Saturday, September 06, 2008

Glass Buttes

August 20th I drove from Portland to southeastern Oregon about an hour east of Bend. I met my brother and his two friends at Glass Buttes, a mountainous area composed partially of obsidian. They were nearing the end of their road trip from Washington, D.C.. We met there to get our hands on beautiful, free obsidian straight from the source. We were used to paying $1-$3 per pound for the stuff and there it was free and plentiful.

The first night we set up camp and then drove to the closest spot on our map to try to quarry some rock before dark. With pick and shovel we dug in existing pits and the progress was slow. Matt took a hike to reconnoiter some other sites. He discovered that it wasn't necessary to dig to get good stuff. There were places where cantaloupe size rocks were just laying about.

The next morning we drove to one of these sites. On top of a hill there was an open quarry filled with large chunks of Silver Sheen obsidian that had been left by previous diggers. We spent most of the morning and afternoon sitting around the quarry working the rock into smaller pieces. We were determined to take as much rock home with us as our cars could handle.

Matt reducing a rock into a biface at the quarry.

Here I was reducing a large piece with a view of the high desert in the background.

My brother Andrew dug into the wall of the quarry and pulled out several huge pieces, some weighing 50 pounds or more.

Here I was holding one of the large rocks.

Prior to the trip I had worked on maybe five rocks of the large size that was commonplace there. I was always nervous because I had paid money for the rocks and only had a few of them. At Glass Buttes there was absolutely no pressure. If I messed up I could just pick up another rock for free. That state of mind along with advice from Matt and Andrew and the hours of practice there improved my skills considerably.

Later in the afternoon Matt and I drove around the area looking for other types of obsidian. There are many names used to describe the different coloration in the obsidian so it was hard to tell exactly what we found. Based on the pictures on the we found Tiger Stripe, Brown, Midnight Lace, Mahogany and Black. The bulk of what we gathered was glossy black and opaque black which some call "Black Butter" because of how nicely and easily it flakes.

Before we left on the the third day, we gathered everything together to get a group shot. From left to right (Andrew, Me, Ryan, Matt)

In my next post I'll show pictures of some of the pieces I've made since that trip.

1 comment:

Trackers said...

I appreciated you stopping by the other day. It was good meeting you. Brian was excited to see if you wanted to get more involved. Cheers, Tony