Monthly Archives: May 2011

Calcite Stalactites in a Lamanon “Grotte” (Cave)

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My Dad told me a story of when he used to live here (Lamanon) when he was around 14 yrs. old, he, his dad (my Grandfather), and some of Dad’s friends went to a cave where bats roosted. Well, in the cave, they saw the bats and decided that Mrs. Harris (my Grandmother) was a “very good housekeeper” so she deserved a present. A pet, to be exact. So, they brought the pet home and released him. In the house! Well, I Don’t need to tell you what happened next.

Anyway, yesterday Jonathan and I got to see the cave. It is a man-made cave that goes in very far. When you first enter, you go down a flight of steps. At the bottom you turn left and you see a small calcite “cathedral” I think they call it. Well, just above it is a “window” into a water source. Now this water is calcium-rich, so as the water drips down it forms calcite stalactites. I managed to get a few small stalactites but the bigger ones were too hard to reach. A while ago, someone put a piece of wood down there and now it’s almost completely covered in calcite! 

 Later on, Jonathan and I came back with flashlights to try to get to the back of the cave, though we were stopped by a deep pit and though we could have gotten across, that would mean touching wall. And with all the spiders, that was out of the question. Right above that there were some weird mushrooms growing on the cave wall. Oh, no bats, but the spiders were huge, and we even found a toad!

As Jonathan and I were down there, we started thinking of all the creepiest things possible like Tom Sawyer when he got stuck in the cave, and Gollum sneaking up from behind, and all the stories of The Hermit’s Cave, and the Sherlock Holmes murders, and poisonous snakes, and tarantulas, and the part of the movie Lord of the Rings when the Uruk-Hai are advancing towards Helm’s Deep, and hearing The Drums in the Deep; boom… boom… boom… boom…, and hundreds of other things. Ugh! Shivers are going down my spine even as I type!

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The Rocks and Minerals in Provence

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You may already know that Dad, Jonathan, and I are in Lamanon (southern France) visiting for a couple of weeks. As I’m here, I have been observing the rock formations and minerals. The formations are fantastic; (Photo 1) in the northeast of this village, it’s all sandstone. There, about a mile away, there are “Les Grottes”. In medieval times, people lived in dug out caves in the soft Sandstone (photo 2). You can see in photo 3 a “three story building” (Jonathan and I are in the second story window). The second and third story caves are accessible from the the rear by a stairway carved into the stone. I looked for crystals growing in the crevices but found none. In the rest of the area, the rock is all limestone (Photo 4).

In the city of Cavaillon, we hiked to a Chapel that is on the top of a.. wait, what do you call a mix between a hill and a mountain; too big to call a hill and too small to call a mountain? would you call that a “hountain” or a “mountill”? well, whatever it is, we hiked to the Chapel on top by way of a cobblestone staircase built years ago by medieval hands. On the way down, as I was looking into on of the many cracks, I noticed some crystals (photo 5 and 6) growing. I collected some specimens and took them back. I think that it is either Calcite or Aragonite.

Later on, we visited a limestone quarry (photo 7). It was spectacular! there are tons of stone removed from the “hountain” (or “mountill”) creating caves probably big enough to fit two schoolbuses one on top of the other! I think they use Diamond blades to cut out the limestone.

Annealing

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Annealing is a method for softening metal. Before Annealing, the metal, when whacked with a hammer, is brittle and breaks (photo 1.) after Annealing, the metal is soft and malleable (photo 2.), and easy to work with.

This is how you Anneal: what you need is a powerful blow torch, a surface that will not catch fire or melt, a bucket of cool water, tongs, and the metal. Place the metal on the surface and turn on the blow torch. Wave the flame evenly over the metal until the metal has turned a dull red color (it is easier to see the colors if you do this somewhere fairly dark). When that happens, immediately turn of the blow torch (not  much more heat and the metal is ruined) and put the metal (with the tongs, of course) in the water. It will hiss (a sound that I love) but don’t worry, it won’t harm the metal. Voila! your metal is Annealed and ready to work.

(By the way, does anyone know how to re-harden the metal?)

SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have managed successfully to cast some pewter into an interesting medallion (which I will probably melt down) what I did is: first I packed down some wet sand and carved out my design, then put the pewter into a pie-pan and put that into the oven (500 degrees F) I (well, Dad) poured the molten pewter into the sand cast, let that harden then put it in cold water to cool it. I made two crosses in a similar way by placing pieces of pewter in the cast and used a blowtorch to melt them together.

 

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Lost-Wax Casting

Lost-wax casting is an ancient method the ancient Africans used for making intricate metal statues and other metal decorations. What they would do is carve out a lump of of wax exactly as if they were carving the actual statue. They then cover the wax with clay, leaving a hole at the top of the clay. When the clay is dry, they put on a few more layers of clay. When that is dry, they hold it (with tongs, of course) upside-down over the fire so the wax melts and runs out the hole in the top (the wax had left an impression in the clay) they then pour molten metal in the hole in the top of the clay. When the metal has cooled and hardened, they break away the clay leaving the metal perfectly imprinted in the impression left by the wax. After a final polish, it is ready to be placed in the Grand Oba’s palace!

I am planning to do the same, but I need some Plaster of Paris (as the clay) and a few other things; if I am successfull*, I will post all about it.

 

*notice I said if I am successfull.