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I agree that you should try as many machines as possible – and take a few lessons if available before making your purchase. You should also take into consideration the type of cutting you plan to do. Are you strictly going to cut as a hobby, plan to sell your cut stones, or possibly enter competition.
I began faceting in 2000 using a Graves Mark IV. This was a hobby for me and I enjoyed it very much. While I still have my first machine, since 2002 I have been cutting on a Facetron. The criteria applied to my decision to buy the Facetron did NOT include “pretty”, although I really don’t mind looking at it. My final decision was made after numerous recommendations from a number of accomplished cutters, discussions with a number of manufacturers, and some time on the machine.
In 2002 my interest turned to competition. That was the year I became aware of the USFG Single Stone Competition and decided to have my work evaluated. That being said, I have been fortunate over the years to get involved with the USFG, as a member, officer, BOD member, Competition Committee member, and judge.
On the USFG SSC entry form there is a space to list what type of machine you use. Through the years as a member of the Competition Committee I had the opportunity to track the number of responses for each machine — not every entrant provided that information. From 2007 through 2018 three machines dominated that list. Facetron was the most used machine in every competition (other than 2014 and 2019 which I don’t have the stats for). Graves and Ultra Tec alternated for second.
Clearly they are all good machines. Keep in mind that success with ANY machine depends in large part on how much effort is put into developing your skills. The machine is only part of the process.
This year Jack Freeman and I both scored 100 on a stone cut for the 2020 Australian International Faceting Challenge. Jack cut on an Ultra Tec. I cut on a Facetron.
Keep faceting, and stay healthy.
And Tom, A Facetron is more than pretty … much more.