It was around 25 years ago when Robert Klein got the idea to create stone oil lamps from rocks, after a geologist presented him with two one-inch core samples, each possessing multi tones of green.
“What if they were three inches around? I could drill a cavity from the bottom, seal that off and make them into stone oil lamps that are shaped like candles. That’s nature’s altar right there,” said Klein.
At the time, he was living in Kelowna with his wife, Aagje, who would support him in his latest endeavour by helping him hunt for rocks. To this day, his wife of 42 years still helps him with the rock-hunting process, and according to Klein, the main thing they look for in a rock are its multi-tones.
“You have to find a rock that you think has some potential when you’re out in the wilderness. A lot of times, I went to mines that I had to get special permission to go to,” said Kleins, who recently turned 78-years-old on March 1.
The couple moved to Creston six years ago, and Klein cites Kootenay Pass and Moyie Lake as their main sources for rocks. March is when he gets his drills and saws up and running, before shutting down for the season in the fall.
“You find a rock and you think it might have potential, because of all the different colours. It takes a little bit of doing and then you can start to tell by the number of colours or tones that are on the outside,” he said.
The rocks that Klein and his wife haul home can vary in size: the smallest stone they bring home typically shares the same dimensions as a loaf of bread, while the biggest can weigh up to 200 lbs. and must be rolled into the back of their truck using planks.
“I find a rock, bring it home. With my three-inch core drill bit, I can just go into it, take one core out and then wait to see if it’s worth having or not,” said Klein. “Then out of that one rock, if it’s a big one, I can probably get four candles out of there.”
Once a core is extracted, he drills a hole — which he calls a cavity — from the bottom of that piece, a space that is designed to hold the oil. The cavity is then triple sealed before Klein seals off the bottom of the cavity, and then he proceeds to the final stage: creating a wick and a wick holder. The whole process, he said, takes about two hours.
“You know what’s interesting? I’m still learning stuff,” he said.
In addition to stone oil lamps, he follows similar procedures to create vases, planters, headstones and solar light holders. Some are polished, while others are left in their natural state.
“If I want to take a three-inch core out of there first, then I can use that to make something else. If the rest of the rock is shaped OK for a vase, then I use it as a vase,” he said. “You can utilize the whole stone.”
Candles start at $50 and can go up to $100. A planter with a six-inch hole also starts at $50, while a polished vase typically goes for $200. On average, he estimates that he sells 100 different pieces each year.
“You’ll see all kinds of rocks in B.C. If you see something you think you like, that’s when you take it home, drill it and see if there’s something you like in there,” he said.
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