February 21, 2010

Surfacing the soapstone

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

I thought you might like to see a photo of the method I am using to smooth the band saw marks off the surface of a thin piece of soapstone. The tool in the drill press chuck is a 1/8" diameter shank, diamond coated bit. I do use a dust collector when surfacing the stone but I removed that so it was easy to see the stone and the bit. I only remove around a 1/16" of the surface in a pass, sometimes less when I get close to the final dimension. Too aggressive of a cut risks breaking the stone.

You can do this task on a regular drill press, even on a Dremel Drill Press if you have a speed control on your motor. Diamond coated bits are not rated for high speeds. Don't exceed the recommended speed stated for the bit you use. Only do this for soapstone, hard stones need to be water cooled while surfacing and you will ruin a regular drill press or Dremel if you get water in it.

The drill press I am using in the photo is a Cameron, high speed, precision, deep throat. This drill press does not look like much, in fact it looks rather old fashioned and well let me be honest...ugly. But it was one of those very lucky finds of a lifetime that one hears about. There it was sitting all dusty and somewhat rusty, on a low shelf in a local consignment store selling used tools. It was the former property of a Boeing engineer who had it in his home workshop where he probably tinkered with making prototypes of his own inventions and made his own circuit boards. Once in very great while they show up used on Ebay. The Cameron drill presses run fast enough that one can use them as a miniature overarm router and the spindle is so precise in the bearings, with very minimal run-out, that you can use the smallest of drill bits without breakage. These are actually a three speed drills press and a speed controller can be added to take the lowest speed even slower. It certainly deserves a place on the wish list for a dream workshop for making miniatures. You can still buy new Cameron drill presses but they are very expensive and probably not in most miniature workshop budgets. Used is a viable option as the Cameron company has very good customer service should you need repairs or parts.