Carving in SoapStone - "Steatite" - advice from a beginner.

First, let me say that I am a beginner. But, I have learned a lot more than I knew before I started :-)

Also, I sure had fun doing my first carving! And the second!! And the third!!! etc., etc., etc. :-)

Here's how I got started.

One day (it was two nights before the 2003 Fall Football Season Opener for the University of Tennessee Volunteers Football Team!!!!) , I went to my sister's house and we had a wonderful party. She is a Master Chef, having graduated Culinary School. If she ever invites you to her house, and says she is going to cook, DROP EVERYTHING and RUN, don't walk, to her house --- because you will get to eat the best food you have ever had!!!!

When I arrived there, she had a catalog that had some stone carving items. I think my father had brought it? We had lots of family members there, but I think he did. It was the FlaxArt catalog.

This catalog was very interesting to me, so I tore that page out of her catalog (Yes, she said I could.) Then, I went home, and looked on the internet for stone carvings like this, and how they are made..

The best place I found was from Sandy Cline - his website is

I looked at his page, and I thought "Maybe I can do this -- it sure looks fun."

So I did - this is my first carving. (I will have more!).

Now, go try it yourself.

To get started is not difficult - read this website. Sandy Cline sold me all the stones, and he will do the inital cuts for you on his band saw. This was a good thing, because I have only two power tools ( I only have a Dremel Moto-Tool and a drill - - - - no band saws, etc.). The Band Saw cuts are just the basics, anyway. You can do all the cuts without any power tools, using a Hack Saw or a Coping Saw (see Sandy Clines tools area) using good old-fashioned elbow power, if you like - it really doesn't take that long to do it all by elbow grease-- the real sculpture comes after that, and you can learn how to do this from his web site And the stone is not to difficult to cut (but maybe it is a bit more difficult to cut correctly - hee hee). If you are going to make the initial cuts by hand, using a hacksaw or coping saw, you can do it in a a few minutes, a half our, or maybe an hour or two, depending on your endurance, strength and skill - depends a lot on what you are going to carve, I think.

I got tools from a local hardware shop - I just went to a Lowe's store ( I got a a flat/.half-round rasp, wet-dry sandpaper, and a hacksaw like Sandy Cline recommends, plus a bit more) and made my first stone sculpture, the Loon, in one day.

Also, I got some nice rasps from (Flax Art is the catalog I found at my sister's house.) Search that site for SoapStone, and you will see several things. I like the rasps, but don't think that they are large rasps - I think they are medium (8-inches or so). Remember, I am just a beginner, but I liked these rasps from FlaxArt, I used them to carve the smaller details, and the places that are too small for the larger half-round rasp. Also, they help remove the marks from coarser rasps, and after that, I use sandpaper to remove the marks from these smaller rasps. After that, I used coarse wet-dry sandpaper, then, fine, then extra fine, etc. sandpaper. See the Sandy Cline web site, I followed his tutorials. No, perhaps these "medium rasps" were not totally necessary, but yes, they were pleasant to use and I liked the work that they did, and they made the sculptures easier for me :-)

Also, as Sandy Cline told me, I went to an automotive parts store and got extra-fine wet/dry - silicone-carbide sandpaper, of grits 600, 1000, and 1500. The coarser grits of wet-dry sandpaper were easy to find at Lowes or Wal-Mart.

Maybe I will give my sculptures as a Christmas or Birthday present, but i don't know - they are so nice, I also want to keep it for myself!

HOO--RAHHH to Sandy Cline, who helped me so much.

P. S. Here's one thing I learned from my first projects - when you you using your rasps, don't just saw back and forth in a straight line on them - curve and bend the path your arm follows as you move it, follow the curves that you want to create. It seemed to help me. It's hard for me to say what you must do, but don't just move the rasps back and forth in a straight line - this will make a flat cut. Make a flowing and bending, curving motion with the rasp. And forward cuts remove a lot of stone, make deeper cuts, while pulling the rasp towards you makes shallower, more delicate cuts.

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