Tomorrow we'll be off and away for the first site, Penn Dixie, and then Saturday for a Fossil Forum group dig at Deep Springs Road. The weather promises to be wet, cold, and miserable, but the alternative is to pass up a rare opportunity to get out and collect. There's no sense in having all these new tools and no new material to work on.
In the last few days, I've been able to try out the new tools. The first order of business was to clear up my prep area as it was a bit of a disaster. I was going to get all four of my tools hooked up into the new manifold block, but at the moment I just can't seem to fix a few air leaks... And these fingers are not nimble enough to use the teflon tape very well, and the tube sealant just creates a goopy mess. So for now I'll be swapping out tools using the quick-connect until I can get my hands on something better for the leak issue.
So this is the little corner where the prep magic happens, what I cheekily call my "lab":
The new 20 gallon compressor is great. The bigger tank means it isn't running constantly, which is important as I'll be running the new tools at 110 PSI.
The ME-9100 was the first tool I tried out of the box. Taking a junky Penn Dixie trilobite in shale, the scribe sailed through the matrix easily. I tried it again on some tougher limestone from Bowmanville, and the chips flew. This is a serious tool with some serious power.
The Paleo Aro was next for its trial run. Again, using the same junky bug, it easily (perhaps too easily) chipped off surrounding matrix to reveal the whole bug in five minutes. That same result would have taken me over 30-45 minutes with my old Aro clone. I will have to adjust to the power of this tool and its longer stylus to avoid making mistakes, as I haven't yet mastered the right way to hold this particular tool for ensuring maximum control -- a necessity when doing detailed work around a fossil. After a combined 20 minutes of usage, however, I encountered a problem: it stalled and would not re-engage at all beyond a one or two second "toot." I tapped the housing, oiled the parts, but nothing was quite working, so I got in touch with my master prep friend Kris from Texas to see if he could diagnose the problem. He suggested removing the spring around the stylus base and working it with my fingers, and then to give a bit of oil to the base plate where the second small O-ring sits. And now it works!
Next up to complete this picture will be to either get a new goose-necked lamp, or find a cheap source of circular fluorescent bulbs as the light in the box from the scope's ring light is just not bright enough when working under magnification.
But for now, it's back to packing for the three day trip.