Railway Scarab a Stone Carving Sculpture Project

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Creating small stone carving sculpture curios made using marble or other rock material is really easy using a rotary tool equipped with the right bits and grinding accessories. In many ways, stone-carving is even easier than wood-carving. Starting with a

Railway Scarab: A Stone-Carving Project

Some months ago a person contacted me in regards to my stone-carving works, and asked to commission a piece for a project she was working on. I do a little wood-carving, too, as a hobby and for impromptu gifts, but carving small stone animals and fantasy bugs like Egyptian Scarab is still my favorite pastime. Here is what I was able to do for her.

I have a small shop over on etsy.com myself, a shop which I should take better care of.  I need to create and upload more content, more items, etc. It was here that the client found me as she has her own shop on etsy.com also. The client requested a black Egyptian scarab beetle with the approximate dimensions of 2-inches long, by 1-inch wide, and provided me with a photograph (see previous link, the image on the right) of the design she wanted. Below is pen sketch I made showing the basic design that she requested.

Scarab Template Design

The original sketch that I based the design upon

(image by author)

Using that image as my guide, I sketched a quick template--and with her approval, examined several dark black stones that I had previously picked up along the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) streetcar rail line here in Toronto for this project.

Using a Black & Decker rotary tool and various sanding and cutting blades and disks, I began to smooth surfaces of these stones until one of them revealed good color and shininess and began to take shape. It would become the item. As an avid hobbyist, I have a assortment of woodworking tools that also double as stone-carving tools. I have written previously of my sculpture hobbies in "I Carve Stone and Wooden Kitty Cat Sculptures", where other creations that I have made can be seen.

Glassy Igneous Rock

The rock is notched to form the head of the scarab beetle. Note the glassy texture.

(image by author)

The stone you see here is just about as I found it, nearly oval and slightly flat on the bottom. In this image, I have ‘notched’ a peg at the top using a 1-inch diameter diamond-coated grinding wheel to form what would become the head of the scarab beetle. This stone is very heavy, dense and quite hard with an almost glassy texture. Sanding it will of course, leave a much duller, chalky appearance--but that will buff out and become shiny again.

Shaped, Carved and Rough-Sanded Sculpture

Rough-sanded, the shape of a scarab beetle emerges

(image by author)

In the above image, I have shaped the stone for symmetry. It sort of looks like a Greek/Mediterranean Amphorae, if it only had the two distinctive handles on opposite sides. Hmm... this might make for another project in the future, maybe? It would be a bit too heavy for a necklace probably, so, for some other ornamental use perhaps. Hollow out the back and glue-in a strong magnet,--for the refrigerator.

Segmentation, Making the Stone Carving Look Like a Bug

The stone-carving is segmented to suggest the body of a beetle bug

(image by author)

Using a soft pencil, I traced the approximate lines to form the thorax and abdomen of this scarab dung-beetle, and split the abdomen using stone-composite grinding disks to suggest folded wings. For this part, many sanding disks were used. Not the expensive diamond-coated cutting disks used earlier, but the fragile ‘composite’ disks that you can buy for around $8.00 for a package of 25. These disks are very delicate, and break fairly easily when used on metal, but they work surprisingly well upon stone and similar material.

This scarab is not polished yet so it would normally be quite chalky-colored; for this photograph I dipped the stone in water to highlight the surface. A lot of rotary and hand-sanding will come next.

Endgame: Finished Scarab Beetle Sculpture

the finished scarab beetle, shown in several profiles

(image by author)

The client said she intends to mount this scarab onto a surface--undisclosed to me, but I am assuming a thin sheet of leather perhaps--and will ‘bead’ around it to suggest outstretched wings. She requested that the underside be ‘notched’ in some fashion to accommodate adhesive. Above is what I came up with. Thinking back, I could have also gotten a diamond-tipped drill and made several pilot holes and used dry-wall anchors (plastic expansion plugs that use a metal screw to attach). Use of large, thin washers or a metal sheet - like a penny with a hole drilled through it - would make an excellent attachment platform. I wish that I had thought of and suggested this at the time.

The client was exceedingly pleased with the results just as they were, even though there are many aspects I would imporve upon if I were to repeatt this.

I forgot what I charged for this - it was $15.00 USD (not including shipping, which was maybe $5.00?) Currently, I have several dozen scarabs in different states of completion in my crafts box, a small bison and a fantasy trilobite. They are like my children - parting with them might be difficult but they are only stones after all.