Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/679

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MICA AND THE MICA MINES.

found in Siberia, but these are exceptional. The average block is little larger than the page of a magazine, and is generally less than six inches in thickness. It separates very readily into sheets parallel to the base of the prism. It is estimated that this cleavage may be carried so far that it would take three hundred thousand of the mica plates to make an inch. It is needless to say, however, that such a thickness is not suitable for service in stoves and furnaces. The mica is generally split into plates varying from about one eighth to one sixty-fourth of an inch in thickness. In preparing these plates for market, the first step is to cut them into suitable sizes. Women are frequently employed in this work, and do it as well as, if not better than the men. The cutter sits on a special bench which is provided with a huge pair of shears, one leg of which is firmly fixed to the bench itself, while the movable leg is within convenient grasp. It is requisite that the shears shall be sharp and true, for otherwise they will tear the mica.

The patterns according to which the mica is cut are arranged in a case near at hand. They are made of tin, wood, or pasteboard, according to the preference of the establishment. Generally they are simple rectangles, varying in size from about four square inches to eighty. The following table, taken from actual use, will give some idea of the numerous sizes cut, and of the theoretical prices which correspond to them. The actual prices are at present about forty per cent less:

PSM V41 D679 Mica prices by size.png