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Gem Cutting, A Lapidary’s Manual
by John Sinkankas is one of those great books that provides a solid introduction and guide to a craft, in this case lapidary work. “Lapidary” is a fancy way of saying (gem)stone cutting. The book covers many topics, starting with sawing gemstones to rough size, both with professional and DIY equipment, including the use of very large saws for cutting apart boulders. Then the book moves on to grinding, tool selection, maintenance, selection as before. Later chapters cover lapping, sanding and polishing.

After this comes a chapter on drilling, where the making of drills figures prominently. Having drilled deep holes in quartz with a piece of tubing and grit, I can say that this information is very handy. The book moves on to cabachon grinding, cabachons being those domed stones found in the majority of jewelry. We then get tons of information on faceting, which is the grinding of stones with facets (like that fake ruby in your class ring). After many chapters on that subject we move to spheres and beads, tumbling, carving and engraving of stones, mosaic and inlay, and finally specific details on each of the major types of precious and semiprecious gemstones.

While you may not be considering lapidary work the book has techniques that can be applied to any hard materials such as glass, and shows tools such as wet sanders that are very handy for metalwork. If only every craft were covered in such exhaustive detail!

According to Amazon the book is out of print [What’s This?] but used copies of older editions are affordable.


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