The Hunt...for Rock....Equipment

Yes, Hiking is one of my passions, but my second passion has got to be finding things, especially rocks (though I do wish I could get into treasure-hunting too). Ever since I moved to the mountains of NC, I've been dying to get back into rockhounding.  Though, the lack of a vehicle has kinda made that hard.

I've gathered a few interesting rocks along my walks and hikes with Pepper, though, it's a whole new environment with an entirely different geology compared to the Southwest.

So, since I'm stuck with just daily hikes and no rockhounding adventures, that's given me a lot of time to do research.

My ultimate goal is to create my little gemstone and petrified wood bracelets.  Like this:

I STILL want a Lapidary "Combo Unit Machine" -basically a big giant goliath of a machine that's about 4-7 feet long, has a bunch of spinning wheels on it, and just looks like a giant monster.  A "Combo Unit" is the machine that polishes cabochons, stones, and is one of the primary tools that makes all those pretty stones in all those pretty rings we see on Pinterest/Internet/Etsy, etc....

The primary problem with getting a Combo Unit is PRICE.  If you're lucky, a brand new machine will run you about $1100, and that's with deals, coupons, friend of a friend discounts.  Most people buy used, but unless you have someone with both mechanical and lapidary experience, it's a shot in the dark if you're about to spend hundreds on a hunk of scrap metal or if you've got a "gem in the rough".

Alternately, I can invest in a good rock tumbler (or two) and a small rotary drill. The only problem with this is that I've had terrible luck with the rotary drill tools. It doesn't matter the brand or how much I spend. It's the quality of the diamond drill bits available, and how thin and polished the rocks I am working with are.

Lately, I've been using a website called for all my rock information, from Tumblers, to Lapidary tools, and general rocks information...

While I'm all about being cheap, and also saving a dollar, has a GREAT article about refurbishing and replacing parts for Vintage Tumblers, which ends up being the "Pros and Cons of Buying Used", as well as buying old gear in general.

A vintage Rock Tumbler (Photo Credit: in good condition 
So, basically, the article has taught me that while I'm limited in what "deals" I might find locally, if I do find a deal, I'll need to be especially savvy if I decided to spend my hard-earned cash on whatever might be laying around at a yard sale.  I'm starting to lean towards a professional or "hobbyist" rock tumbler, but I still don't know if I'm going to invest in a big giant lapidary machine like a Combo Unit, or if I can get by with a standard tumbler and a rotary drill.

Luckily, my father-in-law has offered to let me use his drill press, I just need to find diamond drill bits that will work with it.  And....that's where I'm tool-dumb. Because it's a standard size press, I'm really not familiar working with standard size tools.

If I can't find bits that will work with the drill press, I'm right back to rotary tools. Like this one:

Anybody reading this blog got any recommendations for rock tumblers or other lapidary gear? If so, let me know!

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