via CFMS Show
Paso Robles, Calfornia June 24, 2001
From The Rock & Hammer, February 2000
(1st Place, 2001 CFMS Adult Article Contest)
Lavic Landing, California is where I became a dedicated rockhound many years ago. I had lived in the Mojave desert in Lucerne Valley, Barstow, and Newberry Springs for half a decade. I've had an interest in treasure hunting and exploring historical sites for as long as I can remember.
On one of my photographic expeditions to El Dorado Canyon, Nevada I camped on a hill overlooking the Colorado River. The canyon was deserted except for the occupied Ranger Station. Thinking I had it all to myself, I was dismayed when a huge motor home pulled up and squeezed in next to my campsite. I like to keep things simple when I'm traveling in the desert. I usually have a hole lined with rocks, to heat up a pan of canned beans and corn. My "neighbors," having vastly greater resources, began preparing a gourmet meal. I think they took pity on me because the man came over, introduced himself. Claude, he said in a heavy French accent. We talked and he invited me to dinner. Claude was a retired officer of the French underground resistance forces during WW2. Claude's wife, Marie was a schoolteacher, a brilliant conversationalist, and a superb cook with the simplest of ingredients.
The next day Claude and Marie proudly displayed the rocks they had collected in America...some rather plain and others quite attractive. They called it "rock hounding." (I had lived in the desert for quite a while by that time ... and had seen my share of rocks lying around ...but never had the slightest interest in carrying one home with me!) Before parting they asked for my address to look me up if they were ever out my way on vacation. (Of course I never expected to hear from them again.)
A year later I was laid off my job, living out in the desert twenty miles East of Barstow with no prospects for employment, (I barely scraped by on my unemployment check) and both of my vehicles inoperative. I was out of money, and just about out of luck when a motor home came roaring down the dirt road toward my little house. It slid to a stop in a cloud of dust. Out stepped Claude and Marie..."Votre chateau! C'est tres bien!" I knew just enough high school French to understand that they liked my house.
That evening I showed them around. Being very direct people they inquired "What do you have to eat?" I was just about down to the bottom of the barrel, with only a few canned items on the shelf, and my next unemployment check off somewhere in the distance, certainly not equipped to entertain guests. Claude said "Een France, during ze var, I learn to eemprovise!" Before sunrise the next morning he borrowed my .22 rifle, some tape, old rags, and a piece of nylon rope. He lay among the creosote bushes next to the landlord's pond and waited. I heard a soft "pop" and a few minutes later. Claude had a plump Mallard for Marie. With the most basic ingredients Marie prepared that duck in a manner which would have made any French restaurant proud.
The next day my guests inquired about where they might find some interesting rocks. I knew nothing of this myself, but I had a 1950's newspaper article which was given to me by Betty Ryker. The article described (in glowing terms) several sites in the general area which would be of interest to amateur geologists. There was the Amboy Cinder Cone with Apache Tears, the agate near Pisgah Crater, some jasper near Hector, and something called "Rainbow Jasper" near a spot called "Lavic Landing." The latter item seemed to capture their interest. The directions were written before Highway 40 existed, so we got on National Trails Highway at Ludlow traveling East, and turned right when it went to the left, crossed over the railroad tracks and kept to the right on the dirt road for about 1.8 miles until we came to the bottom of a hill.
It had been raining, and there was a fairly dense fog the desert sun soon burned off. We stepped out of the vehicle, walked to the right and found that almost every wet rock glowed with bands of different colors. It was like walking through an outdoor jewelry store! Not being very selective, I filled a burlap sack with so much jasper that I could barely carry it back to the motor home. I can't ever remember being more excited. It was like we had discovered a diamond mine. I guarded those rocks like they were precious jewels.
In later years I attended Rockhound Geology a class at Mojave Community College in Bullhead City, Arizona. Professor Glen took us on many interesting geological field trips in the surrounding area. I made new contacts, and soon I had a stack of hand-drawn maps to many of my favorite sites. I have shared these with many others to introduce them to rock hounding. It's not just a hobby. It's an adventure and a way of life.
Jackie and Bob Cerrato
From Petroglyphs, October 2000
(2nd Place, 2001 CFMS Adult Article Contest)
The Cerratos are two very involved club members. They have been overseeing lapidary for the past three years. They keep it well supplied, keep the machines running and are always very willing to assist members. "It's something the club needs to offer ..we have machines and it gives you a start," says Jackie. They have extended the lapidary hours with an interest towards promoting socialization among members and also have arranged classes on rock- related arts to encourage a sharing of talents and skills among members. Over the past year there have been evenings focused upon soapstone carving, beadwork, wirewrapping and rock painting. Members are invited to stop by for a social visit regardless of whether they have a piece on which to work. If someone doesn't bring their own project they can help with preparing items for the County Fair and Gemboree. There is always a group attending to these tasks . More and more people are stopping by on Tuesday evenings because of the Cerratos' broadening of the program.
Jackie is the artisan of the couple while Bob, who has served as Rockman for several years, stores the rock donations, prepares slabs for lapidary, selects and transports rock samples for monthly raffles and door prizes. Jackie thanks Blanche Kawahawa, a long-time club member, artist and lapidarist, for encouraging her to join the EL Dorado Mineral and Gem Society Six years ago. Jackie claims, "The best part of the club is how fortunate we are to have so many neat and fun people."
The Cerratos go on many field trips. Jackie recalls, "I always liked pretty rocks". Her favorite is mariposite because of its unusual green color and overall variations. Bob's favorite is crystal. While Jackie collects more rocks than she can carry, Bob not only looks for rocks but searches for unusual rusty metals and nails. Jackie uses these items to accent birdhouses. The birdhouses are unique creations. Bob builds from Jackie's design and she decorates them . Now retired from the field of heating and air conditioner construction Bob has always liked building. The Cerratos designed and began construction on their present home while still residing in the San Jose area. Although they Settled here approximately 10 years ago, they have continued building additions and remodeling along the way.
"This is an ideal area to belong to a rock club"...reflect the Cerratos, "it's a no-brainer.. Think to yourself, I'm living in the Mother Lode, what kind of club should I join?' These folks are intrigued by rocks. "It's just fascinating how they are formed, especially geodes," says Bob. Involvemerit in the club has heightened their awareness and curiosity regarding rocks in general. "You don't realize what a learning thing it is...it's very interesting and there's a lot to learn," states Jackie.
Within the past six years, Jackie has served as Treasurer twice and is now serving her second term as First Vice President. The Cerratos have always assumed various responsibilities in the club's County Fair commitment and at the annual Gem Shows. Jackie chairs the Hangtown Gemboree 2000 and has worked steadily over the past year for the club's major annual event. "Jackie is very good at organizing and following through," says the man who knows her best.
The Cerratos have raised six children and are very family centered. For the past seven years they have conducted Camp Cousins, a one week camp at their home designed for their sixteen grandchildren now ranging from nineteen to four years of age. They stay in tents, swim and sail on their grandparents' lake in the back of their home, work at many crafts, and write poetry. They always complete a memorable family project. It is something symbolic of the mutual respect and support that is emphasized throughout their week together.
A talented artist, Jackie paints whenever she can do so. She has blue ribbons for soapstone sculpting and photography from both EL Dorado and Amador County Fairs. She is a member of EL Dorado Arts Council, Placerville Arts Association, and the EL Dorado Camera Club. Bob has more athletic outlets and has acquired his share of trophies over the years. He is currently serving as Commissioner for the Placerville Prospectors' Senior Softball League.
It is always a pleasure
to work and or play with the good natured Ccrratos.
From The Rollin' Rock
(3nd Place, 2001 CFMS Adult Article Contest)
Wilbur (Bill) Scott has been a member of the Roseville Rock Rollers since 1969. He joined the club after reading an article in the newspaper about the club. Wilbur has had a love of rocks for most of his life . Ethel Scott joined the club in 1986, however she was active in the club for many years before that. Wilbur was unable to drive after 1974 so Ethel started driving him to the club meetings and participating in club functions. She has consistently worked in the kitchen during the club's yearly gem shows.
Wilbur and Ethel Scott have been married for 56 years. Wilbur was born in Oklahoma and Ethel was born in Colorado. They met as kids when their families moved to California. Ethel later moved to Washington DC and on her return home for a visit, she saw Wilbur once again. They were married soon thereafter. Today they have their three sons as well as nine grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. The sons live in Southern California, Hayward and Newcastle. Every year the family has a reunion in August at the Rocklin Park.
Wilbur is well-known in the club because of the beautiful rock spheres he makes and frequently displays at the gem shows. Wilbur has collected nearly all of the rocks he has used. Each rock sphere takes several weeks to create. He first cuts the material into a square and then he slowly shapes it into a round form. To date. Wilbur has completed well over 100 rock spheres. This is one of his many hobbies. Wilbur worked for the Pacific Fruit Express Railroad doing mechanical work. Unfortunately in 1974 he suffered a stroke and was forced to retire from his occupation. (He worked for both Southern Pacific Railroad and Pacific Fruit Express a total of 39 years by his retirement.) After recovering from his illness, he began making his wonderful rock creations. Also he became a member of Senior Gleaners and has actively participated for the past fifteen years. As you are probably aware, there are several other Roseville Rock Rollers who also help out as Senior Gleaners.
Ethel was employed as a schoolteacher for 27 years. In Roseville she worked at Vernon Street School and Crestmont. She taught first, second and third graders. In 1982 Ethel retired from teaching, however she certainly didn't slow down. Ethel has always been a very high-energy person. Ethel was selected to join Alpha Delta Kappa Beta Eta, an honorary society for teachers. She also joined the California Retired Teachers Association. Both organizations are involved with fund-raising and providing scholarships. Ethel continues to be involved with both today. Additionally, reading remains a passion for Ethel.
The Scotts have also traveled extensively throughout the United States including Alaska, the East Coast and all of the major national parks. Along the way they have always picked up interesting rocks, and Wilbur continues to make his spheres!
Submitted by Karla Shannon
From Petroglyphs, October 2000
(4th Place CFMS 2001 Adult Article Contest)
Give up? It takes 10! 1 to use the sledge, 1 to hold the chisel, and 8 to give advice!
On Saturday, September 26, the Paradise Gem & Mineral Club hosted a field trip for us to one of their favorite sites for collecting ...the rhodonite location near Yankee Hill, CA. We met with John Nees, field trip leader of the Paradise Club, met other Paradise club members Bob and Rae, and were shown what we were going to look for, how it was found and how it looked as finished lapidary pieces. To say the least, we couldn't wait to get started. We stopped at the last flush facility before wilderness (a must for us spoiled by civilization) and then headed up, then down, then up, then around on a dirt road to somewhere. It was a pretty good road for the first few miles, fording the stream was fun and it was lovely country. Typical Sierra hills of red clay, oaks, white pine, poison oak and rocks. We were told the last mile would be the most difficult and needed high clearance John didn't exaggerate about that at all!
We rocked and rolled, bucked and bumped for the last mile (it seemed MUCH longer!) and decided that we would have to replace the road at Meadowlakes lower on our horror road list. Garnet Hill still kept top honors. We parked at the site and hiked up the hill (why is it ALWAYS up?)about a 100 yards and were shown the ROCK that had been waiting for us!
To make along story short, it took three men with sledge hammers and chisels, three hours or so to break loose that boulder and break it up enough to remove.
I really admire the perseverance and willingness to get down and dirty that everyone demonstrated.
Jim Mcfarlane and Bob worked on a site above us and of come nice material out and Susan Ott, Elaine Mcfarlane and I gave lots of great advice. We are EXTREMELY well qualified for that. My sister-in-law, Pat, was along with us and tried a hand at the sledge, She came away with a healthy respect for the muscle and effort needed to use it.
We all ended up with some wonderful specimens, the Paradise Club got a very nice piece to put in their Butte County museum as a sample of this attractive mineral, and we have lots of material to turn into lovely jewelry. We also had lots of laughs and a great time... always one of the pluses for me. We left weary but content with our finds.
When we Stopped at the bottom of the road, about to go our separate ways home ...we noticed that Jim Mcfarlane's truck had been the real victim of that road. It was quite narrow with lots of brush and trees and Jim's truck is nice and wide with a beautiful paint job. Put that together and you have lots of SCRATCHES.
We thanked John for a wonderful day, and made plans to return the favor of a field trip to the Stifle Claim. It was great fun sharing rock stories (I understand they are similar to fish stories) and learning more about rockhounding from other enthusiasts.
Thanks again, you took us to Paradise!
From American River Currents, October 2000
(5th Place, 2001 CFMS Adult Article Contest)
Part 1 - Casting
Find item to cast, in this case a small toad. Wash in water containing a small amount of ammonia and dry.
Use 'Super Sculpy' to make a 1/4 to 1/2 inch base on toad for sprue.
Using window glass, cut the bottom and sides to a glass box about 1 inch larger on all sides and deeper than toad. Clean glass. Tape together and add 'Super Sculpy' to edge and base joints to prevent leakage.
Stick toad on base inside box, being careful to center in the box and seal the 'Super Sculpy' to the bottom glass.
Fill box with water to a depth of about 1/2 inch, above the toad, then pour it into a measuring cup. This volume is the amount of mold making material you will need. Dry the inside of the glass mold, being careful not to displace the item being molded. Spray the inside of the box with a light coating of PAM to make the mold release easier from the glass box. The "Super Sculpy' and stone toad came out easily without mold release.
Measure the two parts of the molding material, in this case RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) silicone, on a scale in the proportion required by the directions. Mix until the color is uniform. Pour carefully and slowly into the corner of the mold to reduce the chance of air bubbles. Running a drill press for about an hour on the same workbench will vibrate out any bubbles. Allow to cure for 24 hours.
Unmold by removing the tape and peeling each side of glass away, then the bottom sheet. Remove all the 'Super Sculpy'; this can be reused as long as it doesn't get too contaminated. Wash off any remaining PAM.
As long as the item doesn't have too many inside curves, it should come out easily. The toad dropped right out.
Slowly melt the casting wax (melting point about 180 degrees F; I used a small crock-pot). Pour it into the empty mold, filling to the top of the mold. Allow to cool for 6 to 12 hours, then unmold. Repeat as many times as you have wax available or how many copies you need.
Smooth out any rough places on the wax castings. Using warm wax, make a ring around the bottom of the wax casting to stick it to a container (I like to use the disposable 'Glad' containers) at least 1 inch larger and deeper than the wax copy. Stick the wax cast in the container, sealing the bottom, and spray with PAM.
Mix equal parts silica flour and Hydrocal White (a type of plaster) with enough water to make liquid plaster about the consistency of thick pancake batter. Mix until smooth, then pour slowly into the comer of the prepared container. Tap the container gently to dislodge any bubbles, then let dry. The plaster will heat as it cures, then cool down. Once it is cool, remove it from the container.
Place in a cold kiln wax side down over a shallow pan containing water. Support the edges of the mold on a cooling rack (like those used for cookies) across the pan to keep the plaster from getting wet. Slowly heat the kiln to 350 degrees F and hold for two hours to melt out the wax. Remove the pan, turn the mold over and heat the kiln to 1,100 degrees to burn out the remaining wax.
Once the wax is gone, fill the cooled mold with ground glass (frit), mounding the glass at least '/2 inch above the opening.
Wrap a piece of copper wire around the plaster mold to hold it together in case the mold cracks during firing. Fire the piece to 1,550 degrees F and hold for three hours. Check to see if the molten glass level fills the entire mold; if not, fill with more frit and heat at 1,550 degrees for an additional hour. Cool naturally to 1200 degrees, then turn each piece over so the opening is down. Cool slowly to 950 degrees to anneal. Annealing time will depend upon the depth of the casting (one hour per 1/8 inch depth). Allow to slow cool to 100 degrees before removing from the kiln.
Allow the piece to rest for at least a day outside the kiln to complete the cooling. Cut any excess glass from the bottom of the piece and polish if desired.
From American River Currents, June 2000
(6th Place, 2001 CFMS Adult Article Contest)
I have been to the Spencer Opal Mine about seven times and learned to make opal triplets from Doyle and Claudia at their shop.
To reach the mine you would first get on board their converted school bus and be driven up the mountain to the mine. Other times I've bummed a ride with people having 4-wheel drive vehicles. When my orange van was a "stick shift" I was able to drive it up the steep mountain. Fond memories!
The opal at the mine is in rhyolite and is volcanic in formation. It is mainly in bands from a thickness of a hair to 1/16 of an inch. Dynamite was used to blast selected areas of rock to expose opal areas for hard rock mining. The public was not permitted on the mountain at those times. When fee digging was permitted you had your choice of hard rock mining or going through the dumps for the opal. I've tried both, but the latter was certainly less strenuous. I haven't been there in over 5 years so I don't know what their digging procedure is now.
Triplets are composed of a quartz cap over a band of opal which is backed by basanite. To make triplets you need a combination machine that has a saw and a flat lap. I use a .025 blade to cut away the excess rock. Add Crystallite or Water Aid to your water. Do not use oill Slice parallel to the fire band, about 1/4-inch away from the band. On multibands choose the brightest and most promising. You can use a .012 blade for splitting the bands if they are far enough apart.
Using a diamond 180 grit flat lap, grind the edges of the opal at an angle to expose the fire. That helps you to determine if your cut was parallel to the band.
Now grind it flat into the fire band. Let up on the pressure for a bit at the end to reduce scratching. Then move to a 600 grit diamond flat lap and continue lapping until you are about half way into the layer of fire. The 600 diamond smooths out the scratches the 180 diamond put into it.
Next, clean the opal, wiping off the excess water, and then clean with either denatured alcohol or acetone. Be sure to keep oily fingerprints off the opal.
Apply fracture sealer (Opticon Resin 224, made by Hughes Associates) using a toothpick. Heat the sealer using a light with a 75W bulb (no larger) placed about 2 inches above the stone for 30 minutes (no more). I place the stone on a wire mesh screen suspended on wooden blocks. The heat expands the pores of the opal and thins the fracture sealer.
Allow the stone to cool. Wipe off excess sealer with a clean rag. Do not clean the sealer off with acetone! A thin layer should remain on the opal.
Prior to starting this project, obtain a 1/16-inch slab of basalt or basanite for backing the triplet. It should have been soaked in acetone at least overnight to get the oil out of it. Oil, including skin oil, is the biggest enemy of the triplet. Wipe the basanite with clean acetone.
Put two-part 330 Epoxy on a business card, mixing slowly together using a toothpick. Roll it forward and backward slowly under a 75W light. Get the air bubbles out with the toothpick. Put the warm epoxy on the stone. Pick off any more air bubbles you see on the stone, looking at it with an Oplivisor. Glue the stone to the basanite, pushing down and wiggling it to get out the last of the air bubbles. Set it aside and leave it alone for 24 hours.
The next day you should saw as close to the other side of the fire band as you can. Beginners should cut 1/4-inch away from the band. Using the 180 grit diamond flat lap, grind the edges at an angle to expose the fire. Then grind the center down part way into the fire band. Using the 600 grit diamond flat lap, grind out the scratches until the opal band is about the thickness of two sheets of newspaper.
When you have decided where to put the quartz caps, clean the stone and quartz caps with acetone or denatured alcohol. Apply fracture sealer as before, but don't heat under the lamp longer than 20 minutes. Cool the stone and then wipe off the excess fracture sealer.
Mix the epoxy and coat the stone as previously described. Pick off the air bubbles. Drop the caps straight down onto the stone and press firmly on top of the caps. If there are any bubbles they will look like bright silver spots. If so, remove the cap, apply a little more epoxy, and check for bubbles and apply the cap again. Dry for 24 hours.
Remove the excess dry epoxy that has squished around the edges of the cap. I use a small-blade pocket knife. This must be done to avoid grinding the cap wrong. Dop the stone on top of the cap. I use a nail and one drop of 330 epoxy. Or use green dop wax.
Hold the stone at an angle of about 15 to 20 degrees to the lap. This will allow you to undercut the backing at a slight angle and will keep you from touching the quartz cap to the grinding wheel. Flat grind the backing to a thickness of a little less than 1/16-inch. Snap off the nail from the triplet. Mount your priceless stone!
Someone asked where to get quartz caps. bought mine from the people at Spencer. Alpha Supply, Inc, Bremerton, WA 98310 shows them in their catalog on page 19. I'll bring a copy of the page to the next ARGMS meeting.
Permission is granted to reprint this article with proper recognition to the author and original publication.
Note: A special thank you to Marge Lucy who gave a program on opal triplets at the April ARGMS meeting and, when asked, graciously agreed to write an article for the newsletter.