Have you been considering learning to facet? Although there are many attractive aspects to this craft, there are also some cautions; it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Faceting machines are pricey and the wise individual will think carefully about whether this hobby will suit him/her, before jumping in with both feet.
From my perspective, there are five major ways in which faceting makes an excellent pastime.
1) Faceting is nicely flexible time-wise, in contrast, some hobbies such as baking, require that you finish the project once it is started. Not so with faceting, while some speedy and dedicated cutters finish more than one piece a day, others may enjoyably work on a single stone off and on for months, as time permits.
2) It is very interesting. There's enough technical knowledge required such that faceting presents a pleasing challenge with ever expanding horizons as new materials and cutting techniques are incorporated into one's repertoire.
3) Your activities are not confined to a certain season or locale as with fishing or gardening, nor is the equipment so large or messy as to require a special workshop.
4) Faceting can lead to acquaintance with a new group of friends that share your interest, and can help you solve problems you might encounter in the learning process. These can be found at a local rock and gem club, a regional facetor's guild, or on the internet.
5) Bottom line, one of the most appealing rewards of the faceting process is the finished product! The thought of gaining the knowledge and ability to take a piece of gem rough that looks something like driveway gravel, and turn it into a sparkling treasure is all the incentive and inspiration most "would-be" facetors need.
On the down side, faceting itself is pretty much of a solitary activity, and as such, can lead to resentments from family and friends who are feeling left out as you hunker over your machine, hour after hour. And on a practical note, the expense of getting started in this activity can run to several thousand dollars. Maintaining your "habit" with new rough, books, supplies and gadgets will place a long term drain on your income.
Many who are considering getting started in this craft wonder if they have the requisite characteristics to make a good facetor. The physical requirements are few, but you do need enough manual dexterity to handle the gems, and enough strength to work the machine. (Don't worry too much about these criteria as one of the best facetors I ever knew was missing a thumb on his right hand, weighed 90 pounds and suffered from emphysema!).
You'll also need reasonably good vision (with correction); but even here, the requirements are eased by the fact that you'll be wearing a magnifying headpiece as you cut. Faceting, as an activity, is virtually "ageless". Successful cutters range from pre-teenagers to nonagenarians.
Personality traits conducive to successful faceting are: patience (some parts of the process are repetitious); attention to detail, and the ability to keep your cool when things go wrong. What you don't need is: creativity (unless you intend to design new cuts); a degree in geology or gemology, or an engineer's level of mechanical ability. None of these attributes would be detrimental, of course, but they aren't, in the least, essential to enjoying and succeeding in the faceting process.
If a person has decided they want to give faceting a try, how should they go about it? The worst approach would be to look through a magazine like Rock and Gem or Lapidary Journal, find an ad placed by a faceting machine manufacturer, make a call and order everything from A-Z. You REALLY need to try the process "hands on", before spending any money. I've known more than one individual who bought before trying, and then sold their equipment, at a loss, after they decided they didn't like faceting after all.
How can you try it? The very best situation would be to go to a faceting school, but only a few of those are available and they, too, are expensive. Better to try it out at the side of an experienced facetor, kind of like an apprenticeship. Your local chamber of commerce or city or county website can give you the contact name, email or website address and/or phone number of any gem or lapidary clubs in your area. Attend a meeting, and introduce your self to a facetor. Most of them remember how they got started and are willing to at least demonstrate (if not teach) the process "one on one".
Alternately you could attend a gem show, where there usually are faceting demonstrations taking place. The "demonstrator" is a possible mentor who might let you get your hands on a machine. If neither of those avenues yields a tutor, then you can order video tapes of the faceting process from several companies. Try an internet search on "faceting video" or look through the ads in a lapidary magazine for sources. At this point you will at least know what faceting is like.
If you've passed this hurdle, and knowing what is involved, still want to jump in, it's time for research. There are a number of good beginners books in the field of faceting, with Edward Soukoup's The Facet Cutter's Handbook, being the least expensive. More inclusive is Glenn and Martha Vargas' Faceting for Amateurs, which will remain useful, long after you've passed through your newbie stage. If you've read these books, or others, and STILL are interested, now's the time to buy your equipment.
Here's the scoop on machines--> they're all good! That being said, it's still true that non-biased assessments are very hard to find as all facetors tend to think their own machine is superior to other brands.
You may be lucky enough to run into a deal on some used equipment, but let's say you are going to buy new. Where do you start? It would be useful to write or call the major manufacturers (most have websites and all advertise in lapidary magazines) and have them send you their information packages.
The old joke about faceting is that the most important piece of equipment in faceting, is the big thing sitting in front of the machine! It's kind of like with autos, either a Chevy or a Lexus can get you from point A to point B, especially if you are a good driver (and of course a bad driver can wreck either one). Differences in bells and whistles, and ability to keep in adjustment reliably without numerous trips to the repair shop, equate to differences in price, but all machines on the market will do the job.