What Do You Need to Begin Faceting?
Starting To Facet?
Faceting is a precise, innovative cutting technique used to cut gemstones with exact measurements and patterns to increase the beauty, brilliance, and attraction of a gemstone. Faceting can be an extremely absorbing art that incompasses everything from your ability to focus, your persistence, and your expertise. These skills are tested and honed while you learn. However, learning how to begin can be very difficult. So in this article, we are going to discuss the laps you will need in order to begin and the difference between different types of laps. By knowing this information you will be more likely to succeed in getting the finished gemstone that you desire.
The first laps you will need to consider are your grinding laps. These laps will be used very often while your cutting because they will be used to grind off the bulk of your material. Grinding laps are usually metal-bonded and range in grits from #80g - #3000g. Most facetors find 2-4 grits that they like and stick with them. The grits we suggest starting with are:
- #80g , #240g, #600g, and #1200g (A #3000g can also be handy sometimes.)
Toppers work extremely well for grinding laps, especially if you are shopping on a budget. Toppers or Grinding Discs work just like any other lap, however they can easily be switched without much hassle. They are used with a master lap that gives support underneath the disc so that you can apply pressure while cutting. You only need one master lap for all your laps. However we do suggest cleaning it between your grinding and pre-polishing stages. Toppers are great because after a year or two you will need to replace it and they do not cost very much to replace.
Sintered Laps vs Plated Laps
Sintered Laps and plated laps are extremely different in many ways. First the durability and cutting-life of the two laps are very different. A sintered lap will almost never need to be replaced if it is well taken care of. Whereas a plated lap will need to be replaced every year or two, depending on how much you cut. Sintered laps last 10-15x longer than a plated lap.
A sintered lap also cuts very different compared to a plated lap. Sintered laps cut more aggressively and also cut cleaner. They leave extremely minimal chipping while still cutting quickly.
Sintered Laps will need to be redressed as you start to wear down the surface of the lap. Naturally you will start to wear away a section or a unique pattern into the lap while you are cutting. You will begin to notice this every 2-3 years for sintered laps. When you start to see your laps cut uneven then it is time to send it in.
Plated Laps never need to be redressed because instead of wearing away, they will begin to get finer in grit or stop cutting. Then it is time to replace them.
Which one should I get?
Cutting Edge Supply suggests getting a particular set of sintered laps if they are within your budget.
You will find that extremely coarse laps do not need to be sintered because of the amount of grinding done with these grits and you want the ability to replace them easily when they start to wear down.
However, as you get to your finer metal-bonded discs, sintered laps come in very handy. The grits we suggest getting in sintered laps are:
- #600g, #1200g, and #3000g
You will find that these laps, because of their aggressive cutting and minimal chipping, will work extremely well as you facet your diagram or pattern. They make being precise much easier and some of the time, you will not need any other grinding laps than these. These grits are very important in order to get the meets to look very nice and have the facets lay out correctly.
After you have grinded your stone down to the desired shape, and laid your pattern in, you will begin pre-polishing. The best pre-polishing laps are made by Lightning Laps.
Lightning Laps produce the highest quality resin-bonded lap on the market. They are extremely durable and perform very efficiently. A Lightning Lap will last through about 40-75 stones before you have to replace it. Sometimes you have to replace them even less than that! There are many grits to choose from, however all of them are not necessary to begin. A good starting sequence would be:
These four laps will bring you to a semi-polish that will be ready for a final polishing stage.
Choosing a polishing lap can be difficult. Each gemstone material polishes better with a specific media so you can not just choose one and think you are good for all materials. In order to cover the widest range of materials you need to get a good variety of polishing laps. The best laps are:
- Cerium Oxide Lightning Lap
- Darkside Gearloose Lap
- Pure Tin and/or Zinc Lap
- 50,000g Lightning Lap
- Batt Lap
These laps will allow you to polish a huge variety of gemstones efficiently without having to waste your time trying to find the right lap. There are many more polishing laps than this and as you perfect your skills you will want to begin trying other ones out. The Cerium Oxide Lightning Lap will be on of your most versatile and is a great one to learn on. We suggest cutting quartz when you are learning and there is no better polish for quartz than Cerium Oxide.
Make sure you understand which lap should be used on each material. To find this information out, checkout our articles in Lapidary Library. You can find a breakdown for all the Lightning Lap and Gearloose Polishing Laps.
There are a ton of small accessories that can be purchased later as you start faceting. However there are a few tools that are nice to have around when you begin. The other tools you may want to purchase before you begin faceting are:
-Platinum Cerium Oxide
-Dop Wax or Epoxy
-Diamond Paste or Powder
These different tools will be used throughout the faceting process. Platinum Cerium Oxide is an amazing additive to the Cerium Oxide Lightning Lap and will increase its efficiency. Diamond Paste or Powder can be used to polish or charge different laps/tools.
Dopping supplies are extremely important to have around so that you can mount your gemstones properly before faceting. For more information about dopping your stone, check out "The Ultimate Guide to Dopping a Gemstone."
Safety Gear will never hurt when cutting a gemstone. Safety glasses, an apron, and a mask is recommended. This will keep you healthy and safe for years of faceting in the future.
Faceting is extremely enjoyable and when you finish polishing a gemstone, it is something truly gratifying. There is nothing like turning a rough gemstone into something of beauty. However, learning how to facet and refining your skills can be difficult. But with the right tools and knowledge it will be much easier to learn and succeed.
Try out the laps suggested above when you are starting. These laps have all been proven to be the reliable and provide outstanding results. You do not need all of the laps mentioned however the more resources at your disposal, the easier it will be to nail down what works for you. As you gain more experience you can begin trying out new laps and finding if you prefer certain grits over others, or different polishing medias for different materials.
Feel free to leave comments and questions below or send us an email!