Introduction: Agate Burnisher / Folder for Paper

Picture of Agate Burnisher / Folder for Paper

I enjoy working with paper; I use a steel burnisher and a bone folder to make crisp folds. I wanted to add some odd shape burnishers to my tool box. Making some out of stone (agate) fits the bill. Having a few agates lying around, I made different sizes and shapes. This is what I wanted to share in this instructables.

Step 1: Sliced Potatoes

Picture of Sliced Potatoes

Agates that I use can be found in Michigan. I tell people to look for a stone that looks like a potatoe. You can hold them up to a strong light to see what is inside as far as patterns. For this application of making burnishers, I can use almost any part of the agate. Agates are very hard and polish to a very smooth finish. I use a large diamond saw to cut the agate into slabs.

Step 2: Cutting Down the Slabs to a Smaller Size

Picture of Cutting Down the Slabs to a Smaller Size

Then I cut the slaps down on a smaller diamond saw.

The closer I get to the sizes I want, the less I have to do on the grinders.

I am cutting the slabs to be under 2 inches square, so they can fit comfortably in my palm of my hand.

Step 3: Grinding and Polishing

Picture of Grinding and Polishing

I start by using an 80 grit diamond wheel (with lots of water) to shape the small slab.

I focus on just a few edges that I want to use for burnishing.

The other edges I smooth for comfort. So there is a lot of stopping to see how it feels in my hand.

I move from one grit wheel to another, till I get to an 1200 grit polish wheel.

The final treatment is using Cerium polishing wheel, just on the burnish edge for final smooth finish.

Step 4: Adding a Wood Handle

Picture of Adding a Wood Handle

With one of the agates, I added a 3/8 inch diameter by 3 ¾ inch long wood handle.

A 7/16 inch diameter brass ferrule was added.

I put a small drop of all purpose glue on the stone, then used pliers to close the brass ferrule around the agate.

Pictured is my quick holding fixture for gluing.

Step 5: Finished

Picture of Finished

A picture of some of my different size and shape agate burnishers.

Thanks for viewing.


Blues Angel (author)2014-04-27

This is such an awesome idea. I noticed someone wrote they make guitar picks from Agates. I'd love to see an instructable on those! I inherited a huge rock, mineral and fossil estate from a couple who were both Geologists. There is rare stuff in this collection that takes up an entire bedroom and I've been whittling it down since 2007. He worked in the command tower at NASA and she was the VP of several national gem and mineral clubs. I have loads of beautiful agates. I'm a stained glass artist and never knew I could score and cut them until now. Just tried it and wow. Thank you for the info. I'm incorporating agates into my stained glass work. In 2006 I couldn't tell you one rock from another. Now I'm officially addicted!! Still have lots to identify that have stumped several geologists and seasoned rock hounders alike. I have half a Geode and the Smithsonian has the other half. I lost the Thank You letter that tells what's in it!! I have lots of Obsidian but know little about it or what to do with it. Anyways, this is a great Instructable!!!

submark (author)2014-02-19

I would like to mention that many areas have 'Rock Collecting Clubs" that may have lapidary equipment available for members and others to use for an hourly fee.

Rock shops may have contacts with local 'rockheads' who might either slab your stones or even instruct you in lapidary techniques. WARNING: You might get hooked on another fascinating hobby!

I would also like to point out that agates are a quartz material, having a crystaline nature, but no planes of cleavage. When broken or chipped the shard progresses from point of force outward in a circular or somewhat spheroidal direction similar to the way that ripples proceed on water from the impact of a pebble. This property is what allows agate and other quartz materials to be 'knapped' or flaked into arrowheads and blades.

Like glass, a thin (1/2" or so) slab of agate WITHOUT FLAWS OR CRACKS can be scored with a straight edge and diamond stylus or glass cutter and then tapped to break on the scored line. It then can be worked down on a sharpening stone and with sandpaper to a polished edge.

Just make certain that you score the rock on one pass evenly.

Fikjast Scott (author)submark2014-02-19

this is great information. i have trying my hand at Knapping, but in flint and obsidian. I did not know about knapping agates. I see that you list your location as Oregon, this is the area that is rich in obsidian. do you do any knapping in obsidian?

submark (author)Fikjast Scott2014-02-19

I'm located in southwestern Oregon where obsidian seems to be a bit scarce upon the ground. Central Oregon in the Bend area has many obsidian deposits as does northern California in the Lava Beds/Medicine Lake area.
We have mostly sedimentary quartz materials around the Medford/Ashland area, but we have some beauties.
Any quartz mineral I can think of can be knapped--jasper, agate, opal, chert, flint, quartzite and so on. Glasses such as obsidian, window, plate, and pyrex all knapp because they are 'super-cooled liquids' and not minerals with an interior crystalline lattice.
Strangely enough, master snappers can locate areas where blows on the surface of a cobble or boulder will cause remarkably uniform pieces to spall off of a corestone. In this manner, ancient people were able to high grade a source and not have to pack a huge amount of unusable 'dead weight' home.
The trading routes of pre-history allowed Oregon Obsidian to be traded as far away as the Great Plains, Canada, and the desert southwest.
Mineral/ Supercooled Liquid are 2 definitions from first year geology of 40 years ago. Almost any thing that does not have directional cleavage determined by its interior crystalline lattice may have conchoidal (shell shaped) fracture and be suitable for knapping.
Some folks bust up old porcelain fixtures and practice with that. It os not quartz or glass, but it works just fine. Knappers call it 'johnstone.'
I don't knapp any more--I bleed too freely.

Fikjast Scott (author)submark2014-02-19

Thank you again for the great information. I am going to share this with others.

agis68 (author)2014-02-16

with exactly same tool you can add gold foils (24 K) on a tempera painting and polish the gold. The point is where we can get the stone????

Fikjast Scott (author)agis682014-02-17

Thank you for viewing my instructable. wow -I never knew about gold foil applications. Are you looking for raw stones to make or finished stones?

I have been saying - go to rock shows. But I realized I broke my own rule. I have started so many projects, where the instructions read like: go to your local store and find the item, just to be disappointed.
I am a tactile and visual buyer, meaning I prefer seeing and touching what I am buying. So sourcing unusual rocks - I still go to the shows. I spend one Saturday a year driving to get my opals. No one in my family wants to go with me. So I load up my music player, get up at the crack of dawn and go.
Oh, some rock sellers have a water bottle available. This is to spray the stones or slabs. The water shows what you could expect when you get done polishing – usually.
As far as finished stones, people are shocked by my prices; this is why I tend to make more gifts.
Let me know what direction you want to go in.

agis68 (author)Fikjast Scott2014-02-17

i prefer too to touch,smell and observe items before i get them. But i live in Greece everything here is extremely expensive so the last 3-4 years mostly i buy from ebay. This specific tool for polishing gold is made by onix or opals. The result is so effective and breathless bright!!! I use for orthodox egg tempera paintings Look the result of polished gold in the imeage i send u

friendly yours

Fikjast Scott (author)agis682014-02-17

What a beautiful piece of art.

I was raised in a family of artists. I cannot think of any
other life in making things, other than working with what you have around you. I
went to a town that was blowing up the side of the mountain for a shopping
center. I filled the back of my car with rocks. I found a lightning rock in
front of a factory. It was just in a pile of rocks. I asked for it and they said
ok. I went to a brand new hotel and they were throwing away marble piece that was
scrap to them. Welling getting back to things. I believe, if you look around
you can still find hidden treasures.

I am going to try making a burnisher with opal. I buy opals
by the jar full from a little old lady. The jar contains all different kinds of

Thank you for sending the picture. You have motivated me.

agis68 (author)Fikjast Scott2014-02-17

also for art is a way of living is life....i transfer my energy to a thing and i give him breath......animas re (roman latin phrase) means exactly this.....Also i got envolved with many forms of art (music,vitrage, oil and tempera painting and writing) My joy is so greate when iam among much do you sell the wooden handled opal??? (i give you an idea)

NotAPot2PN (author)2014-02-16

I love rocks & minerals, fossils, artifacts, wood, fabric, paper,clay - almost all arts & crafts materials - and handmade tools. I don't do bookbinding or origami, and though that could change, I may never make an agate burnisher. But I really enjoyed your Instructable and the comments. Besides, don't you find that some ideas, materials, designs & methods of work can be useful in more than one kind of endeavor? Thanks for the good work!

Fikjast Scott (author)NotAPot2PN2014-02-17

Thank you for the nice comment.
I can get lost for days looking up tools or processes - to see if it can cross over to other applications. Growing up nothing got thrown away. I love it when people break the rules of how something should be done.
My motto is Always Try.
I like the way you think

NotAPot2PN (author)Fikjast Scott2014-02-17

Yes! I'm always trying to find unintended uses for things, and I save re-usable parts of tools & other items. That "saving" habit can be dangerous (hoarding!) but it can also solve serious problems, as you know. Thanks for the reply.

Fikjast Scott (author)NotAPot2PN2014-02-17

I was going to say thanks
for the comments, but I have to purge. Last fall, I just did what I call
a do over. I got rid of 5 truckloads of metal and about the same in wood. I
have a problem. Yes, I have said it; I have a problem with gathering materials.
But now I can move about in my barn.

NotAPot2PN (author)Fikjast Scott2014-02-17

Good grief! Wish I had been there to help you purge. HELP you. I still have a bit of free space - I'd have taken some stuff off your hands. Sigh. lol tyvm

iceng (author)2014-02-16

Nice ible, compliments on finding a way to use agates.

Sometimes I make key fobs with unusual shape agates.

I have never successfully used my polish cloth end_wheel.

How do you apply the cerium ?

Is it a powder or wax stick ?


Fikjast Scott (author)iceng2014-02-17

Thank you for your comments.
The cerium is in powder form. A little is put in a plastic jar with a little water. The wheel is soaked with water first. The cerium water mixture is applied to the wheel with 2 inch paint brush. A spray bottle with tap water is kept on the side for an occasional spray of the wheel. Please note, I just learned last year; not all cerium is made the same. We had to return some because it actually had contamination or larger particles - this cause a great deal of problems for the final finish.

iceng (author)Fikjast Scott2014-02-17

Thank you for the detailed response.

mrbilly62 (author)2014-02-16

Nice post … I have a suggestion for anyone not
having access to the proper tools to cut, grind and polish the agate, and that
is to check with a local "Lapidary" Club, Craft Store or Hobby Shop
that might sell pre-cut slabs of agates. If you find broken pieces they
will offer better shapes, all the better, or break one with a “delicate” hit
with the round end of a Ball Peen Hammer on a piece of wood between a folded
piece of cloth. The people that do the Lapidary work will probably gladly sell
a slab cheaply or possibly give it away. Several sheets of Wet/Dry Silicon
Carbide paper from the hardware store will grind it smooth enough. Start at
about 120 Grit (use it with water) and work your down to 600 Grit. The
last step is the final polishing which can be done with Aluminum oxide or Tin
oxide or Cerium oxide. Available
on the net or look for Marble or Granite polish at a cabinet and counter store.

Fikjast Scott (author)mrbilly622014-02-16

A club is a great way to start.

Gem and rock shows, have great people to deal with and they usually sell slabs.

Please note, I started by hand polishing. To just give you an idea of time. It took me 4 hours for two of the burnishers while using power equipment. agate is a very hard stone.

mrbilly62 (author)Fikjast Scott2014-02-16

Yes I know and thanks for saying something about the time it takes to polish stone. I am a jeweler and a sculptor and have hand polished my share of different stones. Agate is a member of the quartz family and has a hardness on the Mohs scale of 6.5 - 7. The burnishers you made are works of fine craftsmanship and reflect that sort of time investment. My suggestion is for folks who don't have access to Power equipment. So if you are only rounding and grinding on an edge of a slab 1/8" - 3/16" thick and 2"- 3" long it can be done in about 30 -40 Min. This willl make a suitable burnisher for creasing and folding paper.

Fikjast Scott (author)mrbilly622014-02-17

Great points, this is why I like instructables. Thank you for the additional comments with your information.

afasimpaur (author)2014-02-16

These are gorgeous. I love handmade tools. I've used tumbled agate in the past for burnishing greenware in ceramics.

Fikjast Scott (author)afasimpaur2014-02-16

this is why I like instructables. Thank you for viewing and your comments

origamimavin (author)2014-02-16

These are very nice. I do a lot of origami and typically just 3D model and print or carve out my custom shaped burnishers. This looks like a great way to make some that would last longer and would give a really classy look. Thanks!

I like the idea of 3d modeling.
I do not know where my fixation on paper craft tools came from; but I sure do like making them and using them. I have made some from metal and exotic woods, but there is something about the agate that works so well. Oh, I also have a few bone folders, but what a pain making them, they carve like butter. The problem with bone is the dust; even with a vacuum & double dust masks - it gets in my nose. Not so good.
Thanks for the comment and viewing my insturctable

In terms of the workability of agate, what would you compare it to? I've worked with metals and woods before, but never stones. I'd like to try this, but only have so many tools available.

I would suggest a club, to get started. I feel working with
stone is expensive. I thought working on soft stones would be great to start,
but as it turns out - a harder stone is more forgiving. I have been amazed how
much can be done with a flat lap with changeable plates. This is what I have in
my barn. I got them totally trashed, but slowly fixed them back to useable. The
pictures are wheeled grinders. Oh, most rock and gem shows have a lot to
offer. As far a comparable, to wood and
metal, rock and gems can have built in stress or you add stress by machining
them. Everything looks great - all done and polished and POW it cracks in halves
or chips. I have worked on stones for about 8 hours just for them to
break. Some people slam their slabs on
the table just to see if they are going to break, to avoid the POW.

I have been working under a master silversmith for years; he
taught me more than just working with metals. He taught me it’s about the
process not the end product. Side note: over 16 hours cutting with a jewelers
saw and he looked at it and said do it again.

Just cleaned my parents’
house out and found some things that I made as a kid. My mom saved them.

My motto is Always Try

lhitch (author)2014-02-16

Where did you get your ferrule? I've searched the internet for a similar ferrule and I can't find anything that's even close. The only long ones I found were for fly-casting rods.

Fikjast Scott (author)lhitch2014-02-16

like mr billy 62 stated,hobby stores. I find that hardware stores (that carry brass tubes) have better prices.

I go to a scrap yard for
some of my materials. It is a little intimidating at first, but if you are on a
budget it’s not a bad way to get things. Note scrap yards do not always have
the items you need; they are in it for the base metal.

Starting on a budget, I
work backwards. Find you ferrule material and build around it. Wood comes in every size and can be easy to
change. If you look at mine I pinched the end to fit the agate.

I go to the big box stores
of building supplies. I walk around - I look at things for what they can be. Plumbing
supplies work great. I just picked up some steel channel for ½ off, because it
was returned (all

I garage sale like crazy,
broken lamps have great brass.

Second hand stores, I make
brass hammer heads from candle sticks.

I like the following tube cutter. It has a plastic nylon wheels, which do not mar (scratch) the tube. This will save a lot of time sanding and polishing the brass.

Tubing Cutter handles round brass, aluminum, and copper up to 5/8 inches O.D. Nylon body helps reduce friction. It cuts tubing without crimping.

mrbilly62 (author)lhitch2014-02-16

A good hobby store will have a rack of Brass Tubing and Rodsthat range in sizes from 1/16" up to 1/2" in 1/32" increments.

Ricardo Furioso (author)2014-02-16

Bullet casings are great for free brass ferrules.

Go to the range, ask for a few. Cut them to size you want.

Lovely work.

Thank you for sharing, and please do more.

Oh. And it looks like a tile saw could cut smaller agates.

I have used a
tile saw on other rocks, some traditionalist get upset by this. I have been in
some heated debates about the width of the cutting blade. Tile saws have a
large kerf (width of the cut), - so you can lose a lot of the stone from the
cut. Well this is the argument. I say use what you can get your hands on. Oh, I use cutting oil to cut my rocks. Note: I also belong to a club, that has lots of equipment and heat.

Bullet casing are great, I just finished a deer antler and
brass casing project, and I still need to write it up. Some hardware stores
have brass displays. I buy one of every size; the fit between sizes are great
if you need to shift from a smaller to larger size. A tube cutter works best
for getting a good cut.

Krasen (author)2014-02-16

You say it like you found them in your back yard ?
I'm using Guitar picks made of agate - they cost $20

Fikjast Scott (author)Krasen2014-02-16

Thank you for viewing and commenting about my instructables.
Agates are extremely hard to fine for me, it is mostly luck. I showed one to my daughter’s friend and she found a milk crate full in one day and got bored. Another story, my dad took my two brothers and myself out for Indian artifacts. My dad walked behind us three boys, we found nothing. Well my dad found a bucket full of arrowheads, spearheads and other things. Well back to agates, when I want something, nothing stops me. I have been collecting rocks since I was a kid; I have boxes and boxes of rocks. I am not always lucky but determined. I drove 12 hours to Missouri for one type rock, never found it, but what a great time. Went down a river bank and I found a rock bag full. I also slipped, fell and broke two fingers. I smiled all the way home. I have been looking for five years to find one fossil; I found one last year, it is the size of a pin head.
Oh, agates are not in my backyard, I have to travel to get them.

Ironwave (author)2014-02-16

I severely like this.

Fikjast Scott (author)Ironwave2014-02-16

Thanks for the nice comment and viewing my insturctable

sabr686 (author)2014-02-16

BIt of a lost art, this is. I'm glad to see someone is still working with agate. It's beautiful! Well done, my friend.

Fikjast Scott (author)sabr6862014-02-16

Thank you for the pleasant comment. I am drawn to old tools.
I am glad you took the time to view my instructables.

rimar2000 (author)2014-02-16

Thanks for sharing this. The idea of cutting them with the diamond disc is very good.

Fikjast Scott (author)rimar20002014-02-16

Thank you for the nice comment.

alannarosewhitney (author)2014-02-13

These are lovely! Great idea, great instructable.

Thank you for the nice words.


Penolopy Bulnick (author)2014-02-13

Awesome! I used to look for agates all the time in Minnesota but never found any that size!

Thank you for viewing my instructables.

I also use agates as door stops when I have all the windows open in the summer. Come on summer, I'm ready.


AngryRedhead (author)2014-02-13

I'll take 2! :D

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