Lapidary Tips Stone Cutting Tips Silver Smithing Tips Cabochon Cutting Tips Faceting Tips discount diamond tools for lapidary Daniel Lopacki Stone Beads

Lapidary Tips Stone Cutting Tips Silver Smithing Tips Cabochon Cutting Tips Faceting Tips discount diamond tools for lapidary Daniel Lopacki Stone Beads

Quality Lapidary Products at Discount Prices

Lapidary and Metal Smithing Tips
From Daniel's Workbench

Please note this is just a starter, I will do my best to keep updating this when time allows. I have many tips and hope to share them all with you over time. If you have a tip and would like to submit it I will give you credit in the body of your hint.


In 1981 I bought my first Sugilite at the Tucson Gem Show. While admiring it outside a person at another table made the comment “good luck polishing it” .......... Go figure

This was my first experience with a stone that was a true pain to get an excellent polish on. After much experimentation I finally came up with a way to polish literally any material hard or soft to a “WATER WET SHINE”

It’s too simple to be true but it works great ....... Use wood.... I recommend using a softer wood over a hard wood. The first machine I made used a small 1/15th HP 3000 rpm motor, as you never run the motor near it’s top speed a slower motor will work fine. At this time I think one of the best motors for this and many other applications is the Foredom Bench Lathe

stone polishing

I hand made my first wood polishing wheel from pine. I drilled a hole the arbor size through the board. I then used a compass to lay out a 2 1/2” circle, using a jewelers saw I cut as near a true circle as I could. This done, I mounted my rough wheel onto the arbor and then turned the motor on; with the wheel spinning I freehand cut the wood wheel perfectly true. I don’t recommend doing this as it is a little dangerous, find a friend with a wood lathe.

Once I had a true running wooden wheel I then charged it with 50,000 mesh diamond powder and light honing oil. I tried this on my hard to polish sugilite ......... Lo and behold … “WATER WET”...No water.

Since this time in 1981, my wood of choice is now redwood for wheels and high grade sanded plywood for flat laps. I work all my stone whether cabs, mosaic or beads to a 600 mesh wet sand. I then go to wood in three steps, 1200, 14,000 and 50,000 mesh diamond powder mixed with any light oil.

If you decide to try this out you will need three wheels, one for each mesh size I recommend keeping the wheels on their own arbor so you will also need three arbors. Keep each wheel in its own Zip Loc to keep from cross contamination.


When using a diamond drill you are better off running the drill a little too slow over super high speed. My logic is that if you run the drill at excessive speed, the water has much less chance to stay in the hole and the diamond can get very hot very fast, thus causing the nickel plating to let go. For .75mm drills I run about 3000 RPM as the size of the drill is increased the speed goes down

When you start your hole lightly touch the surface of the stone, push slightly until you see a small amount of dust coming off of the drill into the water, you are pushing hard enough, pushing harder will not make the drill go through faster, more than likely it will either cause excess dust to build up stopping the water or seizing the tip of the drill in the hole. Let the drill do its work do not force it through impatience.

diamond stone drillingdiamond stone drilling

When drilling either submerge the stone under water or make some type of device (as the above converted garden sprayer) that will squirt water directly into the hole. The deeper you drill the more often you should raise the drill out of the hole and allow it to clear the stone dust. Otherwise too much dust in the hole will build up around the drill and again you have a heat problem......... There goes the diamond.


Over the years I’ve had to laugh inside when someone complained how hard it was to make a nice perfectly round cab with an even dome. I solved this problem years ago when making tiny round gemstone eyes for ivory carvings I was making.

I super glued the tiny piece of stone onto the end of a finishing nail. Once the glue set I chucked the nail in my #30 Foredom hand piece, I hung the Foredom close to my grinding unit. With the Foredom and grinding machine turned on I just slowly moved the rotating stone into the rotating wheel and in no time had a perfectly round tube. I then used a diamond file to shape the tiny dome required.

From this point forward if I ever needed a round cab, I’d just find the nail that suited my needs, cut it to length for the Foredom, glue my stone to it and had my round cab in no time. Ihave made round cabs in all sizes at this point, you can actually round and dome your stone then hit it on the 600 belt without ever turning the Foredom or your machine off. On large stones it is best that you rough round the stone a little prior to spinning it in the handpiece.


After grinding my fingernails and the tips of my fingers to the point of bleeding while doing tiny stones for my inlay work a friend of mine Raymond Yazzie showed me a tool his brother Lee Yazzie came up with to hold tiny pieces of stone. The tool was so simple to make and worked so well in holding the tiniest piece firmly it amazed me.

Clothespin Vise

To make the tool pull apart a standard wooden clothespin , file a small V- slot and insert a piece of wire, I sawed a finishing nail for this purpose, once done wrap the end of the clothespin with a stout rubber band, grind the tip angle opposite of what came on the clothespin then use your new clamp to hold a tiny piece of stone and you to will be amazed.

I also use this tool in my smithing, many times you need to saw a small piece that is almost impossible to hold.


I started to carve in 1978. My first choice of material to carve was fossil walrus ivory, beautiful material, but it breaks to easy. I started carving stone in the early eighties and continue to this day. Below are a few examples of Fire Agate that I have carved in the past few years.

Lopacki carved fire agateLopacki carved fire agateLopacki carved fire agate

Early on I realized that the standard Jacobs chuck hand piece that came with my Foredom, over time and use, did not allow for a perfectly true running carving burr. The way I overcame this problem was to purchase a 44T collet hand piece and the 7 piece set of collets. In doing this the range of shaft sizes I could hold and run extremely true was vastly improved. In fact with just the 44T handpiece and the collets that come with it you can use literally every burr you see on this website.

Lapidary Carving BenchLapidary Carving Bench

Click Image To Enlarge
Today I have a small carving bench set up in the house that is very compact, comfortable and nice to work at. Rather than changing the collet for the different shaft sizes, on my bench I have two #28 and three 44T hand pieces, my reason for this is that it is quicker and easier to pop the handpiece off the shaft and snap another in its place over switching out collets. I also have a Jacobs chuck #30 handpiece for drilling.

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