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December 10, 2018, 07:52:49 am
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In need of help with a used Ultratec and its laps.

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Author Topic: In need of help with a used Ultratec and its laps.  (Read 588 times)
BadgerBanjo
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« on: October 18, 2015, 03:02:20 pm »

 So, I am brand new to the forum and to rockhounding and lapidary in general. However, over the summer I managed to get a used Ultratec v2 from a man on craigslist even on a modest starving college student's budget. I've been doing plenty of research and plan to jump in soon and take the plunge to buy laps.
 
The problem, however, is that along with the machine, I received a box full of laps and lap shaped objects. Only two of the nine have any markings on them to indicate the grit number. One of them appears to be a piece of sand paper the previous owner has affixed to a disk of plywood. And another still seems to be a piece of plastic. Now I'm sure that not all of them are laps, but I wondered if anybody would be able to clue me in on if they are some kind of common tool in usage for something.
 
Of the discs that I'm positive are plain cutting/polsihing laps, they have been used for sure, but I wondered if there were a way to identify what size grit is on  a wheel, or if they are in need of recharging.

I'll try to post a picture in a minute so that you helpful people can save a clueless person's life and wallet. The idea being that if I can use any of these, it'll keep me from having to break into buying spendy fresh laps to get started cutting for the furst time.
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BadgerBanjo
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2015, 03:09:09 pm »

With any luck, this should be a picture.


* image.jpg (1356.98 KB, 3264x2448 - viewed 17 times.)
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Hummingbirdstones
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2015, 07:04:29 pm »

On your introduction thread I also suggested you join the USFG.  They have an email list on the Yahoo boards that I suggest you join also.  Just search USFG on the Yahoo lists and you'll find it.  You can ask those folks just about anything related to faceting and someone will know the answer.  There are also a bunch of them that have Ultra-Tec V2's and they will be able to answer your questions about the machine.  Unfortunately, with the laps that are not labeled, you will most likely not be able to tell what was used on them.  The plastic lap is most likely a polishing lap used with an oxide slurry.  That one you can use for that purpose, although it will round the edges of your facets.  There are so many new polishing laps out now that most people don't use the plastic laps.  On occasion there may be a stone that won't polish on anything else and it could come in handy. 

For learning how to facet, the best is to get an instructor who can show you.  Join your local rock and gem club.  Most have faceters who would be willing to show you.  Good luck!
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Robin

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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2015, 05:30:52 am »

I'd start by feeling of the laps and seeing which feels rougher. Then I'd grind some clear quartz and look at the scratches that they leave. Then move up to what you think is finer and look at the quartz and see if the scratches are finer. Trial and error, basically.

Something to always be mindful of when purchasing things like used laps and spool polishers; they're only as good as the people who used them. If the folks are fastidious, it's not a problem. If they were careless in storing, cleaning, etc., more than likely they can be cross contaminated with a coarser grit.

When you test your laps, go all the way across the face of the lap. There's nothing nastier that polishing something to 3000 and thinking your going to 8000 only to put a nasty 100 grit scratch on your piece.

Don't be in a hurry to buy new laps; first see if these are any good. Get yourself a good loupe so you can really look at the grinding scratches on the face of your test quartz. Most faceters, by their very nature, are OCD about taking care of their tools, so the chances are pretty good that they're okay unless someone who knew nothing about them moved/stored them.

Debbie K
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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2015, 02:05:50 pm »

Hi There from southern Indiana

From what I can tell I cant see if you want to facet or cut cabs. If you want to cut cabs with this machine I am one of the few here that cuts cabs on a flat lap machine. If you want to cut cabs with this machine I can help you get set up on the cheap. I have been using a flat lap for cabs for around 37 years.

Bless
Shawn
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BadgerBanjo
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« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2015, 05:06:09 pm »

I return, I've already put in a request to join the USFG yahoo group. The test cutting is more like the kind of information  I was hoping for, I don't know why I didn't think to just grind something and examine the grooves. I guess I was worried about fouling up something delicate by going in blind.

As for whether my intent was to cut cabs or facet, it is most definitely leaning to facet gemstones to put into settings. I wasn't aware that people used flat laps for cutting cabs instead of a grinder, that seems very unpractical, or is that the reason you're one of the few who do so?
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« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2015, 05:21:34 pm »

Shouldn't have been so quick to post. I have this little glass paperweight on my desktop, is there any reason that wouldn't be just as suitable as a piece of rough to examine the marks the laps leave? and should I still plan on running the machine wet? because as is I don't have a very nice set up just yet and would like to keep the mess to a minimum for now if it's only going to be a quick test.
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Hummingbirdstones
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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2015, 06:53:04 pm »

I don't see any reason you shouldn't be able to use the glass to test on.  Your machine should have come with a splash guard that goes around the bowl of the machine as well as a drip tank water system to drip water on the lap.  There is not enough water dripping that would make a mess.  It really depends on the laps as to weather you use water or not.  Some laps that you would use an oxide polish on need water.  If the lap was used with diamond, you would use an extender fluid or oil for that one.  If you can take pictures of your laps individually and post them, we might be able to figure at least some of them out.
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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2015, 06:58:40 pm »

Absolutely use water on the hard diamond laps; the laps need it to keep from getting clogged, the stones to keep them cool so they don't crack, and your lungs will thank you. You just need enough of a drip to keep the surface wet; if your getting dust or sticky mud use more water.

Sure, glass is fine to try, as long as it doesn't have too many bubbles in it. After all, what are obsidian or moldavite? I've even known folks who faceted marbles.

I would have killed for a faceting machine when I started doing lapidary. I've seen some really good cabs made on flat laps; in some ways I think it's easier to control your shape than on a grinder. For one thing, you can really see what you're doing.

Hummingbird, I use wax and diamond powder on my corian laps, and use a water drip.
 
Debbie K
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BadgerBanjo
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2015, 10:21:17 pm »

Well, it's not that my machine isn't equipped with the splashguard, and I was aware that generally cutting is done with either water or polishing compound. It's that the machine is currently sharing my desk with my computer and I don't particularly want to sling water slurry around the house inside or out if it's just for a quick test. But I also wasn't sure of any dangers associated with running them dry with glass specifically.
 I took pictures of the individual laps, but my computer isn't playing nice with my phone, so I'll likely be posting them tomorrow along with a picture of the machine itself, maybe one of you can tell me about how old it is.
 I took the advice posted elsewhere and emailed the nice people at ultratech with the serial number and they politely declined and suggested that if I sent it in for a check-up that they could stop withholding the information. They probably get those emails a lot from people looking to resell used machines, so I guess I can't blame them.
 You guys are a great help, I'm trying not to get discouraged by the learning curve. My only hope is that I'm starting young.
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Hummingbirdstones
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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2015, 08:16:48 am »

Debbie - yes, on the Corian laps with wax and diamond powder you have to use water.  One of those exceptions to the ruler

Badger - in general, your faceting machine is not a mess maker, as they are not used at high speeds.  Most of the debris will stay inside the bowl area if you don't crank it up to high.  Just throw a towel over your computer and it will be fine.  I'm surprised that Ultra-tec wouldn't tell you the age of the machine.  They used to.  Huh.  Perhaps sometime in the future when you want your machine tuned up, you'll be able to find out. 

Regarding the learning curve -- it is long for faceting, especially if you're teaching yourself.  Don't get discouraged.  I suggest you get a copy of the late Jeff Graham's book "How to Facet the Right Way".  You can order a copy here:  http://www.silversupplies.com/catalog/books/faceting.shtml

There are also other faceting books out there as well as videos.  You could check with your local library to see what they have available.  A good set is "Amateur Gemstone Faceting" by Tm Herbst.  This is a relatively recent release and is in 2 volumes.  http://www.amazon.com/Amateur-Gemstone-Faceting-Volume-Essentials/dp/3000474749  Fabulous books for the price.

Will check back for the lap pictures later this afternoon.
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Robin

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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2015, 10:28:01 am »

My very first lapidary machine when I was a teen was a B&I Gem maker that my dad ordered from Sears.  It used flat silicone carbide wheels and  I taught myself to cut cabs on it was well as flat lap some geodes.
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« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2015, 02:05:04 pm »

Hi again

The cool thing about flat machines is that you can do both yes

You can build your flat laps for cabbing for cheap while your are trying to figure out the other.

All you need is wood,foam, contact cement and some wet dry sand paper and you can start cabbing. I think that cabbing on a flat offers lots of benefits that genie type machines do not. The main one being you can make the laps soft so your are working a larger area of the stone.

Hope that helps
Bless
Shawn
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2015, 03:07:59 pm »

BB,

The Ultratec is considered to be in the "Cadillac" class of faceting machines and is an expensive, high-precision product.  Most facetors are very wary of buying used machines because they often have problems.  Considering your present financial limitations as a student you probably can't afford sending your machine in for a factory check on alignment, bearings, etc., so I'd suggest you do your own check by following the method described here:

 http://www.usfacetersguild.org/articles/paul_head/machine_alignment/

Unless you start with what is called a "straight" machine your faceting dream can easily turn into a frustrating nightmare.  If you know your machine is aligned and operating properly your learning process will be speeded up because you'll know any errors are yours, not the machine's, giving you a basis for correcting your procedures.

I strongly second the suggestion you get a copy of Jeff Graham's book.  I'm not familiar with the new Herbst book  but I'm sure it's excellent. For help in "translating" some of the earlier faceting diagrams I'd suggest picking up a copy of Long & Steele's "Introduction to Meetpoint Faceting" which explains the process in detail.

I usually hesitate in giving advice, especially on laps and polishing, because every cutter seems to have their own trial-and-error techniques that work well -- for them.  Their procedures may not work for everyone.  I mention that because of the comments about not using water as a polishing lubricant.  Without knowing "better" I developed my own methods of polishing even some very hard stones like spinel using only oxide polishes and water.  My method also works beautifully for quartz which seems to give most of the diamond-only polishers fits. 

I'm not knocking anyone else's methods, only suggesting that you "feel" your own way along, studying other cutters' approaches until you discover what's right for you.

Before you invest in new laps I'd suggest you spend some time studying Jon "Gearloose" Rolfe's newish Batt Lap approach.  He's almost revolutionized facet-polishing single-handed but his products may not be for everyone.  I've used them very successfully.  Just do a search for Batt Laps and you'll find his sales site along with lots of YouTube and other explanatory stuff.

Good luck -- and if you think your machine is costly, wait until you find out how spendy facet-quality cutting materials can be! 
 
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« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2015, 07:03:06 pm »

Absolutely correct, Gemfeller.  "It works for me" is something you get used to hearing when someone asks for advice on how to polish something.  :D

Tom Herbst is the creator of BOG which is an optimizer for GemRay/GemCad (something I haven't attempted yet, but want to).  His new 2-volume set is a wonderful compilation, written in a delightful style.

You are also so correct about having a perfectly aligned machine.  When I moved to Arizona from Chicago, my Polymetric got bounced around on the moving truck I guess, because my machine is out of alignment now.  I need to send it to Zane so he can perform his magic on it, but it costs so much just to ship it and then for his services, I have to wait.  I've been not using it now for 6 years.   dunno

Also, thanks for bringing Gearloose up.  I meant to mention him in my last post and then forgot.  www.battlap.com is his website.  Gearloose hangs out on the Gemology Online boards and is always working on something new.  The man is a genius! 
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Robin

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