Agate stones are known for their amorphous colors and fluid patterns produced by a slow accumulation of sedimentary layers. However, with obscure “gemstones” like Fordite, the layers are composed of car paint instead of sediment. It’s hard to believe but Fordite was accidentally created by workers in the paint and body departments at the big 3 auto manufacturers. A lapidary artist started working with the material and Fordite was introduced to the rock and mineral community.
Fordite Detroit Agate
While Fordite Agate definitely looks like something natural fashioned by none other than Mother Nature, it was created above ground in the buildings of auto plants in Detroit, Michigan.
The inspiration behind the name, Fordite, came from the Ford Motor Company in Michigan during the 1940s. However, the term now generally refers to any materials composed of paint slag from various automobile plants. That said, Fordite Detroit Agate is the original Fordite and seems to be worth more.
Where To Find Fordite
While Fordite was birthed at an auto plant in Detroit, there are several other places that produce this highly sought-after material. For instance, the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the Lincoln-Mercury Fordite from the Canadian Plant.
Kenworth Fordite hails from the Kenworth Factory located in Chillicothe, Ohio. The more “vintage” pieces of Fordite tend to have more muted neutral colors, but the specimens from the 1960s and 1970s were made of bolder and brighter hues because there was a high demand for brightly colored vehicles.
The first Kenworth truck rolled off the assembly line in the spring of 1974, and the factory is still running. Once again, this material is sourced from the paint and body shops at the Kenworth manufacturing plant. The older material is worth more because it’s considered vintage.
What Is Fordite Made Of?
The creation of Fordite was unintentional, yet easily recreated. It is over-sprayed paint collected from the paint bays. The paint gradually builds up on the skids and tracks the car frames are painted on. Over time, there are multi-colored layers that can be collected, shaped, and polished into stunning displays of art.
Anywho, the built-up paint would obstruct the tracks or become too thick and heavy, which then had to be removed. Crafty workers saw the beauty and salvaged this unique byproduct. Fordite is super-cured paint that has a pattern that looks like psychedelic Agate. It’s incredible how easily these man-made gems polish.
Vehicles are now painted using an electrostatic process that magnetizes the enamels to the car’s body, leaving little to no overspray. Meaning genuine Fordite in its original form is no longer being produced. If they are, they’re faux or expensive.
Is Fordite Toxic?
Back in the day, most of the paint contained higher levels of lead. Lead can enter our bodies when fine particles of lead dust are swallowed or when dust and fumes are inhaled. The use of high-lead paints in commercial auto repairs and production companies is rare.
Original Fordite contains lead, but generally not at a harmful level. As long as Fordite isn’t ingested or the dust inhaled, it’s far from toxic.
How To Make Fordite
People have come up with several creative and unique ways to make Fordite. You’ll find the materials and instructions on how to make “faux” Fordite Agate.
If you need help with cutting, polishing, and orientation then here’s a great video.
- Silicone Molds
- Casting Resin
- Resin Tools – Mixing Stick and Cup
- Dremel w/ Buffing & Sanding Bits
- Jeweler’s Saw
- Sandpaper – ranging from 120 to 7000
- Plastic Polish
- Safety Gear – mask and eye protection
- Heat Gun
Choose a mold that’s shallow and larger than the piece you’re making.
Cut a stack of your paper until it’s about a half-inch high. You’ll want the paper to be small enough, so they easily fit inside your mold.
Mix enough resin to cover the paper.
Pour a little resin into the bottom of the mold. If any new bubbles form, use your heat gun to pop them.
Add another bit of paper, and repeat until all of the paper is gone.
Press firmly on each new piece of paper. It naturally wants to float, so the layers will fall apart without pushing it down.
Once the last piece of paper is added, top it off with enough resin to fill the mold and cover the stack of papers.
Once the resin is cured, use the jeweler’s saw or a coping saw to trim off any excess resin that builds up on the sides.
Mark any edges you want to be sanded with the Marker.
Put on your protective gear and sand with your Dremel to obtain the desired shape.
It’s best to start with sandpaper similar to the grit of the Dremel. Low-grit sandpaper allows you to be more careful when shaping.
Dip the resin and sandpaper in water to reduce and clean dust.
Advance to a higher grit paper to remove any scratches caused by the 120. Continue working your way up until your specimen is almost shiny.
Now, apply a small amount of polish to the surface, and use a buffing bit on the Dremel to polish the surface.
Choose whatever colors you’d like. Leave it simple or get as intricate as you like.