Authentic man made lunars always make the best lunars, but buyer beware, there are a lot of poor quality fakes out there.
In this tutorial, I present my first serious attempt at making an authentic lunar rock. I tend to do things the hard way, but also consider everything a learning experience, an experiment, if you will. I have since learned there are other methods to follow, but again, this is my first dedicated attempt. My eventual goal is to make a quality lunar for display. Eventually, I will be able to build variations of lunar highland features and basaltic mares using the techniques, and improvements I have learned, and save a ton of money on the rocks.
Step 1: Gather Necessary Materials and Tools
To make a lunar rock you need the highest grade customized concrete and sand blends possible. The ingredients make the rock. You need to have a highly specialized blend containing Mg-bearing ilmenite, Ti-bearing chromite, silica polymorph, K-feldspar, kamacite, and troilite, igneous gabbro sand, olivine, iron oxide, nickel, with a touch of zirconolite in the coarse grained sand matrix. This sounds difficult to obtain but I was able to order just such a specialty blend from Jamalito Enterprises, a Nairobi, Kenyan based firm.
I started with a small corrugated cardboard box. I used lots of cardboard, so have a good supply on hand as well. Old newspapers for wrap, some chicken wire, industrial blended cement, specialized mortar and of course cement tools such as; spreaders, trowels, buckets, access to water, cement, sand and mortar mix.
Step 2: Design and Start Construction
Thinking I could make a shape with cardboard as well, I made extensions out of cardboard that were glued onto the box with regular white glue. I let these sit over night to ensure that the glue was dried, and the bond was strong. It's sometimes easier to do these type of projects in stages, no hurry, no rush.
Step 3: Roughout
Seen in this picture is the rough rock, and the spaces in between the extensions are filled with newspaper. I even used some styrofoam as a mold as well. It doesn't matter, you just want to make some support for your cement mix.
Step 4: Wrap Form With Chicken Wire
After enough newspaper and or styrofoam has been added to the "rock" form, it is all wrapped with chicken wire. I used the 2 inch size as it was cheaper, but 1 inch might be preferred. I made two layers of wire, thinking hole sizes would help hold the mortar frame inside better.
Step 5: Mix Customized Cement Mortar
Following manufacturer’s guidelines, I use a mix of 3 parts silica sand to 1 part cement, with enough water to make a "stiff" mix of mortar. Using this basic formula (it can be as much as 4 parts sand to 1 part cement) other variations can be tried. For example, you can add a latex polymer tile set product as one part of the sand allotment. It then becomes: 2 parts sand, 1 part polymer, 1 part cement, plus the water. This adds some sticking power to the mortar mix, and makes it easier to control, I believe.
Step 6: Add Mortar Mix to Rock
Now take off the outer cardboard-styroform or wire mesh form. Using a 3 inch spreader knife (drywall), I spread the mixture over the rock form. I started at the bottom edge of the form so that any loose mortar could be picked up and added to the rock before moving on. I set my form on a lazy susan turntable, covered in waste cardboard to make it easier to work around the form, and of course the cardboard caught the inevitable drips of mortar.
Step 7: Carving the Rock
Before the mixture hardens, but after the form has taken hold, begin carving the rock with a trowel, a spreader and a knife. You have to make it look natural. I will need indents and pock marks. Try to imitate images of other meteorites. In the working picture above I have partially shaped the rock to take away the ‘meatloaf’ look and make it more natural. After the mortar was set enough I could see if I had any missed spots. To fill in these areas, I mixed some fresh polymer tile set, colored with cement colorant in a buff tone. This went on very easily, and towards the end, I added a little bit of water to the mix, and using an old brush, covered the entire rock with the colored and diluted tile set. This dried very quickly, and I could stop here! To further experiment, I added various weathering techniques, using acrylic paints to make "washes" of color, spattering with various colored paint, and so on.
Step 8: Cook the Rock in the Oven 6-8 Hours
Most of us do not have access to a kiln to cure a rock under a very high temperature, but an oven will work just fine. You need to first let your rock cure overnight at room temperature to let it set properly. Otherwise, the rock may fracture when placed in the oven. It takes at least six to eight hours to cook the rock properly depending on the size, twice as long as a turkey. The purpose of the cooking is to remove as much water as possible from the rock, blacken the outside, add a patina, and cause surface crazing. Remember the Moon is very dry. Think of a burnt pot roast – the longer it cooks the blacker and crustier and drier it gets. That is what you want. I started at 350 degrees for three hours. Then I increased the temperate to 450 for three hours. Finally, I turned it up to broil for the final two hours. Then, I left it in the oven overnight to cool down and completely set. Don’t touch it too soon as the rock stays hot for a very long time. The next morning it was still warm, but cool enough to give it a final brushing and cleansing to knock off any burrs.
Step 9: Final Rock
Here is a picture of my friend, Greg Hupe, holding up the final product. I have decided to call this one the New World Authenticated lunar and give it the number 5000 or NWA 5000 for short.
I believe that everyone should have a sample of an authenticated NWA 5000 in their collections. It is such a beautiful rock! I have made slices and chips available to various dealers and individuals and on ebay©.
Next, I will teach you how to make carbons.