Jewelry is beautiful things we wear to accessories ourselves, and nothing makes us feel prouder than actually wearing jewelry we made ourselves. Luckily making your own jewelry is not rocket science. You can create beautiful jewelry without stressing yourself too much with suitable materials such as soapstone. How to make soapstone jewelry?
You can make soapstone jewelry by first preparing some soapstones, supplies, and tools before searching online for ideas. Then you sketch the design on the soapstone before cutting the outer edges with a saw. You then chisel, file and sand away the unwanted parts of the stone. You then apply a finish to it.
In this article, I describe the steps of making soapstone jewelry from start to finish so that you can follow the steps and make one yourself. I will also suggest some tips to help you along the way.
Step 1: Find Some Soapstone
The first step is to purchase for yourself some soapstones. Depending on your location, you may either source it from a local art shop, a stone quarry, stonework, or online.
If you have access to a local art supplies shop, enquire if they carry supplies for sculpting and carving. If they do, chances are they may have some soapstone blocks for sale. If you live near a stone quarry, drop by and see if they have soapstones for you to purchase. Quarries tend to like larger purchases, so you may need to buy a little more soapstones.
Soapstones are popular as cabinet tops, so some stoneworks may have excess soapstone cutouts lying around in their workshop. Feel free to walk in and ask if you could get some for free. They might just be happy to get rid of excess stones for free.
You may need to go online to pick up soapstones if all else fails. You may consider Amazon or Etsy. The issue with buying online is that you may not be able to look into the stone before purchasing, which may be risky. Still, it is a better than nothing choice.
If you have the chance to handle the stone before purchasing, chances are the stone will be a dull color from the cutting process. If you want to get an idea at what the final colors will look like before purchase put a little water on a flat surface to bring out the stones colors. This will simulate the appearance once you apply a stone finish.
Step 2: Get The Supplies & Tools Ready
The next step is to get the supplies and tools ready to carve. You can roughly divide the supplies into three groups: tools, equipment, and supplies.
Stone Carving Tools for Soapstone Jewelry
Tools are what you need to alter the shape and appearance of the stone. At the most basic, you will need the following:
Handsaw: The handsaw is the tool you will use for the first shaping process, usually to remove excessive stones to form a rough edge. You then use finer tools for finer adjustments. A basic handsaw should do for now.
Chisels: Chisels are for you to direct a concentrated force into the rocks to shape them. For jewelry carvings, you would not need anything large. Stick with smaller chisels with two-sided tips.
Files/Rasps: Files and rasps help rub away excess soapstone you do not need for your jewelry. It has a higher degree of precision. For soapstone jewelry, again, stick with smaller-sized files and rasps. You may also consider a simple 4-way rasp and file combo that offers a flat and round surface.
Dremels: To speed up the carving and help create more organic shapes, use rotary tools like a Dremel with a grinding stone to quickly and organicaly shape the stone into a desired shape. The Dremel 4000 kit with Flex Shaft will be perfect for starting out as it has everything you will need to get started.
Safety Equipment for Carving Soapstone
It’s important to have the right safety equipment to protect yourself during the carving process. You are dealing with tools, stone dust, and potential flying pieces of stones, so some form of protection equipment is necessary:
Face Masks or Respirators: You will make a lot of stone dust during carving. Without protection, you may be breathing in some of this dust, which may cause some respiratory issues later. Start by getting at least some N95 masks or a respirator if you can splash more.
Goggles: Goggles protect your eyes from potential stone chips, particularly during chiseling. Goggles also prevent your eyes from direct exposure to the stone dust, which may irritate them.
Gloves: Gloves also protect against injury since you are dealing with things such as saws, hammers, and chisels. Gloves also keep your skin away from stones or abrasive surfaces such as sandpaper, keeping the skin smooth and not dry.
Supplies are consumables that you may use to complete your work. You may need to replenish the supplies in the future, but for soapstone jewelry carving, you may only need a small amount to start.
Stone Wax: You basically apply the stone wax on the jewelry after you finish carving it to protect the carvings. The wax will also give the stone carving a deep, rich color with a natural shine.
Microfiber Cloth: You will use these microfiber cloth pieces to clean your stone carvings and also to apply and buff the stone wax. Microfiber cloth is used as they do not leave lint.
Sandpaper: Sandpapers are to finish the rougher edges of the carvings and smoothen them. Consider several grits of sandpapers, starting from 200 to around 1000. They should serve you well for jewelry carving.
Step 3: Decide On A Design
Now that you have the stones, tools, and supplies ready, it’s time to start getting some idea of what to carve. You may already have ideas of what to carve. In this care, feel free to skip to step 4.
If not, you may search for ideas on places such as Pinterest or Etsy. These sites are used by carvers to showcase their work. Some even offer these works for sale. The primary key is to start with a more straightforward, manageable design without too many intricate details.
Some suggestions to get your creative ideas flowing:
Flower Pendant: This flower pendant carving does not require a large piece of soapstone to complete. It is also relatively simple in design, meaning you do not need high-precision tools to make it.
Heart Pendant: If you are entirely new to soapstone carving, starting with a simple design such as a heart may be just what you need. It will help you build confidence to tackle more complicated designs in the future.
Dolphin Pendant: This dolphin design is simple to execute, with some slight challenges in building the texture lines. Take on this project if you wish to inject a level of difficulty into your work.
Tribal Pendant: This design may work for you if you prefer something more tribal and less conventional. It has that native, tribal feel without being too complicated in its design.
Step 4: Sketching
Now that you have decided on a design, you may now pull out your soapstone and start to sketch a rough outline of your plan. You may use a pencil to do this, as they are erasable should you make any mistakes.
Marker pens or sharpies may not be good, as the ink may seep into the stone and leave a permanent mark.
Step 5: Sawing
You can now start to saw away the larger chunks of unwanted parts away from your soapstone. The key is to saw with your dominant hand and use your non-dominant hand to hold down the stone to keep it steady.
While sawing, always avoid sawing too close to your sketch lines, and keep the sawing speed slow. Sawing too close to sketching lines may take away too much, too soon. Sawing too fast may also risk breaking the stone.
Also, you may be generating a lot of stone dust while sawing, so you might want to put on all your equipment from this point onwards.
Step 6: Chiseling
If there are parts of the stone that you want to remove but are too small for a saw to do yet too large for a rasp, you may consider using chisels.
Larger chisels may help remove larger chunks of stones you do not need, while smaller ones may help create texture on the stone surface. Say if you want to make the eyes for your dolphin pendant, you may use a small chisel to do the job.
Step 7: Filing and Rasping
For finer adjustment of the shape of your carvings, you may rely primarily on rasps and files. Rasps have a rougher edge, meaning they may remove more materials than a file.
The key is to ensure you do not over-rasp or file your surfaces, as it means your final work will not be as you have sketched. You will often continue using files and rasps until your carving has reached its final desired shape.
Step 8: Sanding
Now that your carving has achieved its final shape, you may not start to smoothen it. In this case, start with 200 grit sandpaper and gradually increase to 1000 grit.
Also, consider wet sanding your stone carvings. You may do this by submerging your stone carving in water and holding it with your non-dominant hand. Your dominant hand will hold the sandpaper and sand the stone carving.
By this stage, your stone jewelry carving should be finished and has achieved the final look with the smoothness desired.
Step 9: Polishing & Finishing
The final stage is to apply some finishing and then polish it. There are many ways to do this, but the more simple and straightforward way is to rub in some stone wax paste.
Get a clean microfiber cloth, pick up some stone wax, and then rub it into the stone. Try to use a circular motion, if possible, rather than a back and forth motion.
Once rubbed in, allow the stone to rest for a few minutes before using another piece of microfiber cloth to wipe out excess wax. If you want to go the extra distance, take out another piece of clean cloth to buff the wax. You should now have a completed stone jewelry carving at this stage.