Soapstone Carving By Wayne Mills, Member, OMS

Soapstone Carving
By Wayne Mills, Member, OMS
Soapstone Carving--Basics
Soapstone is a great material for carving:
 It is one of the softest stones
 It can be carved and finished with the same tools and materials that are used on wood
 It comes in a variety of colors and patterns
Conception to Reality
 Decide what you want to carve
 Make a pattern (front, side view)
 Transfer pattern to rectangular block of soapstone big enough to accommodate pattern
 Remove soapstone to outline of pattern using: rasp, jigsaw, Fordom tool and/or knife.
 Smooth piece with 150-220-400-600-1500 sandpaper or 0000 steel wool
 When satisfied with
piece, bake at 200 ۫ F for 20 minutes and coat with paraffin (candle
wax), allow to cool, then buff with a soft cotton cloth. Watco oil or neutral shoe polish can also
be used.
Soapstone Carving--Basics
 When you file or sand soapstone you are making baby power. It
can get messy.
 Though OSHA studies have shown it does not contain asbestos, and
only small amounts of silica, it is a good idea to use a dust mask.
 Look the rough material over and make sure you start with a solid
piece. Soapstone can have fractures and metallic inclusions that
make carving difficult.
 You can remove a lot of material in the middle of (say a bowl) by
drilling a lot of holes to the desired depth (called pointing).
Soapstone Carving--Basics
Soapstone comes in many colors and patterns and is found in many locations with
greenschist facies metamorphic rocks (tremolite, actinolite, serpentine and jade
Camp Paradise
Olancha, Ca.
N. Of Coulterville, Ca
Volcano, Ca
Catalina Is.
Monterey coast
Soapstone Carving—Historic Examples
Roman scarab ring bezel
1648-1539 BC
Byzantine icon, soapstone, about 1000 AD
Slot and Tab tomb, Dahlonaga, Ga
Roman Serpent ring
soapstone, about 500 BC
Chennakesava temple, Belur , India 1117 AD
Inuit soapstone auks
“vintage” carving
Soapstone Carving--Charmstone
Conceive idea, make pattern, select material (a sanded rectangle or square is a good
place to start). Transfer pattern and cut out. Use a miter or coping saw for thicker
material, a power jig saw for smaller pieces.
Soapstone Carving--Charmstone
Use a rasp or file to bring to shape. Round files help smooth sharp corners.
Soapstone Carving--Charmstone
Soapstone Carving--Intarsia
Create pattern, cut out pattern,
Soapstone Carving--Intarsia
Cut out stone to match pattern pieces. I used a Dremel Jig saw. Some
(or a lot of) grinding may be necessary to make pieces fit together.
Soapstone Carving--Intarsia
Glue pieces to backing board with 330 Epoxy.
(Glue goes on the back of “puzzle” pieces).
Sand with 150, 220, 400, 600 and 1500 grit
wet dry paper. Bake at 200 for 30 minutes.
Let cool, cover with clear candle wax, let dry,
and polish with soft cotton cloth.
Soapstone Carving--Pipe
Decide what to make. Make a template. Choose material
big enough to accommodate the material.
Soapstone Carving--Pipe
Trim with radial arm saw. Mount on lathe and turn, turn, turn. Make
sure you have a solid piece, or…
Soapstone Carving--Pipe
Disaster may strike…
(Soapstone can have metallic inclusions,
and because it forms in metamorphic
areas, it can have fractures…
However, if you choose good