced the contrast between the rock and the etchings, the more aesthetic the clock will be. So take your time in finding a 6- to 8-inch rock that is dark and without fissures.'

"The rock slab should be about 1/4-inch thick. When the rock has been polished, use a 1/4-inch mason bit to drill the slab where you will want the clock mechanism to poke through from behind. I usually put the clock in the center of the slab and do the etching around the edges."

"Then I spray adhesive over the rock's face, apply a layer of buttercut and draw my design right on the buttercut. Found at any stained-glass store, buttercut is a thick rubber sheet, that, when cut as a stencil, can be sandblasted. "Using a sharp X-acto(TM) knife, I then cut out the areas of my design that I want to be etched on the slab."

"My designs are usually derived from primitive rock paintings from all over the world. However, you could use any variety of ideas, such as flowers, butterflies or geometric designs.

"When the stencil has been cut out, I sandblast the rock. For this I use silica beads or very fine sand. Then I peel off the buttercut and clean off the spray adhesive with paint thinner After that, I install my clock. I purchased mine at a local lapidary shop, where I was pleasantly surprised to find that clock mechanisms are quite inexpensive."

"I think the finished product is quite striking and unique."


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