Rock Hound Sees The Light

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Ray Schum has spent the past 30 years lighting up life. Discovering his hobby around age around age 50, Schum found a new way to look at a very old thing.

Schum makes Tiffany-style lampshades from rocks.

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Ray Schum combines high-tech with ancient materials to create stained glass-like slices of rock for lamps.

Working in California, Schum made friends with a rock hound, eventually attending a rock show with him in Twenty-nine Palms. There, the two saw a crudely made lamp using cut pieces of rock, neither was overly impressed, Schum said.

Schum suggested that if anyone could do that kind of work, his friend could.

"He was a handyman of the best kind," Schum said of his friend.

A few days later, he called on his friend and found him making a lamp and he offered to buy the lamp.

"He said make your own damn lamp," Schum said, chuckling at the memory.

And he did.

Borrowing his friend's workshop and tools he made his own lamp. That first one still hangs over his workshop.

Since that first lamp, Schum estimates he has crafted more than 30 lamps, 11 of which hang in Splash Mountain at Disney World Orlando.

"I ended up beating him at the game he taught me how to do," Schum said.

He did so well with the work, he landed on the cover of Rock and Gem magazine in 1982.

His reputation for the creations was growing and he was collecting old lamps.

A former boss gave him an old lamp. Schum took out all the glass and replaced it with the stained glass-like pieces of cut rock.

"I fixed it up right -- and after he saw what I did with it, he wanted it back," Schum said of the lamp, which now graces his living room.

There are examples of his work all over the house and each of his four children have several.

The favorite of his wife, Lee, is a Tiffany-style lamp in the shape of a dome. Schum said he took an old stainless steel bowl and shaped the lamp in it, soldering the unusual pieces of rock together to create the work of art.

In the garage workshop, Schum brought out bits and pieces of his raw material. He has a vast collection of slices of regular-looking rock. But, when rock is cut to the thickness of glass and held to the light, an amazing transformation takes place and something extraordinarily similar to stained glass is what you see.

"I really like to do this," he said as he showed off piece after piece holding them to the light.

A hunk of nondescript black rock became amazingly dark green, rich with black filaments creating intricate patterns. A piece of rock from Italy held to the light had bright-red ruby chunks surrounded by emerald greens. Desert rocks held patterns of purple mountains and pink skies.

The colors that can come from slivers of rock are as endless as a rainbow.

To find this wide range of color, Schum searches with dollar bills.

"I have never been a rock hound," he said. Instead, he takes his lamps to rock and gem shows, sells them and turns around and buys new rocks to slice up.

And if he does not like the color of the rock -- he bakes it. With just a little heat, a white Brazilian Agate becomes a deep red. He has become an expert on colors, but not on rocks.

"I just want contrasting colors," he said.

Schum loves to share what he does. He hosts programs for just about any group and said he would love to teach the skill to others. He has held many a class, but as of yet has not seen one person finish a lamp made of rock.

For more information or to inquire about a program for your group, call Schum at 474-1622.

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