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What to do with a 3D Printer: Make Lapidary Tools and Accessories

Posted by Alex English on

3D Printing is excellent for supporting all kinds of hobbies and art forms. Check out some of the tools and accessories we came up with for working with rocks and gems!

Rock Slab Display Stand

Slabs of beautiful stone are often displayed on stands commonly made from cut and bent acrylic sheet, or occasionally from bent metal wire. They're not costly or hard to find on the internet, but they're not very customizable either, and may not be locally available in a lot of places.

You can see the evolution of the design through these various prints. This first draft was way too bulky, wasn't an aesthetic shape, and honestly didn't hold the stone very well.

Square 3D Printed stone slab display stand first draft printed in ProtoParadigm Aquamarine Gemstone PLA.

After having a chance to handle this print I decided to go a different route on overall shape, which led to this next draft.

Second draft of 3D Printed stone slab display stand printed in ProtoParadigm Dark Stone Gray ProSpec PLA.

Still a really simple geometry, but looks and feels a little nicer and does a better job of holding the stone. I made a few minor tweaks to the angle of the backstop and some of the relationships between dimensions, and added the cutout at the top for aesthetics, to reduce material usage, and to shift the balance further forward.

Third draft of 3D Printed stone slab display stand printed in ProtoParadigm Clay Red ProSpec PLA.

This version worked very well, but I wanted to push the balance and material savings a little further, which brought me to this next version.

Final version of the 3D Printed stone slab display stand printed in ProtoParadigm Coal Black ProSpec PLA.

There are a lot of directions one could go with a stand, mimicking other stands out there, or coming up with new designs. Of course by printing them you also get to choose the color of the stand, while there aren't many options out there for commercial offerings - generally either clear or black. This one was printed in our coal black.

The design could also be pushed much further in terms of material savings as well, but I wanted to keep the design fairly simple and make sure it would still be an easy print on the majority of printers.

This stand has a good balance and retains the slab quite well. It can of course be adjusted for thicker, taller, or wider slabs and printed to suit the stone at hand. Here it is holding a slab of Amethyst Sage, courtesy of West Coast Mining.

Amethyst Sage slab displayed on 3D Printed stand

Here's a quick-and-dirty time-lapse of the first draft printing on a Printrbot Simple Metal.

Stone Egg and Sphere Display Stand

Stone egg and spheres are collected by many people. To truly show off the collection, and do so safely, a stand of some sort is needed to keep them immobile (and upright, in the case of eggs). Here's a very simple stand that can serve that purpose, printed in our Ruby Gemstone PLA.

3D Printed Egg or Sphere Stands

Stones courtesy of West Coast Mining.

Stone Spheres on 3D Printed Stands

Like the other items in this post, you can download the design files and tweak to your liking by editing the .scad file or customize on Thingiverse using Customizer.

Cabochon Cutting Tools / Accessories

For those unfamiliar, cabochons are stones finished by cutting, then grinding to a particular shape, usually with a domed front and flat reverse, then polished to a smooth finish. They are commonly set into jewelry.

Example Cabochons

Cabochons are formed by roughly shaping a stone, then adhering it to the end of a dowel called a "dop stick" with wax or adhesive for grinding by hand to finish the shape and polish. Here is an example of a stone mounted on a traditional dop stick with wax.

Cabochon mounted on dop stick with wax

Dop Stick Template

Normally the shape for the cabochon is traced onto the stone early in the process. Our idea was to integrate a template for the shape directly into a printed dop stick. The idea here is to wax or glue the stone to the printed template rather than worrying about tracing onto the stone, then using the template as the guide.

3D Printed cabochon template and dop stick

The surface of the template can be configured to have texture, giving the adhesive or wax a better hold. The dimensions and shape (only round and oval so far) can be configured, as can the dimensions of the dop stick itself.

Textured surface on the bottom of the 3D Printed cabochon template

The template can also be printed without the dop stick, in which case it has a socket in which you can insert your own dowel.

Design for cabochon template with socket for dop stick

The files for this template/dop stick are available for download and you can download and edit the .scad file or use the Customizer to set dimensions and otherwise customize it to your needs.

Dop Stick Holder

It's not uncommon for someone making cabochons to have several in progress at a time. Here is a simple dop stick holder to hold and organize dop sticks in the work area, and keep them from rolling around on work surfaces.

Dop stick holder

In a couple of the holes you'll notice inserts. The idea here was to have a standardized, large size for the holes, and print adapters that will let any given hole hold any smaller size dop stick. Here it is holding some dop sticks.

Dop stick holder with dop sticks

You might note the one dop stick toward the back that's made of metal. This is a special dop stick used for faceting gemstones.

Dop stick for gemstone faceting

The notch in the end of this dop stick is used to index and retain position when faceting. It's a little difficult to see, but the dop stick holder has an optional ridge in the bottom of the holes that will engage this indexed dop stick to keep track of position.

Ridge in dop stick holder for indexing direction

You can download the dop stick holder and adapters on Thingiverse, both are configurable using Customizer.

Cabochon Stencils

There are stencils commercially available for tracing shapes onto stone for cutting cabochons. We whipped up some printed stencils for common sizes of round and oval cabochons. These were printed in a single color each (our Citrene and Aquamarine Gemstone PLA), then the raised text was marked with a sharpie (green on the left, black on the right). The numbers are the dimensions of the shapes in millimeters.

Cabochon stencils with branding

You'll notice the Westcoast mining branding on the top - they thought these would make a neat item they could give away at rock shows. If you download the stencils from Thingiverse, it doesn't have this, but you can use Customizer there (or download and edit the .scad file) to enable the text and put your own message on the stencils.

Rock Tumbler

I didn't design this, but it's also worth checking out this 3D Printable Rock Tumbler on Thingiverse!

If you've got ideas for other 3D Printed lapidary accessories we'd love to hear them!

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