Stone-Carving Projects: Creating a Scarab Beetle and Other Small Curios

Carving stone and rock using electric rotary tools (Dremel, Black & Decker, etc.) to make Faux Egyptian Scarab beetles, small animals, bust and other curios

 

I Carve Stone as a Hobby

Small animals, insects (especially Scarab Beetles,) and one of my favorites is a fantasy trilobite that looks very scary and alien. Above, an igneous stone found along the train tracks was carved into this Egyptian-looking scarab beetle.

Rotary Tools and Stone/Rock Carving Project Success

Using a rotary tool such as Dremel or Black & Decker brand and inexpensive composite grinding disks, these unusual ornaments are easy and fun to make. The hardest part is just getting started. With a bit of practice you will find that you are creating these in about an hour or less from start to finish. They are really simple to make with the right tools and grinding attachments are in fact easier to carve than wood.

a rail yard stone for a rock-carving project

(image and object by author)

Despite its simplicity, this one was one of my best Scarab beetle rock-carvings to date.

Many Carved Stone Scarab Beetles

many carved stones in the form of Scarab beetles, created by author

(image by author)

To the left: some of the first Scarab Beetles that I created. With a bit of practice they became more detailed.

Beginning with a suitable round or oval stone that fits nicely in your hand is the best way to start. It is easiest to use a stone that is not too small as this is delicate work and you will be working with a rotary grinding disk.

Choosing a Stone to Carve

The stone of choice does not have to be too large because you want quick satisfaction for your first project. A large stone might take weeks to complete and if not motivated, you'll lose interest too quickly. You want to start small, to have some successes first with the smaller stone-carving project.

The best stones for creating a Scarab Beetle are ovoid in shape, preferably with a flattish bottom. This will save you much time in the finishing stages sanding bottom flat to become the base.

Mark the stone with pencil as guide lines, as to where to begin removing stone with the grinding wheel. Much variation from the sketched lines and the final result are common; usually with very satisfactory results.

small stone, before image

(image by author)

First, sketch a ‘head’ and ‘thorax’ section as shown, and split the back vertically with the pencil lines to form the wings. That is pretty much all you need to do. Using one grinding wheel and the rotary tool on the highest RPM setting, gently begin to grind the thorax down. Shaping the head as you go, the ‘creature inside’ will reveal itself to you as you work. An artistic bent is a benefit; you should try to ‘see’ the bug inside the stone.

The Rotary Tool

Switching the grinding disks to sanding barrels as seen in the image below you can easily remove any tell-tale grinder lines and improve the ‘roundness’ of the object. Manually finishing the scarab with medium, then fine-grit, sandpaper will give the object a smooth matte finish.

Black & Decker Brand Electric Rotary Tool

(image by author)

Wipe the stone with a lint-free cloth to remove any stone-dust. Next, a light coat of clear polyurethane spray paint will seal the stone to prevent oils and dirt from your hands from penetrating the somewhat porous stone exterior, and it adds gloss. A good substitute for polyurethane is to use a few drops of olive oil. Rub it in and wipe away the excess. Allow to air-dry for a day or two so the olive oil can soak into the stone. This will also seal it against the effects of being handled, because it coats everything uniformly and that will hide any fingerprints from being handled.

When dried for several days, rub the stone vigorously with a terrycloth towel to remove any unabsorbed olive oil residue. A burnishing shine will most likely be realized from the abrasion with the bath-towel cloth. Below, two stills from the animated *GIF image to follow (in case the *GIF file does not play on your computer.)

before and after images of the carved stone Scarab Beetle

(image by author)

Or you can leave the stone out in the sun and the rain for a few months and let nature give it a natural patina of its own.

Using these methods, I have created dozens of miniature Scarab beetles and other small animals. Some rocks will have sediment lines and even embedded fossils in them, making for usual and very pleasing results. One stone that I used had leafy fern patterns, plant stems and water bug fossils in it and the finished result was amazing!

GIF Animation of the Process

GIF animation of a stone becoming a Scarab stone-carved beetle

(image and animation by author)

Once you have done a few of these using sedimentary-type stones, try switching to a larger and/or harder stone. This one below is sedimentary rock and fairly 'soft' comparatively, and is about the size of a medium grapefruit. This was one of my very first rock-carving projects and I started not knowing what it was going to become. I just started grinding and the 'creature inside' spoke to me, and I removed the exterior that was not 'bug.'

The bison is a yet-to-be-completed project. I want to carve horns and some facial detail on the head, and maybe some suggestive curls on the hump to suggest thick, matted fur. Notice the darker regions on the bison; this is from handling it with bare hands. Oils from your hands, sweat and dirt will soak into the rock. A quick shine with fine sandpaper removes this, and clear polyurethane will make the rock glossy and lighter in color.

One of my Favorite Scarab Beetle Creations

I created this black Scarab from an igneous stone that I found along a railway track -a railway stone! The finished stone had small sparkles and specks in it from the crystals in the rock, truly superb.

carved stone Scarab Beetle created from an igneous rock that I picked up along the railroad track

More Complex Stone Carving Projects

         

(images and objects by author)

Large objects will take longer to make but the results are worth it. I created a black Scarab from an igneous stone that I found along a railway track -a railway stone! The finished stone had small sparkles and specks in it from the crystals in the rock, truly superb.

Larger Stone Carving Projects: Not Necessarily More Difficult

(image and PhotoShop overlay by author)

Larger and more complex projects will follow, such as the faux Egyptian bust I carved. This craft took me a bit longer than the typical scarab beetle carving but not by much. Looking back now, I could have carved much more detail on this one.

You may find this hobby is a very engaging and addictive hobby. Soon you will be making all sorts of interesting carved stone objects and each one being more complex and detailed than the one before.

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Launie Sorrels
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