Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Slashing Soapstone

In my very slow quest to cast some nice pewter medallions, I acquired a large slab of soapstone for making two-part molds. I'm switching to two part molds instead of open molds because the pewter I'm using isn't particularly well suited to open-faced casting, and I'm not keen to alloy it with lead so it will be more suited to that method. No, I'd rather avoid the toxic heavy metals as much as I may.

Consequently, I needed to cut my slab of soapstone down to manageable-sized blocks. Soapstone is a pretty soft stone that's easy to carve and cut, of course, so I figured that a bit of work with a hacksaw would make neat pieces without too much difficulty. Needless to say that was a notion born from a deranged thread of optimism floating idly through my addled mind. A hacksaw will certainly cut through soapstone, but it is abysmally slow going, as roughly an hour (non-continuous) of hacking didn't even get half way through the block.

Unrelated events happened to work in my favor, though. As I mentioned long ago, the catastrophic failure of our water heater forced us to rip out our carpeting, and we spent much of the last few months laying a tile floor in its place. My brother- and sister-in-law loaned us a tile-cutting table-saw for the duration of the project, and after the floor was finished, I took the opportunity to turn that stone cutting blade against my slab of soapstone. In just a few seconds it cut through more soapstone than I'd been able to go through in nearly an hour of hacking.

So, soapstone blocks secured, I must now find time to carve some molds.


Vyvienne said...

Where did you get your soapstone?

Lord Runolfr said...

I actually picked it up cheap from a merchant at an SCA event.

I suspect it's not particularly high quality soapstone (it has a somewhat "sandy" texture), but it should be acceptable for my beginning efforts.