Rock Knobs For Dwellers of Earth
By Wendy Tremayne
We live on a rock so large that often we fail to notice it. It is easy to take for granted that each day the Earth meets the soles of our feet with a just-right gentle tug of gravity that assures our stability. “Grandparents” is how the native cultures refer to the rocks, mountains, and the still, stationary aspects of the Earth that have seen the passing of time.
Geologist, maker, and matron of stone Maggie Hanna is in the practice of finding, naming, and discerning the story that rocks contain. When she picks out a bunch to transform into knobs, she is gathering a whole lot more than a backpack of heavy objects. She seeks their embodied clues. According to Maggie, “Stones have a life cycle that has taken them from an angular piece of a rock formation that has perhaps fallen off a mountainside into a river or onto a shoreline where the sharp corners are knocked off. The shape is worn and rounded and smoothed.” She relates this process to the human trajectory: “This is much like what happens to human beings as we mature from the beautiful raw material of a child to the gracious and refined manner of a kind, mature personality.” In rock knobs she sees “unstressed nature and a constant radiator of beauty which acts as a reminder of our connection to, and dependence on, a healthy Earth.” Here is Maggie’s earthy how-to, an invitation to bring the story of stone into your home by way of the rock knob.
5/8"-diameter wooden dowels
Epoxy (I use 30-minute-cure epoxy by Industrial Formulators.)
Bowl of sand
Cabinet to attach knobs to
When you go into the natural environment to gather rock, make sure you tune into the area and ask permission. Offer to do something for that place, like pick up garbage and carry it out. Never take a rock from a national park.
Look for rocks that have a flat side for gluing and a strong matrix that is not brittle that it will break easily. It should be smooth and pleasing to the eye and to the touch.
Step 1: Pick out a selection of beautiful, smooth rocks with at least one flat side.
Note: Maggie uses custom-made machined aluminum pieces for her version shown in the pictures. We will be using wooden dowels that are not shown in the images. Although the images may not be exactly what you will be seeing in your version, they function to give you a point of reference.
Step 2: To make the stem, sand a piece of cut 5/8"-diameter wooden dowel until it’s smooth to the touch. Saw off a piece 5/8" long. Drill a 1/8"-diameter hole down the middle of the dowel.
Step 3: Rough up the wooden surface with coarse sandpaper such as diamond grit.
Step 4: Mix your epoxy. I use 30-minute-cure epoxy by Industrial Formulators.
Step 5: Apply the epoxy with a matchstick (the penultimate glue applicator!). Be quick so the epoxy does not descend too far down the hole. Blow the epoxy out of the hole — from the dry end — and invert the stem.
Step 6: Quickly set the glue side of the stem down on the very middle of the flat side of the rock. Use a slightly wiggly action so glue does not work its way back up the hole. There should be enough glue applied to just barely seep out the sides of the stem. You now have a rock knob!
Step 7: Set the rock into a bowl of sand, stem side up, to cure. It’s important for the flat side of the rock to be fairly horizontal so that the stem doesn’t slide off before the glue cures. Allow the knob to rest while the glue hardens.
Step 8: Completely coat the stone with your favorite kind of Varathane to bring out the color of the rock and make it easy to clean. This will make the rock look wet instead of chalky. Balance the knob on its stem to dry for at least 4 hours then give it a second coat.
Step 9: Voila! Now you’ve created a beautiful and useful rock knob!
Step 10: To mount it on your cabinet, choose the right length of a wood screw to match the thickness of your cabinet. The end of the wood screw should end up about halfway through the dowel. A 1" screw length is usually a good length to start with. Most drawers are double-thick, as the screw has to make it through the drawer box and the decorative front, in which case a 1½" screw should do. You might have to use a washer or 2 to get the rock knob perfectly snug, especially if too much glue snuck down and blocked part of the hole. Beware of screwing too far into the stem, because if you try hard enough you can actually screw the stone off.
Maggie’s creations can be found at: naturalrocknobs.com.
About the Author:
Wendy Tremayne is renovating an RV park into a 100% reuse, off-grid B&B in Truth or Consequences, N.M. Another project, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, is a clothing swap and DIY workshop designed to offer people an alternative to consumerism.