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lapidary noob- removing saw oil?

Posted by Greg Capatch  
Greg Capatch April 13, 2011 02:08PM
Hi all.

Just acquired some minerals that are already slabbed- and want to know the best process for removing saw oil from specimens that have had a covering on them for years (no joke- years). Have some small pieces of really high end sugilite that I want to salvage if at all possible. Have them soaking in Dawn dishwashing liquid atm- but it is barely making a dent- this stuff is thick and gooey. Any help on what I can use without ruining the specimens is appreciated.
Donald Lapham April 13, 2011 03:56PM
Try nail polish remover from a drug/cosmetic store. Make sure all water is removed first. Keep away from flame, electric spark, cigarette, etc. as it is flammable.
Jake Harper April 13, 2011 04:28PM
Three steps for removing saw oil from stones:

1) Wash thoroughly with Dawn dish soap (You've done that)

2) Place your pieces in kitty litter and cover - leave for 2 or 3 days)

3) "Bake" the pieces in an oven set at 250 degrees F for 4 hours (the temp can be increased with the time decreased, however, this increase in temp may places your stones in danger of fracturing (or exploding) . The oven will have to be placed outside, or in a well ventilated area as this step produces much smoke and fumes from the oil burning off.

I work in a commercial lapidary shop finishing fossil wood specimens and this is the process that we use.

Hope that this helps,

All knowledge is vain, except where there be work
All work is empty except where there be love
Greg Capatch April 14, 2011 02:10AM
I can do steps 1 and 2- but not 3. Baking isn't an option. Thanks for the good ideas- kitty litter, huh? Whodathunk?
Jim Bean April 14, 2011 04:09AM
If the oil is thick and waxy, a soak & scrub in fresh clean mineral oil may soften the old gunk up some. Followed up by Palmolive (just my personal pref) and then kitty litter as Jake stated.
Jake Harper April 14, 2011 04:13AM
Yes, the cat litter is highly absorbent as well as is dry sweep, sand and many other products. As for baking, the sun can be a useful tool in removing oil from specimens when left exposed to it for an extended period. Also, small toaster ovens have been used with success as well -- anything to get that 250F.


All knowledge is vain, except where there be work
All work is empty except where there be love
Greg Capatch April 14, 2011 12:10PM
Jake, I thought about a toaster oven- but the process would take forever. I have hundreds of slabs here that need to be cleaned up. Just want to get most of it off so that when I start the finishing process I don't goo up my equipment. Jim, I use palmolive on my dishes- but also being a competitive cyclist for many years- and having to clean chains and cogs and road grime on a regular basis- it is pretty much a universal opinion in the cycling community that Dawn cuts oil better than any other dish detergent. Might want to give it a try and see what you think.
Don Hixson May 01, 2011 06:25PM
Hi Greg
This Idea might not help with your heavy oil problem but here is what I do. I go to the dollar store and get a bottle of dish soap any color will do. Some smell better than others. Put a gallon of water in a bucket and the bottle of soap. I drop my slabs from the saw into the bucket and let them soak or until when I drop a slab in and the soap will no longer cover them. Rinse with water and the oil is gone. One bottle of soap will clean about fifty slabs from my 14 inch saw.
Dennis Tryon May 01, 2011 11:05PM
I'll second the sun suggestion. I had a chunk of lazulite and pyrite in quartz from Graves Mountain which was saturated in saw oil. A period of time in the sun has cleaned it up.

Jake Harper May 02, 2011 12:58AM
Absolutely, Dennis.
Heat (in my opinion) is the most effective, foolproof tool of all for completely removing saw oil. A porous specimen, or specimen with fine fractures will still hold oils after any amount of soaking and scrubbing. If you are polishing slabs, or face-cut specimens such as agate nodules, any residual oil left behind in those fractures could likely drag across the face of the piece without end -- and at the same time contaminate the pad, lap or wheel you are using.


All knowledge is vain, except where there be work
All work is empty except where there be love
Greg Capatch May 02, 2011 06:13PM
All of the specimens are as clean as I can get them using detergent and scrubbing. I live in the desert, and the sun is intense here, even at this time of year. Tomorrow it starts to warm up again and will be close to 80 degrees. The 10 day forecast is for warm temperatures (80 degrees plus or minus) and no rain. How long would you guys recommend leaving them out in the sun? Would placing them on cookie sheets speed the process? My lap stations will all be up and running by the end of the week, and I want to start 'playing' :) I have some rough here that is free of oil, and can start with that- but really would like to polish some of these high end slabs in the near future. Any further advice is appreciated.
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