A nice story from Pooh bear

I am not a Taoist by any means, and I do consider myself pretty darned satisfied…  But I do cut stones, so I like this parable from Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh !

More Is Not Enough

There was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock!”

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the rock?” he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.


Enjoying Nature

It’s no secret that I love stones, rocks, natural structures and features in all their myriad presentations.  (Just read some of my earlier blogs).  This is one reason why…

Everything here where I call home is reproduce-able in my mind.  I know how the buildings are built, how the houses are made, how the streets and parking lots are laid down.  I have a pretty good idea how the cars are put together, how airplanes fly and even how all these people are made.  This is a place I know pretty well.  It’s ordered and logical (mostly) and utterly human made.  Most everything here has appeared within my lifetime, and if not, certainly within the span of human history.

Camping recently, I walked around looking down at the Earth and was brought back to nature and that feeling that I am lost in an overwhelming, complicated, mysterious, unknowable, ageless and incredible place in the universe that is beyond all human comprehension.

Then I looked up and saw a tree.  They’re pretty neat too.


2013 was a GREAT year!

It was the busiest year yet (shouldn’t they all be!) and I completed a lot of challenges I never even would have imagined in previous years.

Sharables 002

Custom Souvenir

The most fun I had all year was probably transforming a chunk of granite that came from building a Mormon temple in Uruguay into three brick shaped, polished, engraved and etched desktop souvenir mementos.

Also fun was pair of large polished granite benches with engraving on almost every surface and the bases they sit on! We’re not talking a simple phrase here and there- no, we are talking full bible scripture verses and poetry! Not just another stump of stone in a Phoenix cemetery, but a pretty place for visitors to sit and reflect and read.

Granite Memorial Benches in Phoenix Cemetery

Granite Memorial Benches in Phoenix Cemetery

Vehicle glass etching

Vehicle glass etching

Not to be left out was out first vehicle glass etching– the back glass of a vintage Firebird Trans-Am (like from Smokey and the Bandit) got festooned with the acronym of the owners favorite phrase (I’ll let you guess). Our client backed this classic right into our industrial studio!

Etched Glass Cake Plate

Etched Glass Cakeplate

Speaking of glass, I etched a cake plate for a customer’s gift, expecting the outcome to be exactly what I expected, but the finished piece really surprised me with its beauty.

Custom House Decor

Custom House Decor

A new line of ideas was added when a customer requested home name plaques for Christmas gifts- Our artist went to town sprucing up family names for entryway markers that really impress.

Of course, there was plenty of the standard flagstone, river rocks, moss rock, cantera (AKA canterra) address markers and a fair number of fund raising memorial brick jobs to round out the year. Here’s to another good year full of custom challenges! Ummmm like updating our website with more photos! www.strikingstone.com.



Little engraved stone hearts made right here in Phoenix, Arizona

Striking Stone Hearts

Striking Stone’s engraved hearts

Sometimes it is the simplest things…

Engraved simple natural, unpolished stones – about one inch in diameter.

These are beings used as business cards, wedding favors, wedding thank you gifts, love stones, memory rocks to symbolize promises of the hearts… and so many other things.


Striking Stone’s design team.

Penguins huh?

Fishy birds, birdy fish, Tuxedo wearing wobblers that can’t fly, can’t breathe under water and live in perpetual cold…  No thank you!  But wait… what’s THISWhat is he doing?  Oh, now that is endearing to me!

Image credit National Geographic Society

These little guys impress prospective mates with pretty stones and go so far as to steal from each other.  In the rocky areas that they make their nests, they are undoubtedly experts in geology as evidenced by the common choices they make as well as the envy!

I am positive that if these cute little creatures had opposable thumbs, they would by now have invented the means with which to engrave their stones with personal messages that would make the girls swoon!

Take a hint from nature- find a beautiful little chunk of the planet you live on, personalize it and offer it to your potential mate to show her you are serious about building a shared nest.  You will stand above the rest!

Debbie from Oakrocks

Oakley and I try to reach out to counterparts in our industry at least weekly by communicating on industry forums and boards to help where we can and share images. We attend the yearly AzGlassClasses Desert Rats Function and really enjoy meeting others in the stone and glass industry.

Some people in this business want to be so secretive about their engraving techniques, stone sources or safety equipment but we enjoy sharing our knowledge and partnering with people in the industry. Each of us has so much to offer – and there is enough business for all of us!

While researching polished stones in our area – Oakley found www.oakrocks.net. Although they don’t have a storefront I wanted to reach out personally to begin building a relationship. We need polished stones and they may have a client that will want custom cuts or engravings.

Even though it was well after closing time when I called, Debbie was fantastic to talk to and we chatted about what they have to offer, their main audience and how we could potentially work together in the future.

Here’s to carving business relationships in the stone world!

Oakrocks has some fantastic meditation stones – what would you engrave on one of those?


Who doesn’t love a good party?  Since we moved into a new place here in north Phoenix, we had to have a grand opening party for our customers, vendors, friends and family.  The idea was to show everyone how we etch, engrave, cut and polish stone and also to get feedback on our storefront.  So, we got a case of wine, a BIG sandwich and a bunch of plates of snacks and sent out invites.

It was a great success and everyone was excited about the studio.  What surprised me was how impressed many people were with the process of what we do here.  I showed attendees what it takes to etch stone from beginning to end.  After showing one guest how I engrave and grout fill fundraising bricks, she said “wow, I thought you just used machines”.  Nope, all hand crafted here!

It was so nice to have the shop full of people enjoying themselves and what we take great pride in doing that I can’t wait for our first customer appreciation party.  More wine please!

Space… Our new frontier

Space, oh wonderful space!  Striking Stone had been, for over two years, engraving bricks, stones etc in a small plastic shed.  When I say small, I mean seven feet by seven feet- minus a few inches for insulation.  And that’s not my working space- that’s the whole shed.  With all of the equipment required to sandcarve, I was left with little more than the space that my stool took up.

Well, now we have rented an industrial studio with a nice retail/office area separate from the workshop.  To say I can now breath when I work is like saying a river can flow after a damn is knocked down!  Think on it for a bit- from 49sq’ to 903sq’…  NICE!

Come by and see!  20816 N. 20th Ave in Phoenix. M-F 9-6 Sat 10-2

Desert Rats Forum gathering

Special interest forums are awesome.  If you have a special interest (aren’t they all?) there is probably a forum full of like minded people discussing every possible issue of that interest.  Questions get answered and answers get questioned and everybody learns and contributes and shares and benefits.

What if you could actually MEET these people in person?  That’s is exactly what the founder of our favorite forum pulled off.  He calls it the Desert Rats Meeting because it is held in Phoenix, and as everyone is Irish on St Patties day, everyone is a desert rat when in the desert.

This was the second year of the meet.  Last year’s attendance was better, but we still have a great time and do and learn hands on what is discussed on the forum.  The food is great, door prizes are handed out and you get to keep anything you make (we are all sandcarvers whether on glass or stone or whatever), except of course for me as I chiseled, hammered and honed a 4000 pound boulder in the host’s front yard.

Another fun aspect of meeting people you converse with on a forum is that you can actually see that they don’t look like that cute/funny/sexy/nonsense/object-of-interest/furry/blatantly-non-human avatar they insist on using instead of a current picture of themselves.


Vermont Granite

I recently took a family vacation to the state of Vermont- land of maple syrup, exceptional cheese, lush green mountains, cabins on lakes and granite.  Lots of granite.  So of course, I had to steer everyone to Barre and the Rock of Ages quarry (http://www.rockofages.com/).  The tour led us up a mountain road to this overlook where a volunteer told us of the history, quarrying procedure and answered questions.

Rock of Ages Barre Grey Quarry

While the quarry is certainly impressive, the manufacturing facility is mind blowing!  Dozens of craftsmen chipping, chiseling, grinding, polishing, laying up and sandblasting gravestones and monuments in assembly line fashion.  It was neat to see the same process I use at Striking Stone at such an exaggerated industrial and high volume scale.  The automated blast rooms are bigger than most SUVs!  While I can appreciate the need for such efficiency, I will always prefer to blast by hand.

At the end of the tour, and for a bit more cash, you can choose your own small pre-masked slab of granite to sandblast.  Of course the young ones had to do it, though the oldest had used my shop before, and had to remark: “They got the pressure too low- it took me forever to blast that thing!”