How we “work up” our ET Brown Alabaster stone

This is a short post about how we change rough alabaster stone from our quarry into “ringing” solid stones that are ready for you, the sculptor.  We know that creativity is key when striving to sculpt a stone into its final design and shape.  We want this creative process to unfold without any hindrance on our part.

The First Step in getting your stone is mining it from the ground.

We have spent the last several years preparing and searching for the perfect place to get your stone.  This process includes working with the BLM to secure a mining claim.  This process also includes geologists, archaeologists, and environmentalists who come to the proposed location and determine whether our activities will be detrimental to the environment or not.  We take time to survey the area, develop maps and plans, and take into account the natural landscape and plants.

Alabaster is a gem quality gypsum and is much softer than its counterpart of marble and granite.  As such we must mine it much differently.  We do not use explosives in our mining process as this leads to creating new fractures in the stone and can minimize the sizes acquired.  We take care to mine our Alabaster with tools that prevent further fractures.

ET Brown Alabaster boulder
3,000lb ET Brown Alabaster boulder

We utilize newer technologies such as expansive grout.  We drill holes, pour the grout in the holes, and it slowly expands over a 24 hour period.  This expansive pressure loosens the stone in its natural seams.  Then we come in with equipment to remove boulders from the vein.

These boulders look impressive (image above) and can weigh in at more than 3,000lbs in a single chunk.  At this stage the work has just begun.

The Second Step in delivering the quality stone you need comes next.  We use hand tools to remove obvious clay bodies attached to the alabaster and we work to remove any softer stone that is naturally there.  We use electric chisels in this process.  When we have a large boulder it is important to examine the boulder with care to find existing natural seams in the stone.  These seams can be hard to detect.  One way to detect them is to tap the boulder with another solid stone.  Boulders will generally just make a thud sound, but occasionally they will make a tone.  When a tone is heard, one must tap all over the boulder to check if the tone changes.  If the tone changes, chances are there is a hidden seam.  We use a lightweight electric hammer to test the boulder and break them down into more manageable stone slabs.

cut alabaster boulder
Reducing a boulder with saw cuts

The Third Step in the process is cleaning up these pieces.  We want your stone to arrive ready to become something amazing.  During this step we use an old fashion wood axe to chop any loose pieces from the stone.  We continuously tap the stone until it rings consistently throughout the piece.  If it is too large for us to handle we either arrange folks to pick up a stone from the quarry or we saw cut the stone by a depth of about 4″ and using chisel wedges and sledge hammers to split the stone into pieces we can handle (anywhere from 50-400lb stones).

alabaster on truck
A load of ringing long tall Alabaster stones ready for purchase.

We do all of this work at the quarry.  This allows us to leave all of the waste material at the source for use in future reclamation.  When our stone leaves the quarry we guarantee it is the best Alabaster on the market.  This vital step of “Working Up” the stone makes sure that your piece of ET Alabaster is out of this world in quality.

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