Gypsum is a type of soft carvable mineral found in sedimentary rock formations. It normally contains large amounts of chemically bound water making it too soft to carve. Varieties of gypsum containing less water, such as alabaster and anhydrite are much better suited for carving and are able to achieve a good natural polish. They are somewhat translucent and can contain attractive veining and marbling within. Carving gypsum is far easier than carving a hard stone like granite. Electric or air tools with diamond bits can easily carve any type of gypsum to create works of art.
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Things you need
- Stationary grinding wheel
- Electric hand-held grinder with diamond bits
- Reference images
Test the pieces of gypsum you wish to carve to determine if they are too soft. If you drop the piece on the ground and it breaks, it is much too soft to carve. Explore a gypsum deposit near a quarry in your area if possible. You can find all sorts of good carvable gypsum, including anhydrite and alabaster, near the ground surface.
Draw your carving design on a piece of paper or use a particular object or photograph as a main reference. Place your references near your carving station so that you can examine them as you work. Use a marker to define certain areas on the rock that you will remove.
Remove the largest sections of the rock using a stationary grinding wheel for pieces around the size of a baseball. Gently push the rock against the wheel, keeping a firm grip on the rock. Secure larger pieces of rock in a vice or use clamps and use a hand-held angle grinder to remove material.
Secure the rock that you wish to carve into place once it has been roughly shaped by the grinding wheel. This will free up your hands and prevent the rock from drifting out of position as you grind. Keep indicating areas that you need to remove with a marker until you have achieved the right depth. Avoid removing too much material, as it may ruin the proportions of your sculpture.
Refine the surfaces and contours using sandpaper going from coarse to finer grit. Wash the sculpture to clean off the dust on occasion to examine your progress. Use sharp diamond bits for precise detail. Sand off any tool marks by hand until all the crevices and lines and smooth and defined.
Give the finished carving a nice polish using polishing wheel attachments. Use regular polishing paste to get a shiny surface on the rock sculpture. The harder the variety of gypsum you are carving, the better the polish will be. Sand the bottom flat so that the sculpture will stand without tipping. Add adhesive rubber feet to prevent the stone carving from scratching your furniture.
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