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What to do with a 3D Printer: Make Lapidary Tools and Accessories
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.
After having a chance to handle this print I decided to go a different route on overall shape, which led to this next draft.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stones courtesy of West Coast Mining.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!