Soapstone is used for practical, artistic, and architectural means. This incredible stone may be soft, yet its stain resistance and durability gives it a multipurpose nature! Here are some fun facts to know about soapstone.
Soapstone formation and properties
- Although a metamorphic rock, soapstone is largely made up of talc. It is soft, nonporous, nonabsorbent, heat resistant, low in conducting electricity and resistant to acids and other alkalis.
- Within the various soapstone quarries, soapstones vary in their mineral composition. This mineral composition can include traces of micas, carbonates, chlorite, amphiboles and other minerals. Both their parent rock material and the level of metamorphism affect each soapstone’s hardness and durability.
- Usually soapstone is formed at convergent plate boundaries. These areas of the Earth’s crust are subject to direct pressure and heat, thus metamorphosing periodites, serpentinites and dunites into soapstones. Soapstone can also be formed from the altering of dolostones by hot and chemically active fluids through metasomatism.
Native American uses for soapstone
When it came to cooking, Native Americans would mold cooking bowls out of soapstone. These bowls could be placed into a fire to cook meat and stews. The heat resistant nature of soapstone ensured that their cooking bowls could withstand the direct heat of the fire while ensuring their food was tenderly cooked.
Another handy cooking tool the Native Americans used was that of “boiling stones.” These stones were made from soapstone and lined with thick animal skin. Once blistering hot from the fire, a stick would be inserted through the hole in the stone to remove it out of the fire and taken to the cooking pit to be used in their cooking.
Since soapstone is easy to carve and drill, Native Americans would often make their smoking pipes and pipe bowls out of soapstone, which allowed for the heat burning their tobacco to be greater within and lower externally.
Other historical uses for soapstone
- During the Revolutionary War, soapstone was used to create bullet molds since it was easy to carve, heat resistant, and durable.
- Soapstone has also been used as control panels for high voltage equipment. It is also used for carvings and sculptures.
- Soapstone has also been known to be cut into small cubes and refrigerated as whiskey stones. These stones were used instead of ice as a means of chilling the whiskey drink for over thirty minutes while keeping it undiluted.
Modern soapstone uses
- Today, soapstone continues to be used in a variety of means. As a countertop, soapstone remains unaffected by heat and stains. Although susceptible to scratches, a gentle sanding and mineral oil treatment help restore a soapstone countertop to better condition.
Because of its talc composition, soapstone leaves a white streak when rubbed against another object. This streak can be easily brushed off with no permanent mark, making it a great tool for fashion designers, tailors, and welders.