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Combo lapidary units recommendations


#1

Hello all. I would like to get a combo lapidary unit and have looked
at catalogs with Inland’s units, Covington, and Lortone. I’d really
appreciate some advice from those of you who have used any of these
combo units. My interest is in slabbing and polishing small limbs of
petrified wood (maximum of 3-4 inches diameters), and in some
rudimentary shaping of softerstones, such as lapis lazuli.

Au revoir!
Hobbs


#2

Bonjour,

Diamond Pacific, C’est Magnifique!

I own lapidary equipment by Lortone, Diamond Pacific, Inland, beacon
star, covington, graves, highlnd park, ultratech, and several
others. I also have built several (4 ?) machines from scratch, when
what I want to do is not possible on commercially available
equipment.

each manufacturer has some great equipment, and each has some in
their line not so great.

For a combo unit, Diamond pacific would be my choice for a combo
unit. 3m also has a unit out, although it is a little hard to find,
and at the high end of the price range.

Warm regards
Mark Zirinsky


#3

Before I could recommend any one unit I would need some more
about the petrified wood you would like to polish.

Are you wanting to polish the flat ends of these pieces or would it
be the individual slices of petrified wood?

Flat pieces are usually polished either on a flat lap or a flat disc
sander. The flat laps are usually run wet while the disc sanders are
used dry. I use the dry sanding method. It is a home made unit. It
is just a high speed motor with a flat 8 inch sanding pad mounted
where the grinding wheel usually goes.

This unit is not good for anything except flat sanding. you would
need a separate unit for any sawing of rocks.

You would also need a separate unit for working with the other
stones like cabs or small polished specimens.

When you get close to deciding, you may want to look for used
equipment that would be listed for sale in your local newspaper or
on Craig’s list. These have good deals sometimes.

Larry E. Whittington
Larry E. Whittington Lapidary
http://www.jewelrycabs.com


#4

Get yourself a genie, it is a winner and you will love it for live.
bob


#5
I would like to get a combo lapidary unit and have looked at
catalogs with Inland's units, Covington, and Lortone 

Covington and Lortone have been making lapidary equipment since the
beginning of time, and there are others. I’m not going to recommend
anything as I’m not active in cutting anymore. There’s two issues to
think about for any combo unit, though. First is that it’s really a
chore to change the wheels. Just that you need to pick the wheels you
want and keep it that way, by and large. With free standing arbors
you can change wheels much easier, but that adds up to more money and
space. Second is that (generally) the longer the shaft, the faster
the bushings or bearings wear out - also a chore to fix. I would
recommend a free-standing 6" saw. It will work better, and sawing on
what is always the end of the shaft of a combo unit is brutal on the
afore-mentioned bearings, especially something like petrified wood.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#6

Yup, Genie is a great machine. There are a few probls though. It is
a very heavy machine (around 60 lbs I think) because it has a big AC
motor, it only has two speeds and the seal in the water pump tends to
dry out and stop pumping after a while.

Check out the Caberet at Graves Co (www.gravescompany.com). Light,
easy to move, because it has a DC motor (only about 30 lbs), variable
speed, and it uses an easily replaced aqua pump/water spritzer
deliver system.

Otherwise, they both use Nova wheels which are the best!!

Cheers, D


#7

Per J. Donivan’s advice:

There's two issues to think about []. First. ... it's really a
chore to change the wheels. [] Second is that (generally) the
longer the shaft, the faster the bushings or bearings wear out -
also a chore to fix. I would recommend a free-standing 6" saw. It
will work better, and sawing on what is always the end of the shaft
of a combo unit is brutal on the afore-mentioned bearings,
especially something like petrified wood. 

Thank you J. Donivan, for the tips on what to look for in choosing a
unit… I have considered a free-standing saw, was unsure of the
blade size, thinking at least a 6", maybe 8". At least double the
circumference of any material I anticipate cutting.

Now, what would I need to polish the flat laps after they’re cut on
a free-standing trim saw? I guess this isn’t done by hand any more!
Any recommendations for a unit to do that?

Au revoir!
Hobbs


#8

Hobbs…not sure I underestand what you mean by ‘polish the flat
laps’. Do you mean ‘slabs’? Do you intend to polish flat surfaces?
Cabs? If so, what size are they?

The answer to each question will determine what you need to do the
job. I think the 8" trim saw would be a better bet but, there is a
great deal more cost than for a 6". Why not go for the difference and
purchase a 7" tile saw? The original tile blade will have a wide kerf
but you can always replace it with a lapidary blade later. You can
pick up a tile saw at the local Lowes or Home Depot for around $60.
the lapidary saw will run $250 to 500.

Wrong, much polishing is still done by hand. I cut and polish
hundreds (thousands?) of cabs, including domes and flats all by hand
on my combo unit…thats as with round wheels. There are techniques
to do so that produce flat (for the puriests out there… no, they
are not optically flat but) polished surfaces.

Some combo units are not that difficult to change wheels. The
Caberet and Genie are quite simple and have shafts that easily hold 6
wheels so you can go from 100 grit through 14K without changing
wheels or machines. Bearings on these machines commonly last 10 years
and longer.

Donivan was correct that long shafts can cause problems. Not only
with the bearings but if you are using 2.5 or 3" expanding drums,
which are very heavy, you will get run-out also known as whipping at
the shaft ends. Most modern combo units use 1.5" wide wheels and they
are keep about 1" apart to reduce such conditions. Again, it depends
on your requirement. If you are doing large slabs and need wide
wheels you should use shorter arbors that would hold perhaps only 2
or 4 of the wide wheels spaced 3-4" apart. Lortone makes such arbors.
If you are doing smaller slabs, the 6-1.5" arbors are great.

I currently use a forerunner to the Caberet, it is nearly 9 years
old and the bearings are still strong. The motor is just beginning to
give me a little trouble but that can be replaced for around $80-90.
I normally only need to change the wheels every 2 years or so and I
cut loooots of agate, jasper, wood, jade etc, etc.

I hope that explains it a bit. Cheers, Don in SOFL


#9

Hobbs, it’s not you.

It’s so easy to ask questions on Orchid that people have forgotten
how to research a question. It behooves everyone to know how to
research a question? When I was a student we had to go to the
library. The internet has made some things so much easier.

For example: Where did the first performance of “Aida” take place,
what was the occasion and who was the tenor?

Back to lapidary: You will find that flats are not commonly polished
on flat laps according to John Sinkankas. You will find the answer in
"Gem Cutting". This man has written a number of books on lapidary and
is generally held in high regard.

KPK


#10
Donivan was correct that long shafts can cause problems. Not only
with the bearings but if you are using 2.5 or 3" expanding drums,
which are very heavy, you will get run-out 

But as Don points out, that doesn’t mean that it will happen
overnight either. It’s just something to think about if you want a
long-lived setup.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#11
Now, what would I need to polish the flat laps after they're cut
on a free-standing trim saw? I guess this isn't done by hand any
more! Any recommendations for a unit to do that? 

Suzi, petrified wood is a bear to work with… Don (coralnut) is
pretty much our resident lapidary guru - he has much to say, too. I’m
interpreting your question above as that you want to have flat
polished slabs or stones. The machine to do that is a vibrating lap,
which is a circular machine maybe 18" across in which you put flat
rocks and grit and it vibrates it all on a flat surface. Starting
from a sawcut in petrified wood, that will take weeks to get a
polish. It is tough stuff. And the vibrating lap will give you a
"reasonable" flat finish - nothing approaching a cut facet. I’m
afraid you’re just gonna hafta get down and learn how to polish
rocks, in the end… A fine way to spend one’s time, I think. And
BTW, YQW.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#12
I would like to get a combo lapidary unit and have looked at
catalogs with Inland's units, Covington, and Lortone. I'd really
appreciate some advice from those of you who have used any of
these combo units. My interest is in slabbing and polishing small
limbs of petrified wood (maximum of 3-4 inches diameters), and in
some rudimentary shaping of softerstones, such as lapis lazuli. 

Re-reading your post, I have to offer a different viewpoint than
others here. First, your stated interest and what you want to buy
seem at odds. Slabbing and polishing are very different operations,
and no combo unit incorporating a saw will make a decent slabber. Get
a separate slab saw, at least ten inch. It should have a power feed
and a good vise with smooth crossfeed adjustment.

Next, to fine-grind and polish slabs, you don’t really want the kind
of wheel-type polishing setup others have recommended. You want a
flat lap, like the ones Diamond Pacific calls “Rotating Disc Flat
Lap.” If you work only with smaller slabs, you might make do with
something like the Inland Swaptop Flat Lap machine.

On the other hand, if you wanted a good machine for cutting and
polishing cabs, I was impressed by the new Graves Caberet that
someone else mentioned. Better value for the money than some others.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#13

OTOH a lapidary flat lap machine like the one from Ameritool will
polish a small flat of petrified wood nicely in an hour or so. It
also does conventional cabs in about the same time.

RC


#14

Suzi,

There has been alot of advice given here on what to get for slabbing
and polishing. But its all a shot in the dark without knowing more
about your needs. Re-reading your original post indicates you want to
do a number of things. Agree completely with the others that a free
standing 8"to 10" saw would better serve your slabbing needs.
Unfortunately, there are very few saws of this size that include
power feeds as Al recommends. Lorton used to make a great 10" unit (I
have one in fact) but my sources tell me it is no longer made. Now
their 8-10" saws use a manual feed vise and the crossfeed is manually
adjusted. Not sure if Covington is still making a power feed saw in
these sizes. Still, the manual feed will do a good job…just takes
longer and you have to attend to it. Now then…if you are still
talking self auto-feed saws, you will have to go to 14" and those
currently run around $1500. In either case, look around for a used
machine as all lapidary saws are expensive.

As I said, re-reading your needs for the petrified wood, I still
don’t know if you intend to do flat lapping or cabbing (doming). I
agree with Al that if you will be flat lapping, a flat lap would do
fine, though if you are doing a lot of polishing, a vibra-lap would
be even better. You can also cab on the Inland flat lap machine if
you wish but it is a bit cumbersome and cutting the Lapis Lazuli or
other softer stones would best be done on a wheel-type machine.

As you can see, there are many ways to go…most quite expensive
unless you can find some used equipment. In any event, it is
difficult to find one machine to do all.

I would suggest you get a couple of books on the subject such as
Sinkankas’s “Gem Cutting”, Kraus’ “Introduction to Lapidary”, Drakes
"The Art of Gem Cutting" are good ones to start with. Some are a bit
out of date but they give you a better picture of whats required.

Cheers, Don in SOFL.


#15

I do my channel inlay bracelets and donuts on the Ameritool FlatLap.
Get great finish and polish on any kind of stone. I go through the
whole line of finishing wheels. The final polish is usually Linde A.
I love Chrome Oxide, but it is just too messy, but gives Sugilite a
tremendous polish!

Rose Marie Christison


#16

Just to add another POV.

I respect John D’s point of view on all things technical. And to add
emphasis to what John said; don’t even think of using a saw on a
combo unit. Get a free standing saw; a 6" blade should do it for most
things certainly as a starter. Think of a combo unit as meaning it’s
a unit which can hold six wheels of various grits. As in all
questions of tools, quality will out.

I have an old Diamond Pacific with a one inch SS shaft with six eight
inch by one and one half inches in width. I adapted the water feed;
that spritzer is a PIA. The motor that drives the unit is a Balder.
Balder makes great motors. I bought this unit used 15 years ago; it
still hums.

Bigger is better; use the largest tool you can to do the job. There
are smaller, cuter machines; but none better. And Balder is what
makes it better. I don’t know what the current specs are for Diamond
Pacific.

I use lapidary machinery most days.
Your experience may vary.
KPK


#17

Coralnut and Suzi,

There are still several 10-inch slab saws with auto power feed
available but they’re not exactly cheap. Raytech makes a popular one
for about $1,100 and a similar design is available from Barranca at
slightly under 1K. Lortone makes a 12-inch powerfeed saw along the
lines of their old 10-inch (I own one of those too) and it’s offered
by some dealers at around $1,150 complete. Covington makes 8 and
10-inch saws with optional power feed. I’ve seen a few other brands
but don’t have the info at my fingertips.

Kingsley-North has introduced a new all-diamond combo cabbing unit
called the Cab King (no saw) built along the lines of Diamond
Pacific’s Genie. The 6-inch model is about $100 less than the Graves
Caberet. Both the Graves and K-N appear to be solid machines. I’ve
owned a Genie since 1989 and it’s still going strong; I cut on it
every day and wouldn’t use anything else. It’s had one new set of
bearings and a new baseboard in that time.

I agree we need to know more about the kind of cutting Suzi plans on
doing in order to make specific equipment recommendations.

Rick Martin
www.artcutgems.com


#18
Unfortunately, there are very few saws of this size that include
power feeds as Al recommends. Lorton used to make a great 10" unit
(I have one in fact) but my sources tell me it is no longer made.
Now their 8-10" saws use a manual feed vise and the crossfeed is
manually adjusted. 

That’s a bummer. Do you think it would be easy to rig a cable and
weight system to provide the feed? Otherwise, hand-feeding a 10" saw
is not only a lengthy nuisance, but dangerous - people tend to get
impatient and push.

I agree with Al that if you will be flat lapping, a flat lap would
do fine, though if you are doing a lot of polishing, a vibra-lap
would be even better. 

True. The flat lap is quicker for one piece, but the vibra-lap will
run unattended. (AD: I have one for sale, by the way )

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#19

I have just bought an Inland lapidary swap top and I really think it
fills my lapidary basic needs, I have just cut a meteorite cube and
I am waiting for further instructions on how to mirror polish this
cube. I bought the combo from Rio Grande and I think it has all the
basics you need to start, my only need now is a saw band to cut big
pieces into smaller ones but I am very satisfied with this Inland
combo

Regards,
Thor Hedderich


#20

Another company you might look at for saws & other lapidary tools is
Ameritool (ameritool-inc.com). They’re located in Redding CA.

Dave