Mail Bag: Which Faceting Machine?

More faceting questions from the Mail Bag:

I have been looking at the Graves Mark I and noticed you use a
Facetron. What is your opinion of the right machine for a newbie 
that will allow me to use gemcad and cut precisely? 

I don't want to spend a fortune so any advice would be 


Hi, Catherine,

Thanks for writing.

This is one of the most common questions that I get – which faceting machine to buy. And, nearly everyone says they “don’t want to spend a fortune”.

It’s difficult to know what “a fortune” may seem like to someone else. When I started out, almost any amount of money was “a fortune” to me. However, one thing I can’t stand is trying to learn or be productive working with crappy tools.

It’s important to realize the value of three things:

  1. Time – the value of a learning curve.
  2. Learning good habits – compared to getting bad ones.
  3. Enjoyment – actually liking doing the activity.

It’s a bit silly to go half-way on equipment if that causes a huge dent in the learning curve. When you could be cutting – and potentially making money doing it – but are still tearing hair and fighting with bad equipment, that’s not really a good strategy. Likewise fighting with bad equipment – that tends to create bad habits. Then, you get into really inefficient ways of doing things, and productivity is hampered for the long-term. And, if you don’t enjoy the process, what’s the point? Faceting is challenging enough to learn without compounding the inevitable frustrations.

By this point, you can probably predict what I’m going to say?

I recommend machines from any of the big manufacturers that are in business and have been for some time, producing high-precision machines. I do not recommend any machine that isn’t in that category, especially if you want to work with GemCAS and do modern high-tech designs (where you need accuracy to 1/10 of a degree).

While it’s possible to cut on a Graves – and do great production of simple designs, I would not find cutting modern Barion ovals, for instance, a fun experience on such a machine – not even with years of experience.

So, I recommend Facetron, or Ultra Tec primarily (not just because I sell them). They’ve been around forever, and the guys who make them are fanatical about their engineering – and about having their customers taken care of. I know them both personally, and I’ve been to both manufacturing facilities. They really stand behind their work. And, in my years of helping people get started they’ve both gone the extra mile to help my students who had problems.

I’ve got stories about the Jarvi guys turning things around overnight and shipping parts, and stories about Joe Rubin taking my calls on a Sunday to talk me through a repair of one of his machines that went down during a class. I like working with people who are actually into what they do…

I also do not recommend used machines because you never know how one may have been abused or neglected. And, a beginner hasn’t the skills necessary to trouble-shoot. If you find a used machine, contact the manufacturer and ask them about doing a refurb / update / calibration for you. They are usually very reasonable, and you’ll be certain to have a tight machine to work with. If you are in the market for a used machine, join the nearest Faceter’s Guild or group and keep an sharp eye on their newsletter.

You can regularly find used equipment in FACETS – the newsletter of the Columbia Willamette Faceter’s Guild. Just remember to do that refurb thing.

When I started, despite being broke, I bought a new machine on advice very much like what I’ve written above. I now give that same advice, and in hindsight I’m grateful that I didn’t compound my newness with sub-standard machinery or worries about whether the machine was sound.

I hope this helps. Please write if you have other questions.

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