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Sawing Montana Agate

People not familiar with working with Montana agate have, perhaps, wondered how to "set-up" to saw the first nodules they acquire. Most Montana nodules are found in two shapes, flat and slightly curving, or round and elongated. As this material probably has rolled hundreds of miles down turbulent streams, nearly all of it is cracked, so take this into consideration when sawing to get the largest slab free from fractures.

First, look into the rocks with a strong light to determine which way the moss or banding layers lie. Light cuts taken of an end, or side, at right angles to the layers, will then reveal whether you should slab from end to end or side to side. Many people who are used to sawing thunder eggs get used to sawing each nodule through the center to expose the pattern. While this method works well with nodules, it cannot be used to the best advantage with Montana material. It will probably ruin the best sprays as the larger and best ones usually lie toward the center. Sawing across them will render them valueless.

Only a very few specimens carry fine large sprays, so do not be disappointed if the first few do not have them. About the time you are ready to give up; one of the poorest looking pieces may have the fine spray you are looking for .

From The Puget Sounder, 11/99, Gem Cutting Shop Helps, Grindings 6/94, Rock Rollers 7/97