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Cutting and polishing jasper is not difficult and can be very rewarding. You can bring it to a magnificent, glossy shine with a few simple tools, and people never seem to tire of its beautiful shades and patterns. To bring out the best in a piece of jasper, you need to know how to cut, shape and polish it using eight simple steps.
You can cut jasper with hand tools and sandpaper or more expensive lapidary tools like trim saws and slab saws. Polishing can be done by hand, in a rock tumbler, or with a Dremel. The process involves first sizing the stone, then smoothing edges and surfaces, and polishing with a chemical compound.
In this article, we take a closer look at its hardness, the different methods and tools to use when cutting and polishing jasper, and how you can do it at home. The good news is that you don’t need a rock tumbler to bring out the stone’s beauty and can use a few hand tools and other methods instead. Jasper is a popular tumble stone, so we also outline how to shape and polish it in a rock tumbler.
If you are interested in checking out the best dremels and dremel accessories for cutting and polishing opals you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
Is Jasper Hard To Cut?
Jasper has a hardness of between 6.5 and 7 on the Mohs hardness scale as it is a variety of quartz. It is relatively easy to cut because it has a smooth surface when it breaks and can be cut with hand tools or lapidary equipment such as a trim saw or slab saw.
Lapidary tools are electrically powered machines using coarse diamond or silicon carbide blades. When using hand tools or lapidary equipment, the stone is usually mounted on a dop stick made of metal or in a vise to hold it steady.
The trim saw uses thin steel, phosphor bronze alloy, or copper blade with an edge hardened with diamond grit. A trim saw is a relatively inexpensive, miniature electric circular saw with a blade between four and six inches in diameter.
An alternative is a grinding wheel to shape jasper into cabochons and other forms, and it gives you more control than a saw. A coarse wheel is best for jasper. Some bench grinders can also be fitted with polishing pads.
TIP: Jasper occurs in many varieties and can satisfy any mineral lover. However, please, beware of fakes. Find out the main differences between real and fake jaspers in the article below:
Real vs. Fake Jasper: Focus on These 4 Differences
How To Cut Jasper
Step One: Examine the stone to see which part of it you want to keep and how you want to shape it. If the jasper is too big for your equipment, cut a kerf into the stone, then place a chisel into the cut and hit it with a hammer. A kerf is a shallow cut, less than an inch deep, made with a saw.
Step Two: Set up your saw or grindstone and make sure the saw blade is fresh and sharp. Replace the blade if it looks bent, or if the teeth are damaged. Ensure the saw blade is perpendicular to the drive shaft axis. Always wear safety gear and a dust mask.
Step Three: After you have decided how best to cut the stone, place it in a vice or affix it to a dop stick, depending on which cutting method you are using. You apply the stone to the blade with a trim saw by hand.
Step Four: Carefully feed the stone straight into the blade if you are using an electric saw. Even if you are using a handsaw, the blade must be applied straight on and not at an angle. If the edge touches the stone at an angle, it will likely bend and become unusable.
Step Five: Remove any unwanted pieces from the cut stone using tile nippers. However, jasper usually cuts pretty cleanly, so it is unlikely that this will be necessary.
Cutting Jasper By Hand
Alternatively, you can cut jasper by hand using sandpaper, a small chisel, and a mallet, or a coping saw.
Step One: Buy four wet and dry sandpaper sheets, preferably silicon carbide, from your local hardware store with 180, 400, 600, and 1200 grit. The 180 grit is the coarsest, while the 1200 grit is the finest.
Step Two: Cut the stone roughly to your desired size with the chisel or coping saw.
Step Three: Prepare a work surface using a kitchen cutting board and have a clean, dry cloth handy. Fix the 180 grit sandpaper to the cutting board and moisten the center with fresh tap water.
Step Four: Select a stone with a few flat surfaces and grind it evenly against the paper in smooth strokes. This may take a while!
Step Five: Use each successive grit size to obtain an increasingly smooth surface, making sure to rinse the dust from the stone and wipe it with the cloth before moving on to the next piece of sandpaper.
You need to grind away all the rough edges with the coarse paper and then remove the scratches with the finer grits.
Cutting Jasper With A Dremel
A Dremel is a small hand-held electric rotary tool, so it will not work on very thick or large rocks. You can get a diamond wheel point or diamond point for a Dremel that works well for cutting stones with a hardness of seven or less, including jasper. Wash the jasper with dish soap and water and secure it in a clamp or vise.
Hold the bit at a flat angle and grind it into shape. Have a bowl of water handy because you will need to dip the stone into it periodically to cool it down and wash the dust off. Try to cut infirm, straight lines. Set it to a moderate speed, to begin with, and build up from there.
TIP: What can you use to cut rocks if you do not have the saw or dremel? Check out five different ways how to cut rocks in the article below:
What Can I Use to Cut Rocks? These 5 Tools are the Best!
How To Polish Jasper At Home
Ocean Jasper polishes very well to a nice shine, but Red Creek Jasper has a more matt finish, so make sure you know your jaspers. When polishing, you want to bring out any patterns and colors in the stone, leaving smooth, shiny surfaces.
Step Six: Once you have sanded the stone smooth enough for your satisfaction, wrap a clean cloth around a chopping board.
Step Seven: Add a small quantity of polishing compound to the cloth. You can use cerium oxide, a .3 micron aluminum oxide powder, tin oxide, or try metal or glass polish from the local hardware store.
Step Eight: Rub the stone repeatedly against the cloth and wipe off any excess polishing compound periodically until you are satisfied with the result.
Polishing Jasper Stones In A Rock Tumbler
Rock tumblers have barrels into which you place water combined with various sized media, like ceramic balls, grits, and the stones you want to polish. You start with the coarsest grit and then replace it periodically with finer and finer ones – the finest look like powder.
The process can take months, depending on the size and quantity of the rocks, and is best for polishing multiple stones at a time. Each time you move to a finer grit, you have to empty and clean the tumbler and wash the previous grit from the rocks.
In the final polishing step, you put the stones in the clean barrel with the recommended amount of polishing compound and water and tumble for a week. The polishing compound recommended for jasper is TXP aluminum oxide.
Polishing Jasper Stones With A Dremel
To polish with a Dremel, choose a bit with a coarser grit to begin and apply it at a flat angle to the jasper. Wipe the stone with a clean, dry cloth periodically.
A variable speed Dremel is better than a fixed speed one as it gives you more control. Graduate to finer grits to remove the scratches.
You get various buffing and polishing wheels with a Dremel tool to give your jasper its final shine. They are usually made of felt. If you want, you can dip the felt in a bit of polishing compound and work it into the stone. Keep going until it is shiny and then wash off any remaining compound.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
Jaspers are gorgeous stones that are not hard to cut and polish with a bit of patience. If you are just a collector wanting to shape and shine the rocks for your own pleasure, you need not invest in expensive lapidary tools. A Dremel works remarkably well for small jaspers, but you can use the even simpler methods described above.
TIP: The best tools for polishing rocks and adding a soft glimmer are the rotary dremels. Check out reviews for the best dremel drills on the market in the article below:
3 Best Dremels for Polishing Rocks & Crystals + Accessories