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I've got some rough flowering tube onyx. The material is beautiful, with fantastic patterns, and I'd like to slab it and cab it.

However, like most specimens of this type, the material has a lot of fractures.

What is an effective way to stabilize the material for slabbing?

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You may have some luck with stabilizing it as though it was a slab. Using an epoxy in acetone method:

  1. Dissolve epoxy in acetone
  2. Submerge rough stone in the epoxy acetone mixture
  3. Seal up container so acetone does not evaporate
  4. Leave in mixture for at least a week
  5. Remove from acetone and let dry for at least another week

The important detail is this method relies on diffusion. When you have a slab your path length is relatively short, so the epoxy can diffuse in fairly quickly (days). As you make the material thicker the time increases. If you have a piece of rough that is fairly narrow in one dimension, you're in luck, treat it as a slab, diffusion won't be slowed down by rough edges, indeed it will be slightly faster. Where you're going to run into problems is with a thick piece of rough material that resembles a sphere. In this situation you may want to go at it in multiple passes as follows:

Let's say that your rough material is sphere with a diameter of six inches. Additionally you've determined that you can "completely" stabilize a slab that is one inch thick.

If you follow the same procedure with the rough material, you can "completely" stabilize the outer 1/2 inch of it. At which point you could cut off slabs as circles of a sphere:

circle of a sphere

of 1/2 inch thickness. The process could be repeated to allow for a second, larger, slab to be produced.

I would probably sacrifice the first layer, as it is typically irregular to begin with, making a poor slab. Or, because I am impatient, I would slab the rough and accept what breaks as broken and stabilize the usable parts as slabs.

Note: It has been years since I've made a cab and my knowledge of stabilization techniques is from research only, I have not tried these techniques myself.

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