The art and science of Tumbling Rocks

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“ROCK” IT SCIENCE

a lapidary and glass blog for the casual (and not so casual) artist

8.11.17


The art and science of Tumbling Rocks

Finding rocks

Let me start by saying there are all kinds of books out there to help the casual (and not so casual) rockhound find rocks in their local area. These books map out sites and some even give GPS locations to rockhounds. It’s that simple!

So why write a segment on finding rocks?

I guess I like a challenge.

Finding rocks has become somewhat of a hobby. When I am out walking or hiking I am constantly on the lookout for rocks that I think my daughter would like. I’m not gonna lie. I am usually on the lookout for certain types of rocks.

Hard rocks. I’m usually on the lookout for hard rocks.

The first two times I took my daughter hiking in the mountains we searched for rocks that I thought would tumble or cut well. Basically, I wanted to find some stones that could withstand a month of tumbling and still turn out somewhat nice. Oh, and I want them to take a polish. That’s important too. If a stone is too porous it won’t polish up to that brilliant shine we all covet.

Both times we went to the same mountain. Both times, we came back with a lot of crummy (and crumbly) stones. ‘Cause that would be our luck. We go out looking for agates and come back with sandstone. We found a few pieces of river rock that had a granite look but nothing that looked like it would stand up to tumbling OR cutting. 

Pictured: My dad and daughter on our first trip hunting for rocks.

But who needs books to find local rock deposits?

A few days after these failed “rockhounding” trips, I went hiking with my parents in another local mountain area. As we began our two-mile trip up to the peak, I looked down and found dozens of beautiful stones. Some were white, some were pink, some were blue. I asked my dad what they were and he agreed that they looked like quartz. I had been thinking the same thing but couldn’t imagine this local mountain having rocks hard enough to tumble so I picked a few up.

We kept hiking and as we proceeded I continued to stop and pick up small rocks that I thought my daughter would like to tumble with me. About halfway to the peak I put a rock in my pack and I was suddenly exhausted.

I told my parents “no more rocks” but what I really meant was “from this point on I really need to decide if the rock is worth my additional effort.”

It wasn’t until later, when we reached the truck, that I realized just how many rocks I had collected. I had picked up at least two dozen small and medium sized rocks that weighed in around 20 pounds!

Rockhounding sure is a heavy hobby if you’re hiking!

PRO TIP: If you’re out for a hike and not actually rockhounding, set the stones on the side of the road with a marker so you remember to pick it up on your way back DOWN. (This tip really only works for largish rocks that are easy to spot).

PRO TIP: If you’re rockhounding and your partners are hiking (and maybe you, like me, are a little out of shape) stopping to look at rocks is an excellent excuse for a break!

PRO TIP: If at all possible, don’t pick up more weight in rocks than you can drink from your water supply. That way you don’t feel like you’re carrying more weight. It feels like the same amount for the whole hike!

Now that I am satisfied with my selection of hardish stones, I can get my tumbler rolling. I’ll keep you posted on my tumbling progress!

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