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 Post subject: What is the best faceting machine on the market today?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:07 am 
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Currently I have an old Raytech Shaw faceter. Old as in over 20 years old. I got it when I was a sophomore in high school. I got it out last week intending to facet some citrine I have but my dop sticks have gone missing.

In looking online for new dops i found that the machine line has been sold to a new company. WHich makes me wonder, is there really any point in keeping my old machine in order or should i focus on buying a new machine?

ROM has been kind enough to offer to find the contact info for the new company. SO will certainly check that out.

On the other hand, the idea of a new machine sounds pretty good. I've done a little research (very little hehe) and have found that most of the machines I saw are very out of range for my very limited budget. Among the more affordable machines was Facetron. Anyone have an opinion about this machine? Also I see that Jeff Graham gives his imprimatur to the OMNI. Between the two, I like the looks and features of the OMNI. Either way, it will be some time before I can purchase a machine if I choose to go that route.

In the meantime, I'm interested to know what machine you use, would you recommend it and why or why not. If not what machine WOULD you recommend?

Thanks,

Jason


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:48 am 
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I think you will find the Jeff is very biased on his reviews to only the machine he sells. Any machine he doesn't sell, he'll tell you you shouldn't buy.
I think you would do better to look at www.facetingmachines.com from Colorwright. Rob sells just about every brand machine available in the US. To buy a good new machine, you are going to need to spend close to $2000 when all is said and done.

I use the Alpha Torus machine and love it. The only problem is buying one is a bit difficult. The make, Nick at Imperial Gem Insturments is pretty slow at building a machine.

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 Post subject: gem machines??
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:43 pm 
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Art Kavan, president of the u.s. faceters guild, uses a facetron with the black hole upgrades. Rob is no longer dealing machines ( he lives 2 blocks from me) but his partner works with me and is now doing them. They can put a complete machine together with the upgrades. PM me and I"ll put you in touch with the machinist who designed and made the upgrades( and did Art's machine upgrades). You won't be disappointed, they are quite something. The guy who placed 3rd 2 years in a row in the U.S. competitions, placed 1st after he put the upgrades in. Might as well use what the competition cutters use..

( no financial interest here btw).


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 9:39 am 
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For me, the best machine turned out to be a Fac-Ette. They're expensive, but worth it. The electronic microstop system (EMS) is a wonder -- it's leaps & bounds over the dial gauge that came with the Facetron I started on. (But to be fair, some competition cutters have told me that you should not rely on the gauge anyway).

I've been extremely impressed with Fac-Ette's factory support: I bought my Fac-Ette used. I just discovered that the previous owner allowed water & swath to get into the head assembly -- the head assembly is counter-balanced so that the dopped stone never drops onto the lap, it always swings to vertical, you shouldn't let it sit that way when it is dripping-wet. The upshot is a piece inside that is corroded and need to be factory replaced.

When I called Fac-Ette I was thrilled to discover that they extended the machine's warranty to me and will replace the part without charge except shipping. I was really taken aback by this -- most companies I've dealt with have been much less generous.

One of the things that sold me on the Fac-Ette was the fact that so many professional cutters use them -- cutters that want to be compared to someday. Of the pros I know who I admire, only Precision Gem & Jeff Graham use something other than a Fac-Ette (though, I'm not certain what Dalan Hargrave uses when he flat-facets). As a new cutter, recommendation by distribution carries weight with me.

I'm not going to say Fac-Ette is the best machine on the market because I don't know that for a fact -- but it is always listed in the top-tier when this question is asked. The question is really what is the best fit for you. If it is at all possible, see if you can get your hands on a machine or two to "play" with. Let us know what you end up doing.

Oh, I should mention that if you are not already subscribed, join the USFG's email list (it's a Yahoo! group). The archives are easily searchable & should give you a lot more insight into the different machines out there.


peter

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 10:25 am 
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I would like someday to give your machine a try Peter. Sounds great. I know I have seen them on display at Tucson, and it certainly has the feel of quality to it.

Actually, I think that an experianced cutter can cut on most anything. I have seen some very well cut stones off some pretty primative machines. The most important thing is good quality rough, and then the correct angles and design for the rough. Cutting is still more art than machine. God bless these guys who do compitition cutting in the various clubs, but I really wouldn't want to spend months cutting one piece of CZ that when all is said and done is worth about $5. I read about one guy who only uses water to polish, and spends weeks pollishing just one facet. Every cuts for a different reason, and some people cut I guess just to kill time.

Peter, did you get the Batt lap polishing any better for you?

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 11:13 am 
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At the Midwest Faceter's Guild Seminar this August, my group was lead by Billy Horton, an old-time cutter who has been on the US competition team for literally years. He showed us the stone he won the Australian individual competition with a few years back. The stone was an absolute screamer -- glorious blue CZ (or was it spinel?). The kicker? It took him 300 hours to complete. :shock: I couldn't stand working on one stone for 1/10 of that time.


Yep, I got the BATT working by your suggestions. I meant to email you about that -- thanks for the help. The syn. sapphire has some pitting on a single facet, but everything else seems to be coming in nicely. I'm having trouble getting a perfect polish at 10x, but I need to get this stone & one more off the dop before I head out of town next week so I'm going to settle.

To fill everyone else in: I am polishing a syn. color-change corundum (you know "Grandma's alexandrite") on a BATT lap charged with 100k diamond using WD-40 as lubricant/extender. The polish was taking far too long & odd scratches were showing up, so I asked PG for some advice. He suggested the following:

- use 50K; 100K is probably overkill here (I'm working toward prodution cutting, not competition)
- there may be too much diamond grit on the lap
- for corundum, the BATT lap should be almost completely dry
- firm hand pressure is needed

I changed my charge to 50K, backed off on how much bort I put on the lap at once, wiped with WD-40 only to wipe off swath buildup when needed, and got a little more aggresive with my hand pressure. It worked like a charm.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 3:02 pm 
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pt wrote:
.

To fill everyone else in: I am polishing a syn. color-change corundum (you know "Grandma's alexandrite") on a BATT lap charged with 100k diamond using WD-40 as lubricant/extender. The polish was taking far too long & odd scratches were showing up, so I asked PG for some advice. {..SNIP...} I changed my charge to 50K, backed off on how much bort I put on the lap at once, wiped with WD-40 only to wipe off swath buildup when needed, and got a little more aggresive with my hand pressure. It worked like a charm.


Are you going to post a picture when it is completed?? [-o<

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 3:20 pm 
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Thanks Cattrix -- if I'm not embarassed of it when it comes off the dop, I'll post a pic. :)

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 Post subject: Best faceting machine?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 5:48 pm 
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Hi gang,

I hate to confuse the conversation but, in my opinion, "the best faceting machine in the world" usually turns out to be the one you know how to control, in order to produce the results you're looking for. I've done that, through the years, on a Raytech-Shaw, an ancient Graves Mark I, a 1960's-vintage Lee, the Ultra Tec model V2 I've used almost exclusively since 1987, and the Gearloose XS-4 prototype I've just added to my collection. I've even turned out a few stones on an old Lahr Lap-Lap (which is nothing more than a handheld metal triangle, at the tip of one of whose points, a dop and adjustable axle are attached.)
To date, my favorite is the Ultra Tec, on which I've cut far more stones than I'd really like to think about, most of the time. From what I've heard, the Fac-ette is an outstanding machine, too. While several of my friends rave about theirs endlessly, the only one I've ever had the chance to _attempt_ to play with was the much-abused unit Farooq Hashmi had accepted in trade, third-hand, some four or five years ago, but which had had all of its major parts stripped by the time he and I saw it.
Sadly, the only glaring exception to the rule, in my experience, has been the same machine so many others (including Art Kavan) swear by: the Facetron. As many already know, my experience led me to swear _at_ it, not by it, although from what I'm hearing, the addition of the new dial indicator may have rendered all of my experiences with the unit obsolete. (And for its manufacturer's sake, I earnestly hope so.)
As Jon Rolfe so adroitly put it, "in the hands of a skilled cutter, even a lackluster machine can produce exceptional results". For example, back in '94, I'd met a Brasilian jam-pegger at the Tucson show whose work compared favorably with my own, and all he'd had to work with was a wooden dopstick, one cutting and one polishing wheel, a wooden jamb carved from an old bowling pin, and forty years of hands-on experience to train his eyes and hands. IF that doesn't prove the point, I don't know what does.
By the way -- speaking of jam-pegs -- I'm in the middle of building one for myself (I've always been so fascinated by them that I've decided to set that skill as the next on my agenda), and am wondering if anyone else on this forum has access to any old Jambs that might be for sale. I'd prefer to learn on the traditional equipment than build something more high-tech, if at all possible. Suggestions?

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Doug

Douglas M. Turet, G.J.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 10:57 pm 
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My feeling exactly Doug. I think often way too much is placed on the machine and how many decimal place accuracy it is.

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 Post subject: What is the best faceting machine on the market today?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:03 am 
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By the way, Jason,

I have to tell you that I'm a bit concerned about your Omni-centric focus. Part of that may be attributable to the fact that I'm an Ultra-Tec representative, but I don't think that's all, or even most of it; I think it's about that machine, and whether it's a worthwhile purchase. Before you jump into one of them, it might behoove you to bring a downloaded close-up picture or two of it to any industrial engineering firm you come across in your local phone book, and ask the folks there if they'll give you a 30-second synopsis of their opinions of it. I don't know the guy who builds them, and I've never used one or even seen the thing up close, but, frankly, I know enough about the construction and wear of materials and machinery to predict the likely road ahead for this unit...

That positionable plate underneath the mast -- by virtue of the two facts that it is a cantilever, and that it _is_ positionable -- must necessarily introduce so much play into the equation, over time, that the accuracy of the readout will become a moot point. If you compare and relate it to any other positionable piece of metal that you may be familiar with (like the helically-cut "rack" in your car's rack-and-pinion steering box, or the wheels and other moving parts attached to it), you know that, over time, any two pieces of metal that are not welded together sufficiently to overcome the strains put apon them (and often, even those which are) fall prey to the rigors of flexion and torsion, and loosen up. That's why your car's front end needs to be realigned, every so often, and why things like ball and C.V. joints need to be replaced. So, what do you think is likely to happen to a moveable, cantilevered plate under a tall mast, if the mast is continually flexed to and fro, under the weight of its operator's hand and arm? How about once it has received the torque-stresses induced during the polishing of a few hundred table facets? Just as the proportionately massive "lily pad" platforms under the Raytech-Shaw handpieces eventually fall prey to these stresses and begin to wobble, uncontrollably, imagine what the results would be like if you placed that platform at one end of what is, essentially, a lever?

While the rest of the thing looks like it may well have been designed to handle the long haul, the weakest links in the proverbial chain appear to be that offset plate, under the mast, and the screw-threads or rivets inside and outside whatever's holding it in place. Sooner or later, something's gotta give, and by the looks of it, I'd be very concerned that that "something" might just be your checking account. A faceting machine needs to be built to last, so that it will withstand the use and abuses of time, swarf and repeated manipulation. Will this one? I have grave doubts. But, hey, don't take my word for it -- I'm just a lapidary artist and metalsmith! Instead, flip through the yellow pages and ask an engineer what he or she thinks. Then go wherever your conscience points you.

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Doug

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 Post subject: What is the best faceting machine on the market today?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:15 am 
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P.S. -- As previously outlined, I swear by the Ultra Tec, and can't say enough about the unit I own. This is largely because, after G-d only knows how many stones, I can say with a straight face that I've never needed to send it back to the factory for any recalibration (something my previous machine needed so many times, I finally got rid of it). On the U/T, if anything does slip, you can fix it yourself with nothing more than a set of Allen wrenches and a keychain-sized bubble level. I know this because I've had to do that exactly twice, over the course of just under 20 years of constant use.) The Fac-ette and Alpha Taurus also have excellent reputations, although the latter's known to be a bear to actually get delivered, and I don't know how much easier it would be to get replacement parts, were they ever to be needed. And Graves' new Mark 5-XL machine (formerly Jon Rolfe's XS-4) may well be a contender, if all goes according to plan, but the jury's still out on that one.

Hope this has been helpful!

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Doug

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:55 am 
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Gemmasta ( Australian made)

We shopped around for our domestic customers for ages and did get a few cheaper options to try - some were Indian machines. They were cheap but not suited at to the need of our customers. We have gone back to what the largest percentage of Australians have learnt on and what almost all the trade have used in NSW for over 20 years.

These Gemmasta units are completely made in Australia and have certainly proven themselves. A few changes for the better over the years but they are simple, accurate and the 20+ year old machines are still in heavy use today and all parts are still able to be supplied. I should mention I am pushing my own barrow as we are agents for these units.

I think the main thing with any faceting machine is buy what you have learnt on or what your advisor (teacher) uses as it makes it heaps easier.
A complete Gemmasta, ready to roll, with basic start up kit (laps dops etc) are currently $3800 AUD ex Glen Innes.

I know this is of little use to those out of Australia as the freight is reasonably high for airfreight. After searching around quite a lot for different machines, I believe it is probably best to chose a locally made machine for a number of reasons. Others have made good recommendations for those based in the US.

cheers

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:19 am 
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The index gear setting on the Omni-centric looks to be awkward, and prone to miss indexing. Being on the bottom, you would have to swing the mast up every time to change index. I know when I cut, I often barely lift the stone off the lap to change index. One of the nice things of the Alpha Tourus is the index gear. Every tooth is marked, and they are actually color coded, so that you can cut a SRB with out even thinking. Cut the first tier of facets on the yellow marks, the next tier on the red etc.

It's true, Nick is very slow at getting the machines out, but once you have it, it is a quality piece. I have cut a ton of stones... well maybe a pound... and have never had to have the machine adjusted. Wore out a belt one time, and Nick was quick to send me a replacement at no charge.

Im sure it's like anything, once you get used to one machine, swithching to another would be hard at first. I couldn't picture trying to cut on the Raytech Shaw, but I know others who swear by them.

Jason, save some of that money you spend on eBay stones and get a good machine!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 9:36 am 
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I didn't know that about the Alpha Tourus -- that a big plus in my mind. The Fac-Ette operates in a similar way in terms of the index gear. I can change index positions with one hand -- there is a lever on the head that releases the index and a dial just above the dop chuck, exactly where my forefinger and thumb are, to set the index. The index gears also have the color-coding for a RB -- it's almost too much of a crutch for a newbie. ;-)

Cattrix -- I finished the stone. I'll post it in a new thread rather than hijack this one.

peter

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