Sodalite for Rock Tumbling and Cabbing
This image shows some sodalite tumbling rough, dumped into a colander and sprayed with water to reveal its full color. Click on the image for a closer look. Your tumbled stones are going to have beautiful patterns of blue and white!
A photo of some pieces of tumbled sodalite. You can see that the blue color ranges from a light denim blue to a blue so dark that it looks almost black.
Sodalite Tumbling and Cabbing Rough
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Size: mostly 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
What is Sodalite?
Sodalite is a rare blue mineral found mainly in igneous rocks. Some rocks containing abundant sodalite can be polished to a beautiful luster and are durable enough for a variety of uses. When polished they often display attractive white patterns produced by other minerals dispersed through the rock. For these reasons and especially for its blue color, sodalite is valued as a gem material, ornamental stone and architectural material.
The sodalite being sold here is in a rock from Brazil that also contains abundant white nepheline. Both of these minerals have a hardness of approximately 6 on the Mohs hardness scale. That gives the rock a uniform hardness that will perform well in a rock tumbler. The tumbled stones produced will have an appearance dominated by dark blue sodalite with fine markings of white nepheline.
This rough can also be used to cut nice blue and white cabochons. Some people make tumbled stones then pick the ones that can easily be sawn into thin slices for cutting small cabochons - or just tumble the slices for nice ovid gems that are perfect for earrings, pendants, cufflinks, game pieces and more.
INTERMEDIATE Rock Tumbling Recipe:
Sodalite (1/2 to 2 inches)
When tumbling this sodalite two things should be considered:
1) Shapes Quickly: This Sodalite is an igneous rock from Brazil that is composed mainly of blue sodalite and white nepheline, with minor amounts of a few other minerals. Sodalite and nepheline both have a Mohs hardness of about 6 so they should shape faster than the agate, jasper and petrified wood that most people tumble - and that have a Mohs hardness of about 7. For that reason, we suggest tumbling Sodalite for less time during the coarse grit step of the tumbling process.
2) Media Needed: This Sodalite ranges in size between about 1/2" and 2". For that reason, ceramic media should be added to fill the voids between the large pieces of rough. These will provide a smoother tumbling action and deliver grit to the surfaces of the larger pieces of Sodalite. We would tumble a mixture of about 25% media and 75% Sodalite. Additional media should be added after the first tumbling step if the barrel volume drops below recommended levels.
Recipe for Rotary Tumbling
Barrel slurry dumped down the drain will harden like concrete.
Coarse Grit Step: Fill your barrel 2/3 full of rough and media (or small rough). About 10% to 20% of the material in the barrel should be ceramic media or small size rough. Then add 2 tablespoons of coarse (60/90) grit per pound of material in the barrel (rough + media). Add enough water to cover the rocks and tumble for one week.
Medium Grit Step: Put your cleaned rough and media back into the barrel. If the barrel is less than 2/3 full, add additional broken-in media to get the barrel up to its proper operating level. Then add 2 tablespoons of medium (150/220) grit per pound of material in the barrel. Finally, add enough water to put the water level just below the top of the rocks. Then tumble for 1 week.
Fine Grit Step: After clean-up, put the rocks and media back into the barrel with 2 tablespoons of fine grit per pound of material and enough water to bring the water level up to just a little below the top of the rocks. Tumble for one week. Your rocks should be really smooth after this step.
Polish Step: Make sure that your barrel and rough/media mix have been cleaned thoroughly of all grit and rock mud. Then place the rough and media in the barrel with two tablespoons of TXP polish for each pound of material in the barrel. Then add enough water to almost cover the rocks. Tumble for one week.
Burnish If Needed: If you have done a good job of tumbling, this tumbled sodalite will have a nice soft glow. It will not have the "glassy" polished luster that you can produce on agate. Burnishing will probably not be needed, but if you want to clean up the rocks, you can find the full burnishing instructions here.
Vibratory Tumbler Recipe:
1/2" to 3" softer rough
Coarse Grit (60/90 Mesh):
Coarse grit is not used in a vibrating rock tumbler.
Medium Grit (150/220 Mesh):
Due to the size of this material it is recommended that you start with minimum of 30% ceramic media. The use of this media will aid in the tumbling action in the barrel and help deliver grit to all surfaces of the rough
After you have your bowl loaded to the manufacturer's recommended level add 1 tablespoon of grit for every two pounds of material, including the media, in the bowl. While the tumbler is running, slowly add water until the material has a thin coat of wet grit and the tumbling action is smooth and fast in the bowl.
Check the bowl every 8-12 hours to ensure the action is still good. If the action has slowed, add water a little at a time until the action is back to normal. If the mud gets too thick you will need to do a complete rinse of the material and bowl. After rinsing, add fresh grit and water and start tumbling again. You are done with medium grit when you are satisfied with the shape and smoothness of the stones. Usually 3-4 days for us with this material. Give the material and bowl a thorough cleaning before moving on to fine grit.
Fine Grit (500F Mesh):
Place your material back in the tumbler bowl, then add enough polished ceramic media to bring the load up to the manufacturer's recommended operating level. Add one tablespoon of grit for every two pounds of material in the bowl. Then, turn the tumbler on and slowly add water until the material has a thin coat of wet grit and the tumbling action is smooth and fast in the bowl.
Open the bowl every 8-12 hours to check the action is still good. We usually run fine grit for 48 hours. Thoroughly clean the bowl and material before moving to the polishing step.
Polish (#61 Rapid Polish or TXP):
Place the cleaned material back in the bowl. If needed, add ceramic media that has been previously polished, to bring the bowl up to the manufacturer's recommended operating level. Add one tablespoon of polish for every two pounds of material in the bowl. Turn on the tumbler and slowly add water. Stop adding water when the material has a thin coat of wet polish and the tumbling action is smooth and rapid.
Like the previous grit steps, open the bowl every 8-12 hours to check the tumbling action. Add water if it has slowed. We have found that 48 hours is usually all the time you need to get a good polish in a vibratory tumbler. Any more time than that and you run the risk of damaging / bruising the material.
Burnish If Needed:
This rough will usually take a great polish. However, burnishing this material after the polish step can often improve the look of the finished stones. If you would like to try burnishing to see if it improves the look of your polished stones, full burnishing instructions can be found here.
Tumbled Sodalite is Available
If you would rather purchased sodalite that is already tumbled we have some very nice stones in medium size, available by the pound here.
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