OMNI Faceting Machine
Jeff R Graham shares his opinions and ideas on various topics in Just Ask Jeff. See what his thoughts are on Just ask Jeff: Review: OMNI Faceting Machine.
24 Minute Read
OMNI Faceting Machine
Keep in mind that these are my personal opinions and experiences, other people may have different ones. I have used all of the faceting machines I review. Almost all faceting machines have some problems. Major to minor, and anything in between. In other words no machine is perfect.
Note: These pictures are of the older original OMNIe and the new machine is improved and quite different. So be aware that there are differences. I will be doing an article on the new OMNIe as soon as I can.
May 2008 Recent Events - I have been quoted out of context (they failed to include the entire quote) and with out permission by several people who frankly have an ax to grind. They are not quoting the note above, where I clearly say there have been many changes in the machine since I wrote this article.
There has been over 250 OMNIe's made to this date 2008, and yes there have been some issues, as on any machine. Both from a few customers abusing the machines and some factory mistakes that were made. The factory has tried to fix all these problems in a timely manner.
Frankly there are several people that had legitimate issues (that were fixed free) and there have been several people that caused their own problems. We have tried to help everyone that contacted us (I have in particular). However when some one has disassembled the machine and changed/worked on pieces, frankly at this point while I am willing to help, I do not feel it is a dealer or factory problem.
My advice is read my review and read the posting that some people with problems have made. Keep in mind that there are two sides to every story. Also keep in mind that some people have caused many of their own problems and were told to return the machine for service. They failed to so.
Also remember that the OMNI is under constant improvement and that the machines are quite different than they were a year ago, or even 6 months ago.
Note: It is also important to note that several of the people with problems besides causing many of the problems themselves, are not being honest. Their machines are OMNI's that are well over 2 years old, a few over 3 years old. So not only do they have normal wear and tear on them (bearings do need replacement from use), the old machines are completely different in many design aspects from the new machines. None of these people are honest enough to point out that the machines are completely different and because of design improvements, the new machines will not have any of the issues, even if they were real issues. Which a few were but many were not real issues.
Also some of these people, one person in particular is having some memory loss and frankly being dishonest about the problems, issues, and their lack of responsibility for causing the problems in the first place.
Here are just a few examples of the self caused problems. I am taking the time to answer some of this because I am sick and tired of the lying and omission of the truth that is going on with some of these problems.
There is one person in particular that is dishonest and not disclosing their own responsibilities. This person took apart the press fit platen bearing (under 20,000 lbs) so that they could machine off over 1″ of material off the platen to make the $2195.00 faceting machine a trim saw. Of course if you take apart a press fit bearing, it is never correct again.
If you machine of over 1″ of material off the platen and make a faceting machine into a trim saw, which both the machine and the bearing were NOT designed to do. Well how stupid can you be? Even assuming the person in question was a good enough machinist to correctly balance the platen after removing over 1″ or material. Which I seriously doubt. There are major problems with this kind of tinkering.
Keep in mind the platen is a certain weight and size on purpose to work with the bearing and the motor/electronics in the drive. Changing the weight and balance by machining off 1″ will effect the whole machine and will cause all kinds of ther problems, alignment, run out, wobble, et… Doing this type of thing will damage the drive to say the least. So how stupid is machining off 1″ of the platen? The answer is pretty ignorant and stupid.
I could continue with many more self caused problems. But the main thing here that I want to say is that this person seems to think they are an expert, and they are basically clueless and dangerous.
One last thing. This person was told that he should return the machine (even after all the back yard tinkering and damage) and that it would be fixed, they declined to do so. So if you read any "self appointed experts" comments or theory on how to work on and fix any machine (not just the OMNI) be smart and contact the factory and ignore the "clueless experts". Most of these "self appointed experts" are idiots.
All faceting machine manufacturers will try to help you and fix any problem, self caused or factory problem. Yes some manufacturers are better than other, but be aware that in almost all warrantees working on a faceting machine yourself will void the factory warrantee. Be smart and contact the manufacture before "working" on any faceting machine.
To be clear here. The machine pictured in this article is the older machine that was available when I wrote this article (2006 or so). There have now been many changes and improvements to the machine over the last 2 years or so since I reviewed the machine. Here are a few changes, no I am not going to list them all… plus there maybe more coming.
New 45 degree keyed dops and transfer block
New encoder and angle read out.
New splash bowl, a larger drain hole and deeper slope.
New stronger motor and power supply.
Some new cosmetic things like anodizing/coating for protection.
Dial Indicator is now standard.
I have not had a chance to cut on the new improved machine because of production schedules. But I have no real issues with the original OMNI and I doubt that I would see any problem with the new one with the improvements. I will be reviewing the OMNI when a machine becomes available.
Another note. The factory is steadily improving the OMNI if you buy one or own one contact the manufacturer and ask about free upgrades that maybe available. I have announced that upgrades were being done on the USFG list many times, but it was pointed out to me that people may not be getting the messages. I am going to tell you what I think, you can make up your own mind on what is or isn't a problem for you. I am writing these articles as helpful information to faceters. The more a person knows about faceting machines the better decision they can make when deciding which machine to buy. Information is power.
The OMNI Faceting Machine
This machine was originally made in Australia and called a Hall faceting machine. Charlie Musitano bought the patent rights to the original machine when Mr. Hall decided to retire and brought the machine to the USA to manufacturer.
Charlie has made some changes and improvements to the original design and from what he tells me he plans to continue to improve the machine where and if needed as time goes on.
Note: It is nice to talk to a faceting machine manufacturer that is willing to actually listen to faceters and at least consider changes and improvements.
The OMNI is available as both a 6″ and 8″machine. The 6″ machine can only be used with 6″ laps, the 8″ machine can be used with either 6″ or 8″ laps.
What is the difference between 6″ and 8″? 6″ laps are pretty standard in most other countries besides the USA. Their main advantage is they are smaller and lighter which makes them easier and cheaper to ship. 6″ laps cost a bit less then 8″ (20% to 30%) and because of this cost difference are often more practical for people who live in countries that have a VAT (value added tax) to import merchandise. For example Canada has VAT of 23% (if I remember right, depends on the province though). So Canadians pay $23 dollars of tax on every $100 of product value they import into Canada. So as you can see buying a 6″ machine depending on where you live maybe a significant savings. Also because the 6″ laps are cheaper to ship and cost less, a 6″ faceting machine is just a bit cheaper to buy and use.
I prefer machines using 8″ cutting laps and 8″ laps are pretty standard now a days in the USA. The main advantage to 8″ laps and machine is they give you more elbow room when cutting and because 8″ laps have more surface they wear longer. Of course you are paying more for 8″ laps so there is no real cost advantage. The only other real advantage is that because the 8″ lap is 2″ larger, it will handle extra large stones easier. This is not a big deal really if you cut natural rough because most natural material does not come extra large. But 8″ laps and machines are nice.
The OMNI machine in my opinion is a nice quality machine for a beginning faceter or about any one wanting to facet. No, it is not a Cadillac, but it might be considered the VW Bug of faceting machines. A decent quality affordable faceting machine for the average person. Frankly the OMNI cuts as well or better than a more expensive faceting machine like and Ultra Tec ($3250.00) or Facette ($4495.00 on sale some times for $3495.00).
About the only differences between the OMNI and the other two very expensive machines are a few small finish details which do not effect anything as far as cutting and of course the the major price differences the machines cost.
My Opinion? Take the money you save when buying the OMNI and buy some quality rough, by the time you cut and sell the quality rough you bought with the money difference you saved. The OMNI machine will be paid for. probably more than paid for.
The retail price of a new OMNI 6″ faceting machine is a $2181.00 - This is June 2008 price and includes the New Dial Indicator. The price of an 8″ OMNI faceting machine is $2383.00 -This is June 2008 price and includes the New Dial Indicator.
Both machines are a bargain because they come complete.
Included with the machine:
- Dial Indicator - Standard as of June 2008.
- 96 index gear - Typically this gear comes with all new machines.
- 80 index gear - This is an extra gear that you need to buy with most machines.
- 64 index gear - This is an extra gear that you need to buy with most machines.
- Transfer block - Typically all new machines come with one.
- 45 degree dop - Typically all new machines come with one
- 90 degree dop - Typically all new machines come with one
- A set of 12 standard dops - Typically all new machines come with a basic dop set.
- Assorted allen wrenches - Typically all new machines come with basic wrenches.
- Manual - Typically all new machines come with one.
The 6″ OMNI is probably one of the smallest, if not the smallest faceting machines in over all size and foot print I have ever seen. The machine is very compact and for people that have limited work space the OMNI would be an excellent choice (especially the 6″ machine). Because the OMNI is so compact, and fairly light (it is heavily built but not a large machine, a little lighter than the 8″) it would make a good traveling machine for an RV or vacation home.
The 8″ OMNI is a bit larger and about average in size for a machine in the 8″ category. The fit and finish of an OMNI faceting machine is good quality. The fit and finishes on the OMNI faceting machine are clean and anodized for protection from the cutting water and stone dust that always seems to occur during the cutting process. The fit and finish is certainly comparable to a what you would see on a Facetron, or Facette, but not as high quality as an Ultra Tec, but not the same high price either (the OMNI is $1,000.00 less cost than the UT). Over all the quality of the fit and finish is good and much better than many other machines.
Note: The fit and finish includes things like how tight the joints are on the pieces that go together and the actual finish on the pieces. Etchings and control markings.
However the machines design is really quite basic and simple so it does not really need much in the way of markings. With a little bit of tinkering it is pretty easy to see how most of the controls work.
Note: The OMNI is a "hard stop" faceting machine. This means when you have cut to mechanical stop on the machine it is hard, no give. Also the "down light" lights.
The OMNI faceting machine is very much like a Facetron not only in fit and finish but many of the controls and adjustments on the OMNI are similar to a Facetron.
Look on the top of the mast. There is a fine height adjustment up/down which is identical to the Facetron. This is a nice feature, and is particularly handy when polishing. A lot the Facetron people name this feature as one of their favorite, I think the OMNI users will too.
Look at the two (2) black knobs on the back of the faceting head on the mast (far right). The smaller center knob is the locking knob and the larger outside knob is the height adjustment. Loosen the center knob and turn the large height adjustment knob and the facet head is easily raised or lowered. Of course you need to re-lock the adjustment when done, using the smaller knob.
This height adjustment arrangement on the OMNI is a very good compromise between the Facetron machine which uses a clamp and slides freely, but can be difficult to control (if you are not careful with the clamp, the loose head will free fall) and the Ultra Tec's height adjustment which is a slower (but more accurate) screw adjustment that takes some cranking (which some people do not like).
OK, note the dumbbell like lever on the main part of the facet head next to the left black knob. The dumbbell lever is the angle lock/adjustment. Moving the lever to the left in the picture unlocks the angle adjustment. You simply turn the black knob to raise or lower the angle of the quill. Very simple and positive.
Note: When adjusting the angle you should always go toward the desired angle by starting above or below a few degrees. The reason for this is there is a very slight belt lash in the digital pot and by adjusting the angle in this manner you will eliminate any belt lash there might be. This only on the older machines, The ENCODER machines this does not apply.
At left is a picture of an OMNI faceting machine digital controls and angle indicator (the view is close up from the operators side).
The OMNI is a digital read out machine, which is still slightly unusual in this price range, but I suspect will become more common in the future. I like the digital read out, although I am used to my Ultra Tec's manual dial.
Note: As of Spring 2006 all the ONMI faceting machines are using a digital encoder, which makes the angles very accurate. OMNI is the only manufacturer using encoders and their machines are much more accurate than all the other digitals.
As far as I know all the other manufacturers that make digital read outs on their machines are using cheap electronic pots that are not much more accurate than plus or minus a 1/2 degree. Most of these manufacturers are using a "do not ask do not tell…" sales method. People see the digital read out and assume it is very accurate. The majority of them are not accurate at all. If in doubt ask the manufacturers and make them tell you what the pot specifications on their digital read out actually are.
The OMNI is reliable and definitely easily repeatable during my cutting.
Note: I am sure this is typical with most digital read outs… The angle was easy to set, but I could not always get it exactly to the hundredth's place repeatedly. In other words I could get 43.0 degrees plus or minus a couple of hundredths, but not exactly 43.0 every time. This is not an issue really, because the .01 in cutting is not really anything a cutter can see anyway.
The switch with the red lettering on either side of it is the directional control of the motor/lap. The dial/knob below the switch is the on/off speed adjustment. These controls are pretty standard and simple to use.
Note the switch on the top right side panel, up by the angle LCD. That switch is the angle LCD on/off. The electronics are powered by two 9 volt batteries that plug into the back of the control box. The batteries are easy to reach and change when needed.
Note: If you leave the LCD read out switch on (forget to turn it off when you are done cutting) the batteries will eventually go dead. So turn the switch off.
Look on the front of the control box and to the right about half way down below the LCD you will see another toggle switch and a light indicator. These are the "Down Light Indicator" (this bulb lights when the cutting reaches the hard stop on the quill) and it's on/off switch. The OMNI comes standard with a down light indicator. On most other machines a down light is an add on that costs money and must be ordered as an extra.
Note: A down light is a mechanical switch/light that comes on when you have cut a facet to the hard stop of the machine (which is where the switch connection is) and indicates that you have cut the facet completely. A down light is a nice tool, particularly for a new faceter because it enables the cutter to cut even facets (by the light going on).
Left: A view of the underside of the faceting head.
Note the T-shaped bar in the center of the bottom of the quill. This is the rocker arm and if you look closely you will see that there is a pin from the bar in the tooth of the index gear. When the rocker bar is depressed the pin raises and the index gear can be turned to what ever setting is desired.
Note: I found the pin a little difficult to see when adjusting the index gear and I suggested to the manufacturer that they make the pin more visible. They have by pitting a colored marker on it. Guess my eyes are not as sharp as they used to be. As of December 2005 the pin has a colored bead on the end of it and that pretty much eliminates the issue.
On the top of the T-shape (the fat part) you can see an adjustment knob to the left in the picture (brass colored knob). This is the cheater adjustment knob and if you look closely at the knob you can see that it is numbered. What the cheater knob does is adjust the rocker (the thin pat of the T-shape) left or right, which also mover the quill/index gear. A cheater is to remove spiral and adjust between laps. All faceting machines have a cheater.
It is a very simple arrangement and works pretty well. Most Faceting machine have a cheater arrangement that works some thing like this one. Look on the bottom of the quill and you can see another brass knob on the base of the bottom of the T. Note that round knob has a flat side and is "c" shaped. To put the quill in "free wheel" you simple turn the "c" shaped knob until the curved part of the "c" is over the rocker arm when it is depressed down. Leaving the index/quill free to turn.
Above Left: Left the mast is adjusted "in" to the machine.
Above Right: Right the mast is adjusted "out" to the machine.
One of the reasons that OMNI is so compact is the unique mast adjustment feature they use to move the facet head in and out. The mast sits on a heavy metal swivel and the whole mast can easily be moved towards the machine or away from the machine (cutting lap). On virtually all other faceting machines the mast sits on a base board (usually in a slot cut in the base) and the mast head is clamped/unclamped to moved the mast towards or away from the cutting lap.
I found this system to be a little different to use than I am used to, but it seemed to work well. The whole base board and swivel are made from pretty heavy (about 3/4″) metal and seem pretty solid. Over very long term and hard use the swivel bearing may need to be maintained and the mast checked for square ness. I do not know, but I did not see any major problems and I am sure a lot of cutters will really like the easy adjustment and the compactness of the design.
The index gears are simple and they are attached to the quill with two (2) screws located on either side of the quill. They were easy to change. The OMNI comes standard with several index gears, which is unusual on most other faceting machines the extra index gears must be purchased separately.
The dops are 5/16″ and are keyed. The dop is held in the quill by a simple allen screw and I did not have any trouble. However, I did not find the key to be especially accurate, it was not bad, just not all that great. To tell the truth I think I would be happier if they did not key the dops at all.
Just leave them round, that way there would be more options for lining a stone back up to a lap. For example after a poor transfer of a stone or a miss alignment during transfer. With a round un keyed dop you just index a girdle facet and off you go.
With a keyed dop, it becomes more difficult to line the girdle index up, especially if the cheater cannot compensate enough for the error of the transfer. This is not common or that big a deal, just an example.
Note: While I found the cheater on the OMNI to be fine, it does not have a lot of adjustment. I would like to see more cheater adjustment for those "whoops" stones we all cut once and a while.
Left: A bottom view of the OMNI.
As you can see in the picture the OMNI is belt driven and and has two (2) O-ring type belts. I found the belt drive to be fine and it ran quite. I generally find a direct drive like an Ultra Tec to have more "umph". But belt drives are common on many faceting machines and work well.
Note: It is easy to get some thing caught in the belts (like a wipe) when working if you place things directly in front of the drive area of the machine and sort of bump them under the machine when working. It was not a big deal, but it can happen.
Note: I talked to the manufacturer and they said they would work on a belt cover to eliminate this minor problem. As of December 2005 there is a belt guard on the OMNI so that eliminated the entire issue.
Look to the bottom right in the picture and you can see the unique swivel mast arrangement that the OMNI uses.
Design & Adjustability
The OMNI machine is well designed and it is obvious when I cut on the machine that this design has evolved over a long period of time. They tell me the machine has been made in Australia for well over 40 years. It is a bit different but I found it to be pretty good.
Dependability, Parts, & Service Parts and service are one of the main considerations that you should think about when you are buying a new or used faceting machine. OMNI is warranted for life time on mechanical parts and 1 year for electronics. Convenience of getting service is also something that you should consider. By this I mean. The OMNI factory is located in Alabama, USA, they are easy to call on the phone if you have a problem or need a part.
The OMNI machine (as a Hall) has been in business for a long time and has a well known track record, particularly in Australia (of course).
In conclusion, the OMNI faceting machine one of the best quality and design in it's price range. It is a very good beginners faceting machine or a nice machine for some one who wants to facet on a tight budget. I of course wanted to actually facet some stones on an OMNI before I wrote this review. Here is a short cutting example.
I just picked a smaller decent piece of Tourmaline to proof cut on the OMNI. The Tourmaline had an odd peach/green color and I though it would be interesting.
Left: An OMNI dop and my piece of Tourmaline, note the key.
Right: An OMNI dop and my piece of Tourmaline, close up.
Left: My piece of Tourmaline, note the color close up.
Right: Flat spot for dopping on piece of Tourmaline, close up.
Left: Stone dopped.
Notice in the picture above right that I used a rough lap to grind my flat spot for dopping. I thing a rough lap leaves more "tooth" for the wax to stick to during the dopping process and it makes a stronger wax joint.
Note the color of the stone on the a/b axis is green. The stone had a green rind but also a lot of green in the peach center. This color is apparent in the finished stone.
Left: Stone cut and polished on the pavilion and girdle.
I cut and polished the pavilion and the girdle of this stone very quickly and with no difficulty. I found the OMNI to be quite accurate and easily repeatable. I never had to use the cheater to adjust the pavilion to the girdle and actually had them both meet point pretty fast.
Note: Using a little cheater adjustment to get rid of a spiral between the girdle and the pavilion is not unusual on any machine.
Left: The stone and 2 dops in the transfer jig.
Right: Tourmaline "transferred" to the new dop so the crown can be cut, close up.
Left: The crown of the stone cut.
Here is a link to the design I cut for this faceting machine review. It is a new "Mirage" design in my design pack Addition #10.
This design appears simple to cut, and it is not that difficult. However this design is a very good test of a faceting machines dependability and repeatability.
Notice the C2 tier. These facets are very small, especially on a small stone and only 2 index teeth apart as well and being at a very shallow angle (about 8 degrees). All these factors add a great deal of difficulty to cutting and polishing. This is certainly not a hard design but in a smaller stone (which I cut) certainly does give a good idea of what a machine is capable of.
The OMNI had no trouble when I cut and polished these facets in. That says a lot about the machine. Like I said this machine is not perfect, no machine is. But it's a nice and very reasonable priced entry level machine.
Left: The finished Tourmaline stone.
The design is "Borderland" a new mirage. The stone weighs 2.82 carats and measures 9.2mm x 6.5mm deep. Like I said this is an unusual colored piece of Tourmaline. Almost like a "Sunset" color although the rough was not from the "Sunset" area.
This material if actually from a new mine in Nigeria and from the Padongare region. A lot of this material is unusual in color and makes interesting finished stones. If you look closely at the rough picture above you will see a green area of color on the outside of the stone and a pink/salmon area in the center. As you can see in the finished gemstone all these color are present and mix towards the center.
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