Just Off the Wheels: Carl F.T. Harris


By Erin Dana Balzrette

Carl F.T. Harris shows impeccable taste in materials with his Wingate Pass Plume Agate! Quick witted, and fearless about his crazy hat choices in his Facebook profile, he is a wonderful artist. It’s always a pleasure chatting with Carl. Enjoy!

Erin Dana Balzrette: Where did you find the material for this cab, and what drew you to it? 

Carl F.T. Harris: This is Wingate Pass Plume agate from San Bernardino County, California. What drew me to this material was the super intense colors, and the fact that I found it in the $1 bin at a local rock show; don’t tell the person I sold it to.

EDB: How long have you been a rockhound and lapidary artist, and what attracted you to cabbing?

CFTH: I have been seriously afflicted with the rock bug since I was in the eight grade back in the Early Triassic Period. I had an amazing earth science teacher who kept a large quartz crystal on his desk. I had never seen anything like that and wanted to learn all about it, and all things lithified. My mother was a scientist and encouraged me by having us attend local rock club meetings where I was exposed to lapidary, and fell in love. I love to work with my hands because it’s just me, the stone, and the wheels. There are no formulas to follow, no rules that must be adhered too for success, and I’m only seeking the self-approval of my own work.

EDB: What process do you use when creating cabs? Is there any special technique used when creating the featured cab?

CFTH: For me the creative process is outlining the cabochon on a slab. I use templates but, I will often nest two templates on top of each other to try and create unique shapes that complement the pattern in the stone that “speaks” to me.

EDB: What is a new cabbing approach that is bringing you great excitement?

CFTH: I’m very much an old-school lapidary. I have been using the same 8-inch Raytech Gemaster with Silicon Carbide wheels since about 1977. That thing is still going strong on the same motor and bearings, although I have gone through two drive belts over the years. About two years ago some friends of mine shamed me into retiring my dop wax and start dopping with super glue. I reluctantly gave it a try and never looked back. Now these same friends are telling me to ditch my silicon carbide grinding wheels and go diamond, and I’m seriously considering it for my 100 grit grinding wheel.

EDB: What advice you would like to give new lapidary artists?

CFTH: Slow down and enjoy the craft. Carefully and critically inspect your work and fix problems before the customer sees them. No flat spots on the dome. No scratches. Make sure that the girdle tapers upward toward the dome slightly so that it can be securely bezel-set. Polish and bevel the backs of your cabochons, and, don’t give away your works (except to friends and loved-ones) as a fair price is good for everyone.

EDB: What is your motivation to create, and your favorite part of the process?

CFTH: For me, a huge motivator is when an artist shares what they have created with one of my stones. Not only does it validate that I what I’m doing has value, it’s also that what I do sparks inspiration and creativity in other people.


Facebook Groups: Cabs and Slabs; High Grade Stone Art Showcase and Market; Creative Cabochon Connection


Author: Erin Dana Balzrette

Erin Dana Balzrette Owner of Tree Climbers Stones, co-founder of Facebook’s ‘Stone and Silver’ group, and weekly host of the ‘Ladies Day/Night’ Auction on Facebook’s ‘Cabs and Slabs’ group.

She is a long-time rockhound and a GIA AJP. To view more of her work, visit www.tcstones.com.


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