I had a recent commission from a friend to make four nephrite pieces: two fairly small bi’s and two small pendants. It was certainly within my abilities, but it’s been a while since I carved pieces of this size and frankly, getting everything just right proved to be less easy than I remembered.
The friend asked for the bi’s to be 3 mm thick, and with a particular sized hole in the centre. Having found a suitable piece of stone for them all, I slabbed it and trimmed out the four pieces. The holes were a breeze! But grinding down the slabs to the correct thickness proved a bit of a slog. I was reminded (!) that I needed to be very careful not to grind down my fingernails.
I went through many sheets of Wet & Dry paper at 100, 240 and especially 600 grit. As I did so I played with the parameters – pressure as light as possible, the right amount of water to keep everything cool, turning the pieces regularly and using the whole width of the paper on the laps to make them last as long as possible and keep the price down. It took much longer than I expected! Very often during the process of thinning down the slabs the pieces became slightly wedge-shaped, which needed to be corrected by exerting pressure on one part to get the faces parallel again.
Then I had the task of grinding down the edges at right-angles to the front and back faces. So often, as I turned the pieces I’d introduce a slight angle through uneven pressure and off it would go again in one plane or the other, causing me to have to correct and re-grind them at the correct angle.
The important thing was to get the angles right just before I hit the required sizes. No pressure!
But eventually, and with some relief, I got them to just a bit over the required thicknesses, and the pre-polishing and polishing went like a dream.
I enjoyed the opportunity to make some “simple” pieces again, but hopefully with greater ease, in less time and with a finesse that was previously lacking.
The morals to this insignificant story are:
On this page I intend to add monthly updates on aspects of jade carving. I also plan to invite more experienced carvers to offer a "master-class" on a particular subject of their choice. With this I hope to enthuse both the novice and the expert in this ancient and beautiful art-form/craft. And comments are welcome!