Butterfly Fish in Stone

Here is a recent project finally finished. It is a stylized Butterfly fish in Steatite. Steatite is the correct name for what most call Soapstone. On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness it can rank between 2 and 6 with 1 being talc and 10 being diamond. So Steatite can be soft enough to scratch with a fingernail or hard enough to make a fine kitchen cabinet top. This one would rank about 3. It is about 10 inches long and 10 inches tall. The base is Apricot wood (95% confident) and looks similar to a brain coral due to the grain in this butterfly fish2
piece and the way it is cut, I could have enhanced that look but wanted to keep it simple.


PS Steatite, if hard enough, makes the best pizza stone :slight_smile:

This is great. I love it.

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This is great, Dale. I very much like the greenish color of the stone and the reddish color of the wood. Works perfectly well together.

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:scream: :scream: :scream: this is 3D modeling in real life!!! Awesome! :star_struck: This must’ve taken a while to complete! Do you know how many hours you spent on this beautiful piece?

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I’m easily bored so I can’t work on any one piece for long at one stretch.
And since I don’t actually know what I am doing, it takes me longer than it should. SO, I would estimate about 30-40 hours over a 4-5 month period.
Since I don’t work on any project for long at one time I usually have 10-12 projects going so I can switch around. I have a humpback whale carving in Mesquite wood (about 14 inches long) about 70% complete. I also have a 16 x 24 watercolor seascape in progress of the Portland Head lighthouse. And various other stuff too.
Thanks to everyone for the kind words!


Great work. Love the detail and the way you used the different characteristics of the materials to enhance the work.

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Thank you.
I do enjoy working with stone and wood.

Hi Dale! I love the piece. Where do you source your wood / stone? Just curious.

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I am always looking for sources for stone. Sculpting stone is quite pricey so having multiple sources would be nice and give a bigger variety of colors. I have only used two, “The Complete Sculptor” located in New York city. In the past I used Sculpture House but they have nearly done away with handling stone. Both have online stores. I bought one large stone on Etsy but it was junk and crumbled to pieces. May be other more reliable sellers there though. If anyone knows of a source for carving stone in the range of 40 to 175 pounds, please let me know.

Sources for wood.
Bell Forest Products online is a great place for domestic and exotic woods.
But the majority of the wood I play with I find discarded or my friends give me wood pieces they come across. For instance the Apricot, Pecan and Mesquite I have was given to me. The Mahogony, Basswood, Tulip Poplar and Butternut was purchased. Reclaimed wood has its place and removal of ornamental trees from city lawns and landscapes is another source. Those woods can have amazing grains and colors and it is like Christmas to cut into one. You never know what you get. The downside is you rarely can identify the wood.


This piece is amazing! The details and 3D affect is wonderful. Just for curiosity sake, do you work on both sides of the stone or just one side?

Really, a beautiful job!


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I forgot to mention there is available also Alabaster and Marble. I have Alabaster but no Marble at this time. The Alabaster I have is a nice orange color but I haven’t decided what would be a good subject for it. You have to take into consideration if working in 3-D that the stone won’t support thin pieces unless it is done in Bas Relief usually. High Quality Marble is usually more expensive than I am willing to spend. I could but I won’t. Say a 12 x 12 x 12 piece of high quality solid marble might cost $500 USD. Steatite tends to range between $2.50 and $5.50 USD per pound.

I work both sides equally.
It is carved thicker than real life as thin pieces break too easily but still looks good being thicker. The harder the stone the thinner you can go but I don’t work in Jade :slight_smile: I do have a large piece of Minnesota sacred Pipestone that I have prepared for a bas-relief image. I have not decided, it may be a bear, a buffalo (bison) or coyote or something else that was important for First Nation Peoples. It will be about 14x27 Inch and weighs a LOT. It is very rare for artists to have available pieces of this stone this large. Usually you can by one that is 1-5 pounds fairly easily. The technical name of that stone is Catlinite but it is mostly referred to as sacred pipestone.

And last but not least I have a steatite stone that is about 175 pounds that is a variegated brownish color. It is slated to be a Walrus with Deer Antler Tusks. It is quite large. What has held be back from starting is that it weighs too much, I can’t pick it up to get it on my workbench :slight_smile: LOL Unfortunately I am too old to work it on the floor.

Your work is beautiful and fascinating to read about! I love that you take your time with each piece and work for short periods of time. That tends to be my style also. Thanks!

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Hi Dale,
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful information about stone and wood. If I ever hear of a source for stone I will let you know. I did see this supplier that could be of interest: [WowStoneArt] - they seem to ship some of their stones for free to USA and Canada.
(10lb Indian Green Soapstone Block 6.5x4x4 – Gian Carlo Artistic Stone)
For the 175 pound steatite, you may need to set it up on a motorcycle scissor lift (platform) Scissor lift example. You could work on that AND move it around if needed. Of course, you would need someone to help place it on the jack :smiley: :blush: :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Keep having fun!

I have heard of Gian Carlos before but I have never had an email to them returned

Well! That’s never a good sign. I once wrote to Sennelier about an issue I had with their product. I never received an answer through the customer contact form I had sent. I only received an answer when I contacted their artistic director who took action to rectify the problem. But the whole process took more than 6 months!!! Customer service is definitely going to the dogs these days.


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Also $6.50 per pound would make it the most expensive soapstone I’ve seen