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How do you clean agate rind thoroughly?

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Author Topic: How do you clean agate rind thoroughly?  (Read 1417 times)
3rdRockFromTheFun
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« on: November 14, 2012, 04:03:00 am »

I could swear I've run across this either here or on rth but cannot find it here (I'm no longer a member of rth). I have seen rock come from industrial cleaners, esp obsidian, with rinds nearly as clean as a choir singers vocabulary.

Does anybody know how this is done manually - preferably without the use of acids?

I've got a lot of agates. Some I can tell look pretty nice from what I can make out through the rind and I am considering the 'clean it and oil it' path for some - just to say I know how if nothing else, but it could come in handle later on if I desire to sell any of it.

Thanks!
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2012, 08:53:51 am »

Without using acid, there are still a few options. If it's a fairly soft rind, try soaking it for a week in water and bleach. Heavy on the bleach. Then scrub with a very stiff scrub brush. This will remove most of the soft, loose stuff.

Another option would be soaking in CLR. It will remove any soft lime or calcium type deposits, as well as many mineral stains.

Another option would be steam cleaning. If you have or have access to a jewelers steam cleaner, it will remove much of the loose stuff.

Another option is an ultrasonic cleaner.

Another option would be an air scribe, like used for cleaning fossils.

And an option which I'm presently looking into would be a soda blaster. Like a sand blaster, but uses common baking soda for the blasting media. Normal sand blasting media will etch the surface of even quartz based specimens. Soda being much softer will clean without etching.
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2012, 09:58:57 am »

Without using acid, there are still a few options. If it's a fairly soft rind, try soaking it for a week in water and bleach. Heavy on the bleach. Then scrub with a very stiff scrub brush. This will remove most of the soft, loose stuff.

Another option would be soaking in CLR. It will remove any soft lime or calcium type deposits, as well as many mineral stains.

Another option would be steam cleaning. If you have or have access to a jewelers steam cleaner, it will remove much of the loose stuff.

Another option is an ultrasonic cleaner.

Another option would be an air scribe, like used for cleaning fossils.

And an option which I'm presently looking into would be a soda blaster. Like a sand blaster, but uses common baking soda for the blasting media. Normal sand blasting media will etch the surface of even quartz based specimens. Soda being much softer will clean without etching.

Hey Don, thanks a lot! I've been soaking and met with limited to little success (seems to vary with the type of mud/dirt) but hadn't thought of the others.

Soda blasting and steam sound very intriguing. Would a steam cleaner like used around the house work or is the temp/pressure not right? I'm asking only because I'm thinking one of those would be cheaper than one made for lapidary.
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2012, 10:22:57 am »

I'll find a link to the type of steam cleaner you'd need, and post it here.


OK, here are just a few. By googling Jewelry steam cleaners, you'll find bunches in a wide range of prices.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Jewel-Jet-Black-Silver-Jewelry-Steam-Cleaner-/280712865835
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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2012, 10:45:15 am »

In case you're interested, here is the soda blaster that I'm interested in. They used to offer it in an enclosed cabinet model. I'm waiting for an answer from them about the availability of the cabinet model.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270925440978&ssPageName=ADME:X:AAQ:US:1123
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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2012, 01:55:23 pm »

I use white vinegar to clean up rusty tools and remove lime deposits from shower heads so it may work on some of the same type of deposits on stone. White vinegar is pretty cheap stuff when you buy it by the gallon.
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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2012, 03:40:19 pm »

Thanks Don, for a steamer I'd need something that could handle agates up to a foot long (you can imagine the weight - heavy) but I get the idea and I like it.

That soda blaster looks awesome. HF sells a blasting compartment fairly cheap (and compressors). Hmmm...

Bentiron - I'd thought about vinegar but am concerned because of the time probably required and the fact that many agates are porous enough to absorb such things (like the ones they dye for example).
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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2012, 03:45:41 pm »

I run mine in the 12 lb. tumbler with a coarse grit for 2 weeks. It really cleans them up. That gets rid of the leaverites real fast.
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« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2012, 04:07:29 pm »

I tend to shy away from HF products. In reading reviews of various soda blasters, I found a couple mentions of the HF units tank splitting along the weld seam when brought up to the highest recommended operating pressure. I can just about imagine 10 pounds of baking soda suddenly being realeased under 90 lbs of pressure.
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« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2012, 04:23:35 pm »

I tend to shy away from HF products. In reading reviews of various soda blasters, I found a couple mentions of the HF units tank splitting along the weld seam when brought up to the highest recommended operating pressure. I can just about imagine 10 pounds of baking soda suddenly being realeased under 90 lbs of pressure.

I have a HF sand blaster that I run a 125 and no problems so far.  I bought it for my hot rod frame and a bike I am motorizing.  I should check to see if I can use other media in it.
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« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2012, 04:50:24 pm »

 chuckle

Yah, HF seems to be a mixed thing. I've read if you get something that works there, it usually continues working great but if you don't - it can suck pretty bad.

I bought my 10" tile saw there and thus far it only has one problem - the operator. I push that thing, and everything really, way too hard. At least for lapidary blades I do - not sure I'm strong enough to push it too hard with a tile blade on it but those tile blades cut a thick swath of useful rock away and they chip.

Tumbler with course grit's not a bad idea. I was kind of wanting to keep the natural roughness of some of the rinds but I'm asking myself "why?" and can't come up with a good answer so... dunno

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« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2012, 04:55:12 pm »


I think the tumbler idea is good.  I wonder how long it would take to knock off the rind?
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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2012, 07:57:34 pm »

It takes 2 weeks in my 12 pound barrel with a pound of coarse grit and not a lot of water.
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« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2012, 08:32:53 pm »

Just got a reply from the company that makes that soda blaster. I'll be ordering it tonight. After I get it and set it up, I'll post before and after pics of a couple of badly tarnished Fairburns that I want to clean up.
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« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2012, 08:59:17 pm »

Dawn dish detergent and water, let soak, scrub with nail brush or old toothbrush.  I've done this on a few rocks I've come across and they come out really nice.
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