Hermiston resident, rockhound describes his rocking hobby

<p><strong>Roy Kessell, Hermiston, shows a piece of dogtooth calcite he pulled from a petrified log last year Saturday at the annual Hatrockhounds Gem & Mineral Society annual show.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p>

Finding a few rocks on vacation led a Hermiston man to a local rock show and eventually to friends throughout the world.

After finding several quartz crystals in Ash Canyon, Calif., Roy Kessell returned to Hermiston and attended the Hatrockhounds Gem & Mineral Society’s annual show seven years ago. He is now the club president and a local vendor and sells and trades rocks out of his home and online to customers from a variety of countries, he said.

“Some guys have other hobbies. I like to cut rocks,” Kessell said Saturday at this year’s rock show at the Hermiston Conference Center. “I don’t expect to get rich doing it, but you meet a lot of great people. I’ve got friends all over the world that I talk to every day.”

Although he has been selling and trading online for about five years, he said, this is the first year he has been a vendor at the show. About halfway through the three-day event, Kessell said he thought it was “great,” and attendance had been strong. Friday, 320 people attended, and by 11 a.m. Saturday, 275 had already come in to peruse the rock collections from Montana, California, Arizona, Idaho and Oregon, he said.

The Hatrockhounds show usually is scheduled for the first weekend in May, but it was postponed this year so the group could host the Northwest Federation of Mineralogical Societies 2014 Show and Convention, Kessell said.

Members of the Hatrockhounds started setting up for the show Tuesday, he said, but the real work for all of the pieces to be put on display began much earlier.

Kessell said the process starts with a hunt for the raw materials, including agates, jaspers, thundereggs and petrified wood. He said the local area is not prime rock hunting ground, so he usually travels for “three and a half hours in any direction” to Bureau of Land Management land or private property on the Oregon coast, central Oregon or southern Washington to find the specimens he cuts and polishes.

Kessell said he cuts the raw stones in his garage using six saws with blades ranging from 6 to 24 inches. He clamps the rock in a vice, he said, and an automatic feed sends it through the blade.

“A lot of times, you don’t know what’s on the inside,” he said. “You’re the first guy since God created it to know what’s inside. That’s what truly hooked me into it.”

To make the cabochon jewelry he had on display, he said he finds a pattern in the rock after it has been cut into slabs and uses a trim saw to cut out the shape. Then he rounds the edges into a dome and polishes it.

While some rock enthusiasts know how the rocks were formed, Kessell said knowledge and experience are not required for someone looking to get into the hobby.

“I’m not very technical. I like to cut stuff that looks cool,” he said. “It’s a great way to release the tensions of the day. It’s priceless to me, and my wife always knows where I’m at.”

The Hatrockhounds Gem & Mineral Society meets at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the First Christian Church, 775 W. Highland Ave., Hermiston. Kessell said guests are welcome.

“Rockhounds are extremely friendly,” he said. “I’m one that I’ll be glad to show you everything I know.”

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