OK, this is a big subject and I am sure that some of my opinions will differ from other peoples out there, but here is what I think. If you can find a good used faceting machine it is worth doing, especially if you are on a budget. If you have the budget I recommend buying a new machine and starting fresh. Buying a used faceting machine is a lot like buying a used car, you can get a good one but you need to know what you are doing or have an expert inspect it.
Unfortunately most of the people looking to buy a used faceting machine are newbies. In a lot of cases they have very little or no faceting experience (one reason I suggest a new machine if they have the budget). Because they are new and have little or no experience, a new faceter sometimes gets the short dirty end of the deal when buying a used faceting machine. It does happen so do your homework. Ask the experts.
Finding a decent used faceting machine will take some time and maybe a bit of luck. If you decide to purchase a used faceting machine do not be in a hurry. Take your time and study up on what is what before you buy. Part of the reason I am writing this article is because I have a lot of people ask me for advice.
What used faceting machines should you consider? Well here is a list, and of course my comments on most of the available machines made today.
The main two machines I would look for used are a Facetron and an Ultra Tec.
But here are the others.
Alpha Taurus Faceting Machine
The machine itself is not well made in my opinion. I have had serious problems getting parts and service, basically none at all. (I know for a fact I am not the only person/dealer with this experience) on them for various friends and customers over the years (they used to be called Imperials, by the way). Diamante is made by the same guy (Alpha Taurus, above) and I do not recommend or sell this machine either. So in my personal opinion. I do not recommend them or sell them, new or used.
Fac-Ette Gem Master II
This is an expensive machine new (about the most expensive). I personally do not think it is any better than some of the other machines like and Ultra Tec or Facetron for the huge money difference (up to several thousand dollars difference depending on what you are comparing too). It is built heavier, and has some more whistles and bells than most other machines. You are not likely to find a used Fac-ette and even if you do, if you are looking for a used faceting machine on a budget, then a used Fac-ette machine will probably be too expensive for your budget. You can buy a new Ultra Tec or Facetron for what you will probably have to pay for a used Fac-ette.
Facetron Faceting Machine
This machine would be a good choice when buying a used machine. There are a lot of them around and the machine has been made a long time so there are good used ones available. They are well designed and basically a solid machine. The factory that makes them will service them and is a brick and mortar manufacturer. Read my review on a Facetron Faceting Machine
- Jarvi Tool Company Facetron Faceting Machines
Graves Faceting Machine
I really cannot recommend this machine new and frankly not really used either. If you can buy it really cheap, I guess it is a starter machine, but remember that there are some serious basic problems with the machine that you will have to work around, at least in my opinion. Read my review on a Graves Faceting Machine
Polymetric Faceting Machines
I have seldom seen a used one for sale. Zane (the owner, and chief bottle washer) is a nice guy and does try to help with repairs and upgrades. My advice is, if you find a Ploymetric used you are interested in, give Zane a call and ask him to check it out for you.
MDR Faceting Machine
I have almost never seen a used one for sale… I do not think they make too many of them or they are just not common in the Southwest where I live. It seems like a decent machine, but I do not have much personal experience with it.
This is really more of a commercial cutting machine and not as accurate as I would like. It uses a hand piece instead of a mast/head design. I am neutral on this machine, although I would not really recommend it for a new cutter. I seldom have ever seen a used one.
Ultra Tec Faceting Machine
Would be my first choice, but it will be the hardest used machine to find in all likelihood. That should tell you something. I prefer the Ultra Tec for its overall quality and machining/design. But more importantly for buying a used faceting machine, the Ultra Tec factory has/keeps good records, service and upgrades that are available. Notice that I did not say cheap. Read my review on a Ultra Tec Faceting Machine. For more information firstname.lastname@example.org
When you think you have found a good used faceting machine and are considering buying it. Here are some basic things to do.
Get the serial number and check with the factory that made the machine. You would be surprised at how many people do not take advantage of this great source of information. Most manufacturers (Ultra Tec in particular, which is why I said good factory records above) have a database of their machines on file. They can and will often tell you who originally bought the machine, when, and where. Most importantly they can tell you what upgrades and modifications have been done on the machine at the factory, and of course which upgrades were not done at the factory. They do keep records. So check. Believe it or not I have actually seen people advertise machines that have supposedly been “upgraded” at the factory. But upon checking there is no record of the upgrades. I have even had these sellers claim there is NO serial number on the machine, so the buyer could not check with the factory. If a seller says any faceting machine made by a major manufacturer does not have a serial number. Be very, very suspicious.
If you find a used machine you are serious about but want (and probably should get) a second opinion. By all means send the machine to the manufacturer to be checked. If you decide against the machine you will be out some time and postage, maybe a small fee to the manufacturer. But way ahead if the machine has problems. If it just needs some adjustment you can have the factory experts do it while it is there. Starting with a square, accurate faceting machine will save you a lot of trouble and heart ache. Especially as a new cutter.
You would take a used car to your mechanic to check before buying it. Right? You should check a used faceting machine too. I know it can be a hassle, but it can save you a lot of time and money.
Who you are buying a faceting machine from is as important as the price. At least I think so, let me explain. There are a lot of people out there just buying and selling lapidary equipment. People are hustling a dollar, e-bay comes to mind. I will not say you cannot get a perfectly good machine from one of these “dealers”. There are probably some honest ones. Then again I know for a fact there are some crooks and just people that do not know what they are trying to sell. It is a buyer beware market, like used cars.
But in my opinion you would be a whole lot better off buying a used machine from a fellow faceter. Why? Well quite a few reasons.
If the person you are buying a used machine from is a faceter, then they have actually used the machine to cut stones. This is a big advantage because they have actually used the machine they are selling and should know what kind of shape it is in. Someone just buying and selling used machines is generally clueless about what shape the machine is actually in, they have never used it after all. They do not cut, and probably will not know how complete the used machine they are trying to sell really is. I have seen used faceting machines missing parts (some not obvious), some machines actually made up of several different makes of machine and everything in between.
Note: If you are new, you will more than likely not notice missing parts (minor ones anyway) and changes unless you are very careful and study the machine you are looking to buy.
If the person selling the machine is a faceter or says they are. Ask them to show you some of their cut stones. It is a good way to confirm what they say, and you might get to see some nice stones. Also, I like to think that a fellow faceter will be more likely to help someone getting started. More likely than someone just trying to make a buck selling used machines, anyway.
Another good thing about seeing their cut stones, is that you can tell a lot about a person by the quality of work they do. Are their stones well cut? Quality? If so I personally would be more likely to believe what they have to say about the used machine they are selling. If they used the machine they are selling to cut the nice stones they are showing you, then you should be able to do well with the machine yourself.
If the person selling the machine has actually cut on it, then they will be familiar with it. Ask them why they are selling it? What are the problems, if any? Will they let you cut a stone on it before you buy it? Assuming you are close enough to do so. Have they done any modifications that you should know about?
Note: Maybe it is just me but if someone has done a lot of modifying and changing on a machine it is usually a red light to me. I prefer a machine as close to factory specs as I can get. You can never tell how good a job somebody did when “improving” a machine.
Cutting a stone on a used machine you are thinking of buying (I am assuming that you have enough cutting experience to at least know the basics) is about the best way to tell what kind of shape the machine’s really in short of actually checking the machine with gauges and machine tools, and/or having the manufacture check it (which I highly recommend). I hear from a lot of people that have bought a used faceting machine, but not gotten what they thought they were getting.
Be careful and ask questions, do your homework and if at all possible learn at least the basics of faceting before venturing out on your own to buy a used faceting machine. Here is another article that you should read about the what some one buying a used machine will need to get started. Also it covers some of the basic things/parts/tools that should come with any used faceting machine you buy.