- Selecting and using the proper chisel
- Using the "Wizard" bar
- Protecting specimens in the field
- Which hammer?
- The Cross Peen Hammer
1. Selecting and using the proper chisel
When splitting thin bedded sedimentary rock it is important to use the correct chisel. No hardware store chisel is designed to do the job of splitting sedimentary rock. The typical chisel has an abrupt taper and thick shaft that will often result in undesirable breakout of the rock before the bedding plane can be separated. Over the years we have tried modifying conventional chisels and a number of other things. Finally we started making our own chisels from scratch. We have learned what angles to grind for optimum performance (see illustrations). We have also experimented with different sizes. Thinner chisels are easier to drive between the layers of sedimentary rock. We also observed that a narrow chisel works better in harder rock. A thin, flat and wide chisel slips in between the bedding plane and gently separates the layers allowing you to split larger more repeatable layers.
There are two other factors to consider. The width of the chisel is important. In general the softer the rock, the wider the chisel should be. The configuration of the taper is also quite important. A shallow taper will allow the tool to penetrate easily and minimize the damage to the rock. When breaking into the rock face, a double tapered chisel will work better (see illustration). When working on a bedding surface, the single tapered chisel will often give better results. If you have to chose one chisel, it is usually advisable to use the double taper. Also in general the double taper chisel is better for splitting harder rocks. The single bevel is most effective when used on softer rocks. We design our single bevels while collecting the 18" layer in the famous Green River formation. The doubles work well if you are collecting the split fish layers.
We make our chisels in three different sizes with two different chisel tapers. The double taper 1¼ inch chisel likely the most universal tool. Single taper chisels are a little more specialized. They are all made from quality steel. Hard enough to hold a good edge but not hard enough to be brittle. We offer chisels that are 1/8" thick and vary in width from 1" to 1 1/2". Call us if you have specific questions about your application. Click here to see the chisels.
2. Using the "Wizard" bar
A pry bar can be an indispensable tool in the field, especially when dealing with hard and heavy rock quarrying. But don't for a minute think that you can just go down to the hardware store and get what you need. Don't be satisfied with your standard issue gooseneck or straight pry bar. Years of experience has shown that the "wizard bar" is the best and most versatile tool. This Wrecker Bar, what we refer to as the "Wizard Bar", has proven to be the best implement of its kind. Because of its unique shaped rocker head it can be used in numerous orientations (see illustrations).
This nearly indestructible bar can be used in numerous orientations. The flat chisel tipped end is convenient for driving into the rock and prying loose the layers.
The rocker head end can be used to lift or shift very heavy rock. The unique design produces a huge mechanical advantage and you will be surprised at how easily it works.
These are just a few of the types of work this bar can do. Its can also be put to use as a walking stick when climbing steep mountains. If you go to the Trips page you will see it being used in many of the pictures. This is a tool that pays for itself the first time you use it.
We have found similar bars by other manufacturers but every one of them has broken. We have never broken a Fulton Bar. If you do, they have a limited lifetime guarantee from the manufacturer. They come in four sizes and are handily used in either the standing or sitting position. They are capable of freeing, lifting, and moving slabs that are hundreds of pounds. You won't find a more useful tool for moving rock. The 48" can move some of the heaviest blocks you dare handle. But it can slip into places that you would never get a conventional bar. Click here to see the "Wizard" bar.
3. Protecting specimens in the field
Specimens should be wrapped to protect them from damage while being transported. Many people use newspaper, tissue and other materials to wrap up the specimens. One item that we have found particularly useful, and that works exceptionally well, is aluminum foil. It can be used in conjunction with other padding or by itself, depending on how fragile the specimens are. There are a couple specific benefits that we should point out. It is much more compact. One roll of aluminum foil will out do a number of complete newspapers. It is form fitting. If you have ever wrapped your specimens in newspaper you know what I am talking about here. By the time you unload the specimens half of them have come unwrapped. You just have to make sure that you have enough newspaper to provide plenty of cushion when they unwrap. Here are a few pictures to show how we use the foil. We use both rolls and pre-cut sheets, depending on the size of the rocks. Small rocks/fossils wrap up really well in pre-cut sheets. Larger or irregular shaped specimens usually require rolls.
We are considering selling the sheets because they are a little bit difficult to find at the store. If you think you would be interested contact me and let me know at email@example.com. The rolls you can buy anywhere. It sure is nice to have the sheets all precut though. It makes quick work of wrapping. You can also label the outside of the foil with a marker. Something you wouldn't dare do with newspaper. We dare you to give it a try. For a dollar or two you can wrap lots of specimens and do a much better job of it.
If you have ever really collected fossils I can almost guarantee that you have broken your fair share of beautiful specimens. Most broken specimens should be repaired in the field. Transporting broken samples will, more times than not, result in additional damage. Adhesives such as "Paleo-Bond" are excellent for field repairs. They are fast setting cyanoacrylate type adhesives. They come in various viscosities and can be accelerated by use of a spray-on activator, which produces an instantaneous bond.
4. Which hammer?
The hammer is the basic tool for the fossil & mineral hunter. Having the right hammer with the best head design and right weight is essential. We have used dozens of hammers, different manufacturers, designs and weights. Don't just buy any hammer, we've wasted plenty on time and money trying to get the cheapest, but it's much more than that. For fossil collecting we prefer a Brick Layers Hammer which has a chisel point on one end. These are most suitable for sedimentary rocks. We sell three different brands.
Our first choice is the Plumb Chisel point hammer for a number of reasons. We like the shape of the head just a little better than the Estwing. They are less expensive and they have an orange anti-vibration grip, which gives the hammer high visibility. Sometimes the chisels edge is too blunt on the Plumb hammers so we cold grind them to a more suitable edge. We also note that the hardness of the steel in the head of the Plumb is slightly better and will hold an edge longer than the Estwing brand. We have three sizes; 24 oz. which is a more robust or masculine weight, 20 oz. which is slightly lighter and can be used by either man or woman, and the 16 oz. which is much lighter and can be used by a youth or even a younger child. Unfortunately, the 16 oz. has a hickory hammer instead of the steel with vinyl grip.
Our second choice would be the Estwing Chisel Point hammer. There are some advatages to buying Estwing, including the fact that they have more sizes to choose from and all of them have steel shafts. The Estwing hammers are a little more expensive but many people trust the Estwing name. They come in four sizes; 24 oz. is the heavy-weight man size, the 20 oz. is a little lighter for either man or woman, the 16 oz. is a more femine or youth weight and the 12 oz. is a child size. These are general guidelines and some have found that for very soft rock they prefer the lighter weights, even the child size.
The third choice is the Valley 20 oz. Chisel point hammer. They are inexpensive and more suited for persons who do not have a serious interest in fossil collecting but want to try it out without the major expense. We often sell these in large orders for people who want to buy several at a time without spending too much money.
For heavy-weight rock splitting we like the cross-peen hammers. They are usually good at persuading rocks to open without having to use a chisel. They can be used with or without a chisel though. We also like the crack hammers when we are working very hard rock. In those circumstances we usually use a chisel with the hammer.
For the Geologist, they are typically looking for a hard rock hammer. We always recommend the Estwing hammers. They are the standard for the professional and student. The most commonly used one is the 22 oz. (E3-22P). It comes in a vinyl grip as well as the rustic looking leather grip handle. The 22 oz. also comes in a long handled version. If 22 oz. is too heavy for you, you may want to consider the 13 oz. size. These come with the Berliner shaped head so it does not have the traditional shape. There is also a 14 oz. hammer with the traditional head. This one is a light-weight, more suitable for the petite or youth. The 14 oz. is lightest of these hammers.
Geologist also find the Cross-peens and Crack hammers equally useful as the Paleontologist. Click here to see our hammers.
5. The Cross Peen Hammer
The cross peen hammer offers additional capabilities that can’t be achieved with the smaller hammers. They have greater head weight for more power delivery to the striking surface. A chisel can be driven in with fewer strokes. These hammers are just the ticket for breaking limestone and other hard sedimentary rocks. The chisel end is blunt but can still split rock. They come in three weights. The two-pound is heavy enough to accomplish most of the desired effect and can be used comfortably with one hand. The three and four-pound hammers can be used with one or two hands and have longer handles. They will work you much more.