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Botswana Agate Nodules - Spectacular!

Botswana agate tumbling rough
This image shows a 5-pound bag of Botswana agate nodules, dumped into a colander and sprayed with water to add a little luster and reveal their full color. Click on the image for a larger view. Wow! Look at those bands!
$36.99 For
5 Pounds
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Banded Botswana Agate Nodules
(Tumbling or Cabbing Rough)

Size: mostly 1 to 2 inch pieces

We were surprised to get these! Beautiful stream-tumbled agate nodules from the country of Botswana in southern Africa. They are spectacular, colorful, pre-shaped by the stream and ready for your rock tumbler. They are hard, translucent, banded agates that accept a very bright polish. Some of this material is full nodules. Some is partial nodules that have been rounded and smoothed by stream tumbling.

We like these nodules because most of them contain concentric-banded agate in contrasting colors. When polished you will find thin translucent bands in brown, cream, reddish brown, pink, white, gray and other colors. Some people call this material "gray agate" but that name is a total understatement. Tumbling will reveal interesting "eyes" lurking below the rind of a few of these nodules. A few might have solid crystal quartz centers.

We sell these nodules in five-pound bags. You might find pieces as small as 1/2 inch, but most of the weight will be nodules that range in size from about 1 inch up to about 2 inches. There are an estimated 10 to 15 agates per pound depending upon their size and shape. Some agates are whole, some agates are portions, some have a window exposing the beauty of their colorful inner banding. The photo above is from a representative bag.

Some of these agates are so nice that people who cut cabochons might pick ones with premium color and pattern to slice and cab. The cabs will be nice enough to mount in a ring, brooch, pendant or other piece of jewelry.

Slicing the nodules into "rounds" on a small rock saw will produce wonderful disks with colorful concentric bands. These can easily be tumble-polished and used in a variety of jewelry and craft projects. Thickly sliced they can be used as a pendant or a game piece. Thinly sliced they can be used to make a pin, a pair of cuff links, or a pair of earrings.

INTERMEDIATE Rock Tumbling Recipe:

Botswana Agate (1 to 2 inches)

When tumbling this Botswana agate two things should be considered:

1) More Time: Patience will pay off with better end results. Botswana agate is really hard. It is harder than most jaspers and most petrified woods. Your job during the coarse grit step is to grind away the outer surface of these nodules. You must grind down through the bruises that this material received in its natural environment. From experience we can tell you that it will take a couple of weeks minimum. We suggest running in coarse grit for two weeks, then checking to see if you have removed the surficial bruising.

2) Media Needed: This material is in pieces that range between 1" and 2" in size. For that reason, we add about 25% ceramic media to fill the voids between the larger pieces of rough. The cylindrical shape of the ceramic media acts like a roller bearing and gives the rocks a smooth tumbling action in the barrel. The small pieces of media also deliver grit to all surfaces of the rough.

Using Small-Size Rough Instead of Media: Some people use small pieces of rough instead of media. This can work well if your small rough meets two requirements: 1) the small pieces of rough must be blocky or rounded in shape to produce a good tumbling action - thin or flaky pieces will break up quickly and might not produce a smooth tumbling action; 2) the small pieces of rough must have a hardness that is equal to or greater than the rough that they are tumbled with - if they are softer they will tumble into mud before their job has been done.

Recipe for Rotary Tumbling

Tumbling Recipe for soft large pieces of rough

Coarse Grit Step: Fill your tumbler barrel 2/3 full of rough and media (we use about 25% media and 75% rough). Then add 2 tablespoons of coarse (60/90) grit per pound of material in the barrel. Add enough water to cover the tops of the rocks. Run the material in coarse grit for 2 weeks. After two weeks check your material. If you are happy with the shaping move onto the medium grit step. If more shaping is needed, clean the rough and start tumbling again with a clean barrel and fresh grit.

At the end of all steps in the rock tumbling process, make sure to clean your rocks and barrel to reduce the chance of coarser grit contaminating the finer grit steps. This cleaning is especially important before you begin the polishing step.

How Many Weeks In Coarse? A little judgement will be needed because every barrel of rocks will be different. They have different sizes, different shapes, different compositions. And, tumblers come in many different sizes, different shapes and run at different speeds. The human brain must be used to get optimal results. You will become wiser and get better results through paying attention and gaining experience.

Medium Grit Step: Put your cleaned rough back into the barrel. Then add 2 tablespoons of medium (150/220) grit per pound of material in the barrel. If the barrel isn't at 2/3 full, add a little more media to bring it up to operating capacity. Add water until it is just below the top of the rocks. Tumble for one week.

Do not pour tumbling mud down the drain
Barrel slurry dumped down the drain will harden like concrete.
Fine Grit Step: After clean-up, put the rocks back into the barrel using 2 tablespoons of fine grit (500F) per pound of material. Again add water to just a little below the top of the rocks. Tumble for one week. The rocks should now be smooth and possibly starting to get a slight luster.

Polish Step: IMPORTANT: Make sure that your barrel and rough have been cleaned thoroughly. Any grit carried over from a previous step will likely ruin your polish. Place the rough in the barrel with two tablespoons of TXP polish for each pound of material in the barrel. Add enough water to almost cover the rocks and let it tumble for one week. You should have polished rocks at the end of this step.

Burnish If Needed: This material usually takes a great polish. However, burnishing it after the polish step can often improve the look of the stones. If you would like to try burnishing, full instructions can be found here.

Vibratory Tumbler Suggestions:

In a vibratory tumbler we start by running these in medium grit and at least 1/3 media until we are happy with their smoothness and shape. Use the amount of grit recommended in your tumbler's instructions or about 1/2 tablespoon per pound of material in the tumbler bowl. Then run two days in fine grit followed by two days in TXP aluminum oxide polish - which we use for all of our rotary and vibratory tumbling. In all vibratory tumbling steps we add enough water to make a thin mud, checking once or twice per day and adding more water if needed.

#61 Rapid Polish is an aluminum oxide polish with a smaller particle size than TXP. It is designed specifically for vibratory rock tumbling and often produces a brighter polish than TXP. We include it with our vibratory grit kits because lots of our customers want it. It performs best on dense, fracture-free rough like these nodules, and this rough would be a good one to try it on if you have never used it.

Tumbled Stones That You Will Be Proud Of:

We think that you will really like the tumbled stones that you make with these nodules. Their hard agate easily polishes to a very bright luster. We don't think you will have any problems polishing them. But you might have problems with people trying to beg them from you.

Finished Botswana Agate Tumbled Stones:

If you don't want to tumble this Botswana agate yourself, we usually have medium size (5/8" to 1") tumbled stones of this material for sale by the pound. You can find them here.

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Grit kit

Standard Grit Kit

Standard Grit Kit
1 pound of each: coarse, medium and fine grit. 8 ounces of TXP polish. This is enough supplies to tumble up to four three-pound barrels of rocks. Save money with a large grit kit.