The perfect gift for a geologist who is moving away is a customized stone cheese plate! ...as long as they have some room in their bags for a few more rocks!
The basic process is as follows:
- Source the stone
- Cut the stone into thin slabs
- Grind and polish the stone
- Engrave the stone using a laser cutter
I would highly recommend cutting some small samples of rock and testing them for how well they engrave with the laser cutter. Different types of stone have different hardness', and will impact how well the stone engraves.
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Step 1: Source the Stone
There are many places you can get high quality stone. You can use an old piece of counter top or get one custom cut by a granite/marble counter top provider.
For our project, we decided to collect the rock ourselves.
- Ask your neighborhood geologist where you can find a quarry with marble or quartz.
- Check if the quarry is on an active mineral claim! If it is, you will need to get permission from the claim holder. In the Yukon, you can use a web application called Geoyukon to see land tenure.
- Look for a sizable stone with no major cracks or fractures in it.
- Collect a few samples, as it will take a few iterations to iron out mistakes.
Step 2: Cut the Stone Using a Rock Saw
The Yukon Geological Survey provides public access to their various rock saws. They require you to take a short training course, and they also provide the proper safety equipment. You can check with your local geological survey or rock cutter to see if they can provide this service for you.
To cut the samples, we used both the 14" blade water-cooled lapidary saw, as well as the 36" oil-cooled lapidary saw. These saws make a lot of noise and create a lot of dust, so make sure to wear the proper safety equipment!
To make the cheese plate, we tried to cut the stone as thin as possible while maintaining strength in order to keep the weight down. However, the thinner you make the cut, the more fragile the stone will be, especially if there are cracks or fractures in the stone. We ended up cutting ours about 1" thick.
Keep in mind the size of the laser cutter if you are planning on engraving the stone! The laser cutters at our local makerspace (Yukonstruct) are 32"x24" and 24"x12".
Step 3: Polish the Stone
Polishing the stone will give it a permanent wet look. Do not use spray on varnish if you are planning on using it for culinary purposes!
First, remove any jagged edges and bumps using an angle grinder.
You can then finish the surface using an industrial rock polisher (provided by the geological survey) or an orbital palm sander. Polishing stone is similar to sanding wood, however you will need to use sandpaper / grit that is appropriate for stone.
Step 4: Engrave the Polished Stone Using a Laser Cutter.
Visit your local makerspace for access to a laser cutter.
- Create the design that you would like to engrave in vector design software (CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, Inkskape, etc).
- Place the stone inside the laser cutter and adjust the focus.
- Make sure the surface of the polished stone is as level as possible.
- Using the rulers on the vector grid of the laser cutter, measure the location of where you would like the stone engraved - and then double check!
- Check the manual for the laser cutter for the appropriate engraving settings for stone - we used a 40 watt laser with 30% speed and 100% power.
- Run the job, and cross your fingers! You are almost done!
Step 5: Put It on Display!
If you are planning on using the stone as a cheese plate or cutting board, you can put on sticky rubber pads to prevent it from slipping or scratching any surface it is put on.