The Pain and Joy of Cabbing
Close up of a slab of pink Tiffany Stone / Bertrandite / Ice Cream Opal (credit to Ken Diede)
It's that time of year again. Time to pull out the saws and Genie and get cabbing! I'm getting a late start because Old Man Winter was really hanging on for dear life. It wasn't that it was such a cold winter, just a long one- here, at least.
All winter long, I pulled out slabs to look at them. I marked some out to cut. I bought new ones that tickled my fancy. In short, I dreamed about cabbing. As soon as I could, I started in with gusto... But, there is a story here somewhere and I'm gonna tell it.
In January 2013, after I had been cabbing all of six months, I was perusing Ebay for new and exciting material to work with when I saw a slab that I promptly fell in love with. It was a gorgeous, heart melting pink Tiffany Stone. My palms got clammy, my chest was pounding... I HAD to have it! I did something that I never do- I got into a bidding war for it and I won it! It was gonna be all mine.
The seller of this exquisite work of nature is still one of the premier sellers on eBay. I read his ominous description and somehow, with my vast experience, I was not deterred.
"A gorgeous specimen of Bertrandite/Tiffany Stone from Utah measuring approx. 4.5" x 3" and 5.5 mm thick. Not recommended for the beginner, as this material has a very low tenacity and is notorious for the small microfractures that are typical of Bertrandite. Many craftsmen will stabilize the material before making a cab to prevent it from breaking up. Definitely a difficult material to work with, but worth the challenge for that special cab."
My Precious (pic from the eBay ad of Ken Diede)
After it arrived, I ooooh'ed and awwwww'ed it for awhile, then I promptly sat down to mark out the slab. I wanted that special cab he had promised.
Reluctant reason prevailed. I decided to put the slab away with some of the fine jade I had. I wasn't ready just yet. But, from time to time, I'd pull it out, erase my old lines and artistically replace them with new ones. This went on for a long time.
Marking out cabs- serious business
This year, I decided, I was ready.
I have a new saw to cut it up with. It has a blade that is .013" wide. Perfect. I won't waste too much material. To my utter shock, as I made my first cut, pieces started flying! So much for my carefully placed lines... it had plans of it's own. I decided just to cab what was left of it.
One of the broken pieces
I grabbed one of the pieces. Marked out some freeform lines and hit the grinder- but before going that far, I studied the piece for telltale hairline cracks. Not only did I have readers and optivisors on, I also used a magnifying glass! I was determined to have my special cab.
I don't know how I even brought myself to take pictures- I was so disgusted, but there they are. The colors are much better in person, it was so big and beautiful. But, look! There is a piece left of it to cab!
OK, it's a nice cab, but not the one I was promised- not special enough. I had just a few more pieces of it left to get it right.
So, I tried it again. Still not what I was looking for.
Very nice, but not special
I had three pieces left. I need THEE pink tiffany cab. It had to have color and black dendrites. It wanted a freeform, something organic. I wanted the stone to be what it wanted to be, maybe then it would be happy enough not to come apart.
And then there were three...
My SPECIAL cab!
FINALLY success! To me, this is special. It is what I wanted all these years. I used one of three pieces above, the one on the left. I let it be what it wanted to be.
Had I been smart, I would have stabilized the slab as the wise purveyor of slabs had mentioned. I did not. I could have and I should have, but I was in a rush. Maybe, now wasn't the right time after all. I am happy all the same. I learned a few lessons- including that I was actually able to cab this without stabilizing it- no small feat. I still have two pieces left. Maybe they will hold together, too. Or, maybe, I'll stabilize them...