By Nick

While much of science is about a steady hand, working with microscopes and dealing with very small amounts of material, sometimes you have to do a big job, and big jobs require big tools.

Last week, I spent a couple of days over in Tumut, a pretty little town out in the mountains, a couple of hours to the west of Canberra. I visited a stonemason there in order to get my stalagmites cut open. Being big, heavy and made of rock (kind of), stalagmites aren’t easy to cut open and get inside of. So we entrust the stals in the hands of professionals, who have some pretty serious equipment to play with.

The blade of this behemoth is over a meter in diameter, but even so, each slice down further into the stal is only a few mms so as not to damage it. There’s also a lot of water involved (recycled though) and its quite fun to watch. Though I wish they’d let me have a go!

We aim to cut our stals first into manageable pieces and then slice a central slab out of the middle that we can use to work on. Cutting a stal takes about an hour in total, including time to mark the stal up, cut it, dry it, label it, and wrap it up in bubble wrap for the journey home.