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 Post subject: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:19 pm 
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Location: St. Louis, MO
Hello!

My name is Thomas, and I am interested in getting into faceting.

A little bit about me: I got a degree in microbiology, started working in drinking/waste water treatment, moved into IT and now work at one of the leading US ISPs (boo hiss). I am married, have one son with another child on the way. I enjoy playing piano, working on my home servers, playing a bit of video games (but don't have much time anymore) - I'm a bit of a serial hobbyist. This is probably more than anyone wanted to know, but hey, sometimes you make connections with people over the strangest things.

I was browsing reddit about 6 weeks back and found a gif of a blue gem being shown back and forth, and it was mesmerizing! I started looking into how faceting is done, and stumbled across Steve Moriarty's instructional videos on Youtube. The process and result was so captivating, which kicked my interest into high gear. I've consumed so much research about the topic (ISG website, Arya's Faceting 101 videos, GemologyOnline's forum and GEM101 pages, GemologyProject diagrams, reddit's /r/ShinyPreciousGems and /r/HighQualityGemstones and /r/faceting and /r/lapidary, etc etc etc) and I have decided that i want to get into the hobby. I purchased Tom Herb's Amateur Faceting 101 Vol1 last week and finished it today - Vol2 is on the way and I'm excited to tear through that one as well. I love the idea of taking this rock that was created millions/billions of years ago, and creating something beautiful out of it.

I am located in St. Louis, MO and have contacted several of my local rock hobby clubs, but none of them seem to have faceting machines or lessons. I have decided that I want to jump into this anyways, given the fact that most faceting machines hold their value pretty well in case I want to jump out :P

I have a few questions for the group:

1) I like to follow the "buy once cry once" policy, and at this point I am targeting an Ultratec VL machine. I have heard great reviews of the quality of this machine, and the fact that their primary business is scientific makes me feel comforted that they won't be out of business any time soon, for warranty and repair/replacement purposes. I am very interested in the digital angle upgrade for this machine.

Now, I currently have about $3200 of fun money to spend. Given that the VL is $4000, not counting the cost of laps/equipment/rough, I am interested to know if there are other models that are a bit cheaper that are as highly rated and future-proof, with digital angle readouts?

2) I am right handed, but it seems that a right-handed faceting machine would cause arm fatigue due to the way you must either bend your wrist down or raise your elbow up. Does anyone feel that a cross-handed faceting machine represents a better ergonomic choice? Do people with same-handed faceting machines experience any strain on wrist/elbow/shoulder? I work on IT so these sorts of strains are already a

3) How many stones does it take to become generally competent?

4) Regarding lap selection, this seems like a good beginner setup based on my research - are there any flaws in this plan?

1x 325 steel plated lap for preform
1x BATT lap with 600 grit diamond powder for rough cuts
1x BATT lap wtih 3000 grit diamond powder for prepolish (contamination makes me nervous so I am opting for a second BATT lap to minimize)
1x Darkside lap with CrO2 or diamond 50,000 grit for polishing

5) I am looking for online dealers of rough. I am very suspicious of much of the rough I see on eBay or Etsy. I am aware of Joe Henley's site, are there any other reputable and well-priced rough dealers online?

6) I am interested to sell some gemstones on an Etsy and create a website on Shopify as well. A big issue I am having is proper pricing of cut gem cost. I have seen a few general formulas (multiply rough $/ct by a factor of 15-20 = cut $/ct). Are these formulas generally correct, or am I better off getting a subscription to IGS for the pricing guides? Any other options?

7) I have a friend that dabbles with jewelry making and has expressed interest to source some of my stones on a partnership basis (when I become competent ofc). For anyone that has made an arrangement like this with a jeweler, and if so, how do you obtain your profit? Jeweler buys your stone, sets it, then sells their ring? Or hand the stone over, jeweler sets it then sells, and you split the profit somehow?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you to everyone who bothered to read even a little bit of this long-assed post. I appreciate your answers, feedback, and camaraderie!

Thank you,
Thomas


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:40 pm 
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Hello Thomas

Welcome to GemologyOnline and to faceting. I have been faceting for only 50 years, 49 nine of them on UltraTecs (and a bunch of other machines including Lee, Graves, MDR, Imahashi), so take this advice whence it comes.

Save your dollars until you can afford the UltraTec and the basic lap set you have identified, although I prefer 8000# prepolish. You don't need the digital angle device to start with. You can always upgrade later.

I am right-handed and use right-handed machines with no wrist problems but consciously avoid hoisting my shoulder. (Regular use of a mouse is far worse and for the years I worked as a professional editor I had to use a wrist support.)

'Competence' is a relative notion. You can produce a saleable first stone if you are smart, as you seem to be, and follow instructions. Winning a faceting competition is a different matter.

Others will be able to give you relevant advice about buying rough in the USA and trying to sell your products. You are fortunate to be in a country which has a sizable market for luxury goods. Have fun learning to facet and be sure you are producing a high quality product; then explore how to market it. They are two very different enterprises.

Duncan


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 3:13 pm 
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Duncan, thank you for the reply and the advice!

Regarding the machine, I'm glad to hear the right-handed machine shouldn't be an issue. Stories like yours are definitely one of the reasons I was drawn towards Ultratec.

Regarding competence and selling, I'm pretty critical of my own work so I won't be trying to jump the gun here - but I WOULD like this to be a hobby that can be self-sustaining or even profitable eventually. I haven't considered competition before, but it sounds like a neat way to show off one's skills. My current goal is "get started" followed by "not terrible" followed by "saleable", maybe "competition" will be in my future :)

I'm definitely looking forward to when I can get started, but it seems I'm a bit short yet - more time to read up on the subject, I suppose.

Thank you,
Thomas


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 4:39 pm 
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Like Ducan I have been facetting in excess of 50 years. I have taught hundreds of students , in U.S. Africa, and Asia to cut. I currently have a couple of dozen cutters that I mentor.

I agree that if you are going to enjoy this hobby/avocation you should buy a new top quality machine like the Ultratech, and a set of quality laps. This will make the process so much less frustrating, more fun, and produce better results. A poor choice in either of these areas will set you up for frustration and failure.

My recommended starting lap set would look like this.

For cutting you can't go wrong with the Crystalite Standard Laps:
https://store.abrasive-tech.com/Catalog ... oductID=46

A 260 for roughing, preforming and when you need to remove a lot of material.

A 600 grit for when you want to remove less material and to place your facets.

A 1200 or 3,00 grit for prepolish

For Polishing:


A good master lap, This you will use with Ultra Laps when you want to polish with Oxides. Very flexible and low cost. A really great quartz setup which is what you will probably begin cutting with. Use the Ultralaps alone, or with supplemental Oxide powders. I find the Spectra Ultralap works best for quartz.

https://www.rockpeddler.com/product/8-ultralaps/


From Gearloose:

https://gearloose.co/

(Either a Zinc or Batt Lap with 8,000 diamonds for polishing and working in your meet points.

A Batt lap with 50K, or 60K for a quick final polish.)

I combine these two laps above in a two zone lap the Dia-Z +. Speeds things up a lot.
I don't find contamination to be an issue.

This setup will enable you to cut and polish almost anything.

You will likely develop lap preferences as you advance in your cutting. Everyone does.

Learning to facet is the easy part.

Learning to identify, evaluate, value, and source rough is a whole different learning process.

Marketing, and pricing your finished stones is another complicated learning process.

You are entering a complex maze of learning. It can be a very rewarding endeavor.


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 6:47 pm 
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Welcome and happy faceting!

Not like Duncan or 1bwanna1, I have not been faceting but for a little over a decade and mostly in a commercial environment.

I learned a lot from folks like Duncan and 1bwanna1 over the years so taking what they have to offer in advice is priceless.

I did not take the leap in the beginning on the best and greatest machine, but like said it will make the process somewhat more enjoyable with accuracy's and good quality laps. Although not taking the big leap into the best machine or lets say "said to be" by many and by the price tag will present issues in faceting you may not encounter for awhile when the machine is doing the thinking for you. Set the angle, set mast and just start running through the indexes, and move to the next tier never looking along the way in complete confidence the machine has your back.

I agree the Crystalite standard laps are quality consistent laps, flat and the diamond grading is exceptional. They are a bit pricy but worth it, and when the lap has served it's useful purpose the leftover is a quality aluminum master lap. Yes a 260, 600, 1200 are a wise investment and a good set of numbers to start with.

I personally then move to Gearloose BATT laps with 3k and one with 8k for pre polish.
But I have found that I have been reaching for the Tin+ with 3k more often recently.
Then a BATT with 50-60k for general polishing of most stones. Doesn't hurt to have one with 13-14k as well.

But my favorite combination is the dual lap ZINC+ PLUS 5T, I find no contamination issues as well with a 8K outer band and 60k Polycrystalline diamond on the inner band. The inner band can be somewhat finicky to beginners so I wouldn't suggest it as a starter lap.

I do not use the films, but I know they do work and have for many years and for quartz a somewhat troublesome stone to polish for beginners the ultra laps are widely used. I do not cut a lot of quartz but when I do I use the Creamway Tin+ dual lap also a Gearloose. 3k outer band and the inner band is a water only or you can apply a thin film of oxide to enhance the polish action.

Get some faceting under your belt, as you go you will learn a lot about the gemstone industry as you begin to hunt down rough to cut, going to gem shows, Tucson, Colorado and here on the boards there is a wealth of information to be had.

There is always the used market of good faceting machines do not see many Ultra-Tecs show up at least the newer ones, but a good used Facetron comes on the market quite often.

Good luck and enjoy the wonders of gemstones, inside every one there waits a potential world of unexplored beauty and mystery that you the facetor may be the first to see cleanly through the loupe and your eyes.

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The Gem Garden
San Marcos, CA


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 10:09 pm 
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Hi. I don't do any faceting.
But, I would like to welcome you to our forum!
:D


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2020 10:53 am 
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1bwana1, thank you for the advice on the machine and laps! I look forward to continuing my education.

glhays, thank you for the advice! I appreciated your comment about the potential world of beauty in gemstones, I totally agree.

Barbra, thank you! Cheers!


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2020 11:56 am 
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I second everything that 1bwana1 said.

Purchasing the machine and laps is actually the cheapest part of this activity. If you are going to cut natural stones, then the rough is by far the more expensive part. You will find that $20,000 doesn't go that far when buying quality rough.

I don't think there is any formula based on the cost of the rough to arrive at a selling price. The market sets the selling price. Often, especially when you first start out, you will find you end up selling a cut stone for less than you paid for the rough.

If I had invested all the money I spent on machines, laps, camera's, computers, rough, polish, websites etc of the past 20 years in Apple stock, I would have tens of millions of dollars right now. Instead I have a bag or rocks.

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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:03 pm 
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Precision Gem, LOL. Thanks for the perspective.


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:08 pm 
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And one tip I would suggest is not to go the diamond powders of 600 on a BATT lap. Although it is absolutely ok to do so, but at least to get started do not throw possible contamination of your polish stages in the mix with loose 600 diamond powder lurking in the crevices of every where.

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Last edited by glhays on Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:49 pm 
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I agree with Greg. Why use 600 grit diamond powder when Crytsalite makes a 600 grit plated lap. Easier, less contamination risk, better in all respects.


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:54 pm 
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glhays and 1bwana1, thanks for the feedback, I'll take another crack at lap selection.

Thank you,
Thomas


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2020 11:28 am 
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ThomasW wrote:
glhays and 1bwana1, thanks for the feedback, I'll take another crack at lap selection.


Gearloose offers excellent starter pre-polish/polishing kits (https://gearloose.co/shop/highest-performance-starter-kit/). You only need to add Crystalite 325 and 600 laps and you are ready to go. Over time you will acquire a lap museum anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2020 12:09 pm 
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It seems like a lot of new people getting into faceting are mentioning charging a lap with 600 grit diamond for cutting rather than using a plated or sintered lap. I wonder where they are getting this bad idea from? I can't think of one good reason to do this.

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 Post subject: Re: Interested in the hobby, greetings and questions
PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2020 1:05 pm 
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I suspect some might come from the cheap topper horror stories. I bought a 260 10$ topper on eBay and cuts like 60 grit.

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