by Ron Willis
I am the proud owner of an Australian Robilt faceting machine, which I bought from a friend who
never really got started - that was in 1970. Since then I have suffered humiliation, frustration,
hopelessness, personal damage and insufferable anger. Not one perfect gem has come off that
machine since it has been in my possession.
Since having the machine, the flesh on my fingers has been burnt by dopping, an exercise that makes one appear to be a masochist. Many a stone have I split with overheating, and I have become an expert on exploding tourmalines - the fragments have peppered the walls of my workroom many times. My preforms are well ground to shape, normally starting at 50 grams and ending up as 5 carats;the waste has vanished
along with my fingernails.
When I study gemstone patterns and their relative cutting instruction, I can only understand them if they are spelled out in detail.
Each consecutive move must be numbered, along with the angle and index figure, and crossreferred to a numbered facet on the diagram alongside the instructions. Reading Vargas,who quotes culet angles, main indexing, split mains,I.D. and transposition, leaves me dazed. To suit
my limited 'think tank' I have to translate every word onto numbered graph paper; ignorance is bliss but my stupidity is really something!
Today,I have two cases of plastic boxes filled with an assortment of faceted gems from many materials.
Each one has been the subject of Vargas, Sinkankas, Soukup or Dennis Durham - except for one major factor - I have never yet got it right! So whenever friends 'in the know' ask me "What cut is that?" I tell them it is a modified brilliant, or a modified emerald cut, maybe a
modified 5 ray star cut. The word 'modified' covers a large range of my ignorant mistakes.
Each year I enter a faceted stone in a competition held by the Calgary Lapidary Club in Alberta, Canada. That really sets up waves of excitement. The critics have a field day,filling up reports with my errors until I have enough reading to absorb me throughout the coming winter. I know I should be humiliated with embarrassment and never do it again, but you cannot control an idiot, and this year I am going to enter a competition in Australia for the first time.The result may affect the good relationship between our two countries, or perhaps they are strong enough to shrug off the impact in disbelief.
Every faceter who has seen my stones has found fault with all of them. Nevertheless, my wife, God bless her, and all my friends who are ignorant of the art, assure me that I have a collection worthy of Aladdin's Cave.
Fortunately I have not been driven to the head shrinkers couch as yet - but wait - I have now met that piece of quartz. It must have been spumed from the Satanic depths of a lapidarist's nightmare.
· It looked quite innocuous lying amongst my box of rough rocks, a finger of quartz, possibly one inch across and three inches long. Coloured
slightly with a tinge of champagne, and partially shattered at the base. No problem, just saw off the fractured end. Believe me, that fractured end broke into many little pieces that jammed the · sawblade in its running slot. It is at that moment I should have heeded the writing on the wall.
Not me! I persevered, and ground that piece of quartz into a cylinder, hand held on a 220 grit wheel. Next, I dopped it onto the largest dop in my kit and proceeded to improve the cylinder shape on my Robilt faceter, using a 90 micron copper disc.When I dipped the stone in water and took a good look at it, I was dismayed to see a fracture plane inside the stone. Not to worry, I'll saw that bit off. So now I have a cylinder half the length it was originally.This I shaped into a cone, put it to one side and browsed through the Vargas book. Like a mad, mad fool I settled for the Scottish Cut, it has so many facets you lose count on the way.
Cutting the pavilion first I managed about five false starts, leaving me convinced I had cut and wasted 8,000 facets, and reducing the cylinder to a third of its original size. Even when approaching the girdle facets, that doubled the existing 32 facets to 64, I managed to reduce them to microscopic surfaces by selecting the wrong angle. Press on, let's get it polished.
At that moment of decision, the joint in the drive belt of my machine came apart and, to add to the confusion, the pulley on the bottom of the faceter spindle dropped off - the grub screw had worked loose. It is relatively simple to push the pulley back up onto the spindle, that is, on
any machine but mine. The pulley jammed, and exerting too much pressure I pushed the spindle, complete with diamond elise, about two inches upward. The rapid movement caused the disc to strike that piece of quartz, which was still suspended on the dop arm, right over the cutting disc. The culet point shattered and vanished. I' expressed my annoyance with one loud four-letter word.
Days later I summoned up courage to refit a new drive belt, tighten the pulley, and proceed to recut the facets of the pavilion; but I had stopped smiling. Eventually arriving at the polishing stage.
Using a 10x optic to view the polish on the culet facets, [ noticed several minute pin-holes and many scratches that the polish did not disguise. So I put away the 10x optic and used a 2x optic, which meant I could not see any scratches. I was polishing with a Cerium Oxide on a perspex disc, but no matter how careful I was the scratches kept coming. I tried soft discs that ruined the edges of the facets, I tried different polishes, I tried different places on the lap, I tried the famous 'last lap'.
I tried every combination in the book of lap and polish - but those scratches still returned.
Feeling a little dismayed, I removed the dop from the dop arm. Holding the stem between finger and thumb I slowly spun it round, this showed a strange discrepancy in the girdle line,it undulated up and down like the movement of a fairground round-about.
[ cannot write more words about that piece of quartz, because it is difficult to see the paper with tear filled eyes. If I were writing fiction, no doubt I would write that against all odds I persevered, until at last I held a wonderful gemstone in the palm of my hand. A gemstone with such brilliance it outshone all others.
Instead, I am sending that damn piece of quartz to Dennis Durham (England's finest faceter) for his unbiased opinion on where my polishing has
gone wrong. Now the sun is shinning I think I'll mow the lawn, or plant a few dahlias, or wash the car, or make a cup of coffee, or get out a deck chair, ho-hum.
Somewhere I read that photography
is not a bad hobby - Ed
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