Archive for the ‘soapstone’ Category

Surfacing once again! I’ve been practicing my old weight loss regime. I still don’t recommend it.

As I’ve been spending so much in time in bed, I’ve gotten a lot of soapstone carving done (not the major work, just the fine sanding). I finished J’s dolphin (he found the sanding boring) and my whale. I also re-sanded and polished all my old pieces.

Soapstone is an incredibly soft stone – you could scratch it with your fingernail – which makes it ideal for amateurs to play at sculpture. Tor those who don’t know – and that is probably pretty much everyone – it works like this: first, you carve your shape, using a saw, then chisels and files. Once you have the shape, you take some rough sandpaper and sand away all the file marks, round corners nicely, etc. Then you take a finer grade of sandpaper and sand away all the marks made by the rougher stuff. Then you take some finer sandpaper than that and repeat the process, until you are down to sandpaper so fine you can hardly distinguish it from regular paper. Then you take that last sandpaper and cup of water, and sand the piece wet. Done properly, the piece will then have such a high sheen you don’t need to use any oils or polishes to darken it up, beyond rubbing it with you finders for a while.

I regret not taking photos at the various stages of some of my pieces, but I’ll do so next time. Here is a photo of a ‘raw’ chip of soapstone:


It looks much like the bit I carved this tiny whale out of years ago:


 I love the polishing stage. I love all the stages, actually. Most of my family gets bored after a few levels of sanding, probably because when they think they are ready to move on a level and bring it to me for inspection, I say, “You missed a spot here, here, here and here, and this just isn’t smooth enough here.” They could just ignore me, of course, but then their piece wouldn’t end up so smooth. I have a particular eye for detail and the obsessive/compulsive perfectionist in me loves to work out every little scratch and mark, so eventually everyone just hands over their soapstone to me for completion.

This is a loon I carved many years ago , which I have re-polished since I found sandpaper that was much finer than I had the previous time I worked on it. This shine is achieved with sandpaper and rubbing with my hands alone. No actual polish.


Last weekend, J’s brother and family were in for Yom Kippur, and we took my three nephews to stay at our house. To keep them amused at one point, we pulled out the extra pieces of soapstone and got the three of them carving too. The nice thing about soapstone is that you don’t really need to be a great sculpter to make a nice piece. Once you polish it up, pretty much anything looks impressive. If it’s badly carved, it just looks more stylized.

This one is a good example. I really don’t like how it turned out. I made a huge mistake in the whale’s tail (which you don’t get to see), but it still looks gorgeous now. It even has cool little flecks of gold in it.


This one is J’s, which is a very stylized dolphin. It has even more cool flakes.


I also watched Six Feet Under on the laptop. I never saw it on TV, but I have now gone through all five seasons in about a week and a half (I started before I got sick). It is pretty darn intense to watch a show like that in such a short period of time. It is almost like reading a book.

Anyway, damn good show, if anyone else hasn’t seen it. It made me think, not just about the issues the show raised, but about the nature of television in general. They broke a lot of TV ‘rules,’ like clear-cut good guys and bad guys, and happy endings.


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I’m sorry I abandoned you, internet. I had a good reason, though, or seven. One, it was Rosh Hoshanah, which means the kids were home and there was kugel to be made. Then I got sick and spent the actual two days of Rosh Hoshanah sleeping between throwing up. I didn’t even get one picture of my adorable children all dressed up in their High Holiday finery, which kind of kills me, because they were so cute.

Also, there was the show Six Feet Under, which I have never seen. I impulsively rented the first disc of the first season. I played it on the laptop, allowing me to watch it while convalescing, or making kugel, or singing lullabyes (using earphones and my remarkable skill to sing “Hush Little Baby” without engaging my brain in the process at all, so I can read or watch a DVD at the same time). I’m almost finished season two now.

And then, there was the soapstone. In the summer, a family friend brought little bits of soapstone left over from her high school art class to let the kids play at shaping. They loved it, and so did I. Before I had kids, I used to carve soapstone as a hobby, but haven’t done so for years. But the bug re-bit me, so a few days ago, we found a local placed that provides small blocks and bought one. J cut it into smaller pieces so every one had one and we all sat at the kitchen table and carved and filed. Even J got into the act.

Maya is making a loon.


Asher started out with a seal, but it wasn’t going right and a little examination made it clear that a bird was emerging from his rock, so that is what it now is.


Boo wants a whale, which I am carving with her help (she files for a bit when she gets the urge). J is making a dolphin. Everyone is now at the sanding stage except for me, because I have to keep stopping to help the others, as the resident ‘expert’ (ie, the only one with a clue as to what to do next).

We are having so much fun. We’ve spent hours at the table, the whole family, carving and talking. Boo collects and plays with the powder created from filing and gives opinions as to how the carvings are going.


I would have never imagined this as a family activity, but we all like it so much it is hard to tear ourselves away.


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