The carving of gemstones is an art that dates back for several generations. However, there are many would be carvers in the present day who are not aware of the intricacies of the process. Thanks to this helpful guide, those who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of shaping gemstones with a Dremel tool will receive all the help that they need.
Now that technological advances have been made and there are new tools used to carry out these tasks, shaping gemstones has never been simpler. The process is easy, even when the designs are considered to be complex. The following steps must be taken, so that the gemstone is carved with the correct level of accuracy.
It all starts with the proper preparation and keen study of each material’s properties. Carvers must be willing to take their time in this regard. That’s why the Dremel tool is so crucial. It will maximize the accuracy of the design, in addition to the carver’s level of precision.
Those who learn the intricacies of the Dremel will experience a greater level of success than those who are still relying on a chisel and a hammer. While the hammer and chisel based techniques may provide similar results, the process is going to take much longer to complete.
To find out more about the steps that need to be taken to shape gemstones with a Dremel tool, be sure to read on….
Step 1: Collection of Tools and Materials
The Dremel comes with a wide range of different diamond tips. Make sure to use the tips that best align with the task at hand. These tips are a part of the packaging for the Dremel and if they are not included, this is a sign that the carver needs to head back to the drawing board. Find the best Dremel at different price ranges here in this post, where I review several different dremel tools.
Once the Dremel and the tips have been prepared, it is time to get the work station ready. A small tower and a glass of water are going to be needed. A workbench is required and all carvers are required to keep their eyes protected. Safety glasses are an absolute must and this is non negotiable.
Step 2: Preparing The Working Area
The working area is going to play a major role in the success of any gemstone carving project. We must place ourselves in a position to succeed. Since this is a form of manual labor, we must take the time to prepare. Body posture is everything. Any work space that causes us to crouch or bend ourselves into uncomfortable positions should not be used.
The workbench should be set up in a way that encourages lots and lots of legroom. No twisting should be taking place. The bench needs to be positioned in a way that allows the carver to move around the gemstone with relative ease. Every material that is going to be used must be close by.
This allows the carver to avoid any confusion. Confusion causes carvers to make questionable decisions that will cause issues during the latter steps of the process. Concentration cannot and should not be disrupted. The safety glasses need to be worn during all steps as well. This keeps debris from having a chance to reach the carver’s face or their eyes.
Step 3: Examining The Stones
The stone (or stones) that are going to be carved have to be examined once the work station is prepared. Run your fingers along the gemstone. This is how the grain is determined. A carver should always be cutting with the grain, as opposed to going against it. The grain will typically run along the gemstone and this serves as a natural guide.
Meanwhile, those who elect to cut across the different grains of the gemstone are placing themselves in a very difficult position. This style of cutting leads to more cracks and splits. Take the time to examine each and every piece. Each gemstone comes with its own unique patterns. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that every gemstone is one and the same.
Step 4: Preparing To Carve
For best results, you should be creating an outline or a sketch of the intended design. This gives you a helpful guide to use during the carving process. This is not a step of the process that can be skipped and getting the results that you are after is all about taking these necessary steps.
The accuracy of the final product is all about the steps that are taken beforehand. An outline is essential. Don’t rush to craft a design. Otherwise, you will risk breaking the gemstone. The Dremel tool preserves your level of accuracy but you must be willing to work smarter, not harder.
For starters, do not work too quickly when you are in the preparation process. Carve the gemstone piece by piece. This keeps breakage from happening.
Step 5: Use The Proper Carving Techniques
The carving of the gemstone is deceptively simple. There are a wide range of carvers who will work rapidly but this is not the best technique. Even those who consider themselves to be intermediate or even expert carvers need to slow down and take their time.
One of the more common mistakes that is made during the carving process has to do with the edges of the gemstone. Carvers often decide to start the process at the edges, due to the fact that it seems like the simplest step to take. On the other hand, this method only serves to increase the risks that are associated with cracking and splitting.
Those who work too quickly are also placing themselves behind the proverbial eight ball. If you are working rapidly, you will have never have the ability to correct mistakes as they occur. Chipping in the wrong direction is an easy mistake to make and the chances are increased when we are working too speedily.
Step 6: Preforming The Stone
Before cutting begins in earnest, it is important for the stone to be preformed. This is when the carver will form the gemstone into a particular shape and it is a step that cannot be skipped for any reason. When the preforming process is taking place, there are a few things that need to be considered.
Colored spots, hard areas and cleavage must be taken into account during this step. The stone also needs to be carved into a shape that is easy to use. The shape of the gemstone might not be totally perfect but this is your chance to get as close as you can.
The glass of water is also going to be used during this step. Cooling the gemstone is important. The shape is not always perfect during this step but the gemstone naturally heats up. The water needs to be close by, so that the carver can avoid cracks and splits that take place when the gemstone starts to heat up.
Step 7: The Importance of Sanding
Sandpaper needs to be obtained for best results and experts recommend the usage of silicon carbide sandpaper. For a faster smoothing process, the sandpaper should also be coarse. Sandpaper that is not coarse will not be as useful. The coarser the sandpaper, the easier it is for the finished product to finally emerge.
The rough spots that are clearly excessive are the ones that should be taken care of first. Once these spots are fully taken care of, it is time to go back to the remainder of the piece and work on the less obvious spots. This method creates a finished product that we can be truly proud of.
Step 8: Further Polishing
The Dremel tool’s lowest grit level should be attached before this step is taken on. Use the Dremel tool to grind the surface down to the acceptable level. This is your chance to work on the rougher edges that you were advised to avoid during the aforementioned steps. Use the Dremel tool at a flatter angle to avoid creating any further imperfections.
Once you have been able to grind away the rougher edges that are more obvious to the naked eye, it is time to switch out the bit. The finer Dremel bits need to be utilized for the additional polishing. The crown facets are trimmed down more easily and the finer bits create a more nuanced finish.
The polishing is not going to take place on the gemstone’s whole. Instead, the carver will want to make sure that they are using the proper bits for the task. A soft cloth and an oxidized solution can also be used in these instances by carvers who are looking to cut the best gemstone possible.
The oxidized solution allows the gemstone to sparkle more than ever before. The imperfections that are still present after the polishing takes place are removed from the equation entirely. The cutting process is not always perfect. Having an oxidized solution and a soft cloth on hand is a great way to remove these imperfections and have your gemstones looking their absolute best.
Are There Any Additional Tips To Consider?
Before we wrap things up here, we are also going to pass along a few additional tips that are designed to make the carving process even easier. Knowing how to properly cut and shape gemstones with a Dremel tool is all about being willing to accept all advice. Let’s take a closer look at the additional tips that need to be considered. These pointers are here to make your life easier when it comes to take on a project of this magnitude.
Change The Dremel Bits Regularly
While we have discussed the importance of this step above, it bears repeating. The same Dremel bits should never be used for each step of the process. The stone is not going to have the same level of hardness all around. That is why the carver needs to take the time to analyze the stone.
This lets us know which Dremel bits should be used for each area of the stone. Every bit is specifically designed to assist carvers with different levels of hardness. Those who allow themselves to lose sight of this fact are placing themselves in a more challenging position. Cracks and splits are far more likely when the carver is not able to swap out Dremel bits as necessary.
Use The Right Marker For Drawing Designs
Some carvers may decide that they would like to draw designs on the actual gemstone, so that they are able to use these markings as a helpful guide. A fine tip marker is the top choice in these instances. The markings can be removed with the usage of rubbing alcohol. The aforementioned oxidized solution is also a great way to remove the markings once carving is complete.
Beware once the markings are completed. Once the Dremel tool is switched on, there is very little room for error. The faster the speed, the deeper the cuts. Take the time to make sure that the markings indicate how deep the cuts should be. Don’t make the mistake of trying to figure this part of the process out on the fly.
The cuts will become too deep and lead to cracking and splitting that cannot be remedied. Drag the tip over the markings as gently as possible. The tip should be dragged in a way that clearly leaves a mark without causing any additional splintering. Don’t stop in one area for an extended period. Use the towel to wipe away the shavings as needed.
Utilizing The Correct Angles
The utilization of the correct angles is one of the reasons why your workbench placement is so crucial. If you are looking to produce the smoothest carvings possible (and who isn’t?), you must carve at a 45 degree angle. If the setup of the workbench or working area does not allow you to carve at a 45 degree angle with minimal difficulty, this is a sign that you need to make changes before beginning in earnest.
Using the tip at a straight angle is almost never recommended. These angles are okay if you are looking to create a rough outline but they are not helpful for the finished product. The desired shapes and shadings are created during the rough outline stages and a larger Dremel tip may be needed in these instances.
Otherwise, a grinding tip is the best bet. Once the outline phase is completed, you will not want to cut the stone too deeply. We would also like to take this time to offer an additional warning about wearing the proper safety gear. Do not ever allow your body to be placed in harm’s way. If your posture is being affected in an adverse manner, this is another sign that your work station is not up to par.
Experiment With Cheaper Stones If Needed
Is this your first gemstone shaping project? If so, you may want to make sure that you are making all the beginners’ mistakes on stones that are not as valuable. Using the Dremel tool on expensive stones without taking the time to learn all of the basics first is not recommended.
Purchase some inexpensive gemstones to start with. This gives the carver a chance to learn, without having to worry about the potential destruction of expensive gemstones. River stones are usually recommended in these instances. They do not require any sort of upfront payment and the carver is able to work all of the kinks out before shaping more precious gemstones.
Pay Close Attention To Detail
Since the Dremel bits offer a wide range of uses, the best carvers are able to use this tool to craft the gemstone of their dreams. Taking your time and paying attention to detail is in your best interests. Otherwise, you risk causing cracks and splits to potentially take place.
Once these cracks and splits occur, there is no coming back from them. Avoiding these types of issues in the first place is key. The cuts that are used for a jade gemstone are not going to be the same cuts that are used for an emerald. Meanwhile, there are no two emeralds that are exactly alike.
This analogy may be a bit overused but when it comes to gemstones, they are much like snowflakes. No two stones will ever be exactly the same. It behooves a carver to take their time and examine every nook and cranny. Some stones might be more durable than others.
A gemstone is usually hard to destroy but that does not mean that it should be treated as if it is indestructible. Creativity and precision must go hand in hand when a gemstone is being shaped. Sit up straight, so that all backaches and neck aches are more easily avoidable.
Not only are most gemstones durable but they are also easy to acquire without placing a major strain on your budget. Projects of this nature are also a great way for various carvers to learn more about the individual characteristics of each stone that they are choosing.
These materials last for a long period of time when the carver is truly careful during the shaping process. Those who work quickly might be able to complete more projects in a shorter period of time. However, the quality of the carving and shaping that is taking place is not always up to the level where it needs to be.
Whether you are looking to craft your own unique jewelry or you are looking to take on a project that is a bit more complex, there is no substitute for the Dremel tool. This tool offers the necessary precision to all those who are seeking additional assistance with a task of this nature. Taking the time to learn as much as possible puts you in a more advantageous position.
Gemstones that have been shaped with the usage of a Dremel tool are always going to maintain their value. Learning how to use a tool of this nature without making the same sort of mistakes that plague so many others is crucial to long term success. You can never go wrong when using the Dremel tool to shape your gemstones. They are the best tool when you are looking to maximize your creativity and ensure total precision. See my recommended Dremel tools for every budget, from low cost to high cost here in this post.