To Compute or Not to Compute

by Fred Van Sant

That is the Question. Whether ’tis better to suffer the wrong angles and other errors of outdated or outrageous designs, or to take up a computer against them–to correct and improve–to achieve a more perfect design–‘Tis a goal much to be desired. But the costs in money and time must give us pause.

If you do not have a computer and have no other use for one, forget it, unless you can afford rich toys. If you can use one for other purposes then of course you will weigh them all together, but you must still consider the time it takes to learn how to use a program–not only that but you must consider the necessity of using the program regularly enough to keep in practice, so that you feel confident in your ability to avoid making the same sorts of errors that you hope to eliminate. Even if you already own a computer you still have to stay in practice in your use of the design program. It is the same as playing the piano; let it go a while and you forget. If the design needs improving, other skills are needed. You must learn how the various combinations of indexing and angles govern the direction that lines on the plan view run. You must learn to recognize the possible and the impossible, and how to achieve maximum and balanced light reflections. You must be able to picture in your mind the potential problems and the cutting sequence. Many people have difficulty doing these things, and some find it impossible.

There is also a creative and artistic side to it all, like composing music or painting. If in your faceting experience you have not already created a few designs on your machine, you will probably not do it on the computer either. If in cutting a design you have not been curious enough to recut the same design with some variations, you will probably not be able to redesign a cut on the computer.

If you are cutting mainly for profit, working with expensive rough, then it may be to your advantage to buy a computer even if design checking is all you want to use it for, since the price of rough and the carat weight of stone saved over time may justify the expense.

I am not saying these things to discourage anyone; there is a great deal of satisfaction in solving design problems, improving old designs, and especially in creating new ones. But one must be realistic. It’s not everybody’s game. Some are jumping in and publishing designs before they have acquired experience. Designing a cut on the computer does not take less experience than doing it on a faceting machine–it takes more ! On a stone you see the immediate results when you cut a set of facets: on the computer you may have to imagine that set.

It is possible for someone who has never cut a stone to publish a design he has created on the computer. My own computer program will not recognize any index number except whole numbers, but other programs may do so. Designs may appear having index numbers such as 4.2 and 13.6, and the design may produce a beautiful stone, but who is going to cut it when so many other good designs are available which do not require cheating ? If it were not for the necessity of restricting indexing to integer numbers, then designs could probably be produced with ordinary commercial CAD programs.

Having given some of the warnings, what are the advantages ? Let me count the ways: (1) You can check designs before cutting to make sure all angles are correct, making minor corrections if necessary. (2) You can translate angles for different materials. (3) You can change the L/W of a design to fit your preform. (4) You can add in or delete sets of facets in existing designs. (5) You can change the size and shape of facets in existing designs to suit your own preferences, change the table size, eliminate problem spots. (6) You can compute the CAM preform for existing designs, the Cone angle for the CAM preform, offsets for arc sections, volume, and the 3-dimensional lengths for every line on your stone in relation to the stone width.

The variations in changes you can make range all the way from minor angle corrections to a complete new design. You remove the guesswork from the cutting process. You know before starting to cut that the design is correct and will work. That in itself brings a great comfort of mind.

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