It was mostly overcast with high clouds today with a high of 71 degrees.
Today I began a two day tour of the Congress Street Expo, also appropriately known as the Tent Show. This Show location is a large collection of tents and stalls set back from the strip on the other side of the Rillito river wash. It is heavily populated by dealers of rough and lapidary equipment and tools, and there are some mineral dealers to visit here as well.
My first stop was at the tent of a Tucson dealer of mineral specimens and rough, Intercontinental Minerals, Inc., email@example.com. That's Linda Myers working behind their counter, where she is usually to be found at local shows.
I purchased a very nice Mexican selenite enhydro from Linda at the Tucson Fall Show last year, and she still had some of that material left. They don't show well in this picture, but these pieces have little white arrows cut from tape stuck to them to point out the enhydrous channels. My piece has a channel about an inch and a half long filled with water, sediment and some air bubbles. When you turn it end for end the action is like an hour glass. It's an ultimate executive pacifier. I'm planning to do an MPEG of my specimen at the Shop. These pieces ran from $20 to $40 or so.
This lavender colored chalcedony is from Kirkland, Arizona. It sits upon a May '95 Lapidary Journal page where pieces made from it were shown. This rough fetches $30 per pound.
Linda showed me a tub of water covered black matrix opal from Honduras that was really fiery. The water makes it easier to see and inspect the rough. Other dealers of rough and slabs often provide water in spray bottles as an alternative or sometimes in addition to the tubs. This is a matrix stabilized fire opal which occurs in a soft basalt. The opal is stable but the matrix will become crumbly without a proprietary treatment applied to the rough.
The piece shown at left has a layer of opal running all the way through it perpendicular to the face shown. The piece in the center has a layer running across the face shown. A nice thing about this rough is you can see just how the opal runs through each piece. They had a variety of shapes and sizes of rough pieces including some pretty jumbo sized ones and all of it seemed to exhibit a nice band of the pretty stuff.
The going rate of $60 per ounce this rough commands seems a bargain when you see Linda's beautiful opal heart necklace with a finished stone of this material. I had never imagined myself working with opal, but after playing with this stuff for a while during the process of photographing it, I am considering acquiring some and seeing what I can do with it in an Old Pueblo Lapidary Club class.
There are many small booths and stalls at the Congress Street Expo that don't have much to do with rocks. Here's one of the more utilitarian, staffed by Linda Thomas of L&M Distributing. Days like today with an overcast of high clouds can be pretty deceptive in terms of the UV exposure you're enduring. You can get a burn before you know it, and it's hard on the
eyes too. A pair of good quality UV filtering sunglasses serve you well at Tucson. Linda had 'em with shatterproof polycarbonate lenses starting at $20.
The Rocky Joe's tent at the Expo had dozens of Brazilian amethyst geodes set up outside. The way they stood around suggested a cemetery to me for some reason. Inside their tent were hundreds of smaller amethyst pieces lining three sides of their tent. They were quality graded and priced by the pound. I think the cheapest grade was about $3.50 a pound but in technical grading lingo, these were kind of scrungy. It looked to me like you have to part with at least four or five hundred bucks to get a rather modest sized one of these geodes with respectable quality.
While I was on my way to grab some lunch I encountered this entry level lapidarist and small business owner industriously slabbing some soft rough with a hacksaw. He obtained it in a New Mexico locality that he'd rather not disclose. After he's got some material appropriately slabbed, Dan uses drills, files and sandpaper to work the rock into stone pipes which he sells for $15.00 each. He said it takes him about three hours to make one, most of which is spent on the polishing stage. That sounds familiar. I asked him how business was and he said he wasn't getting rich but he was eating. That also sounds familiar. Dan is from the Silver City area in New Mexico and said he'd been making pipes for 3 or 4 years.
Graves had a tent at the Expo and as I've become desirous of one of their Mark IV Faceting Machines, a stop by and look-see was mandatory. Pictured at left is the object of my heart's desire, which Graves was offering complete with their accessory package including laps, dops, tools and an instructional video as a show special for $895. I did my best to conceal the drool as I took the shot. Although I'm still in my Old Pueblo Lapidary Club class (and probably will be a perennial student) I've reached the point in my faceting that I really, really need one of these machines at home. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself...
The machine pictured in the foreground at center is a Graves Cab-Mate, a handy lapidary work center which combines a saw, grinder, sander and polisher all in one compact machine, no plumbing required. Just the thing for apartment dwellers and closet-case lapidaries. These go for $610 in an all-diamond package which includes a 6" blade, 180 grit diamond wheel, 600 grit diamond disk, polishing pads, diamond compounds, dop sticks and wax. You can also buy one for $450 with a silicon carbide accessory package, but diamond abrasives are where it's at. Behind the Cab-Mate is a Cab-6, Grave's top-of-the-line cabbing unit for the seriously addicted. With a half horse motor and six wheel capacity, that one goes for $1100 with diamond accessories.
Of course you've gotta have a diamond saw for slabbing rough, and Graves has these too. The 6 incher with motor in the foreground at right was offered as a show special at $199. A similar combo rig with a silicon carbide grinding wheel was also on special for $289. Behind them were some smaller saws, including a Dayton 4" Tiny Trim saw for facet rough (and micromounts) on special for $157.25. I guess I really need one of those, too...
Graves showed a nice line up of tumbling machines which spanned the spectrum between entry level and "committed". In front at left is their vibratory 30 lb. capacity VT18 on special for $209.95, behind it the 21 lb. capacity VT12 on special for $199, and behind it the 7 lb. capacity VT6 on special for $79. Furthest down the line was a rotary 3 lb. capacity Lortone model 3A which could be had here during the show for $46.75.
This Rock Rascal Pro combo unit shown at center was on special for $419 looked to me to be well made with a cast metal enclosure. Behind it is a specialized device, a diamond spool polisher. This is basically a motorized phenolic resin spindle that's charged with diamond compounds and used to polish delicate and heat sensitive cabs and stones.
I've been interested in becoming involved in micromounting, but the cost of a decent microscope had always put me off. All that changed in a heartbeat or two when my tour of the Graves tent brought me face to face with an outstanding deal on these GemOro binocular microscopes. This scope provides 10x and 30x magnification, has interpupillary and diopter adjustments, rack and pinion focusing, 4 way light sources with 120V power, dark field illumination, 5 year mechanical and two year electrical warranty. Regularly $495, no way could I pass one of these beauties up for the Graves show special price of $279! One of these microscopes went home with me, and I am very pleased about that. My only regret is that I couldn't afford to snap up a few more at this price to pass on to other micromounter wannabes. I'll be presenting more information on the GemOro in an upcoming product review at the Shop.