Getting the right gem cutting equiptment

I want to get into gem cutting and I guess I’ll start with cabs, any
recommendations on equiptment that will last and will make the
learning process easier. I’ve been looking at the CabMate. Also what
would be a good saw to get started with.



If you intend to learn cabbing and do it mostly as a hobby, the
CabMate would be a great machine to start with. It is the lowest
price on the market for what it does and they last forever. However,
there are some inconveniences attched to it…it is a single wheel
machine so you have to change the wheel for each process (i.e., there
are normally two grinding, three (or four) smoothing and a polishing
operation). The CabMate also has a saw attachment, can be used as a
metal buffer and will also take a carving chuck. Very versatile.

Meanwhile, Graves is in preliminary tooling for a new 6 inch, 6
wheel, variable speed cabber that will allow you to cut stones
quickly and efficiently. No date for release yet but should be in the
next few months.

As to a saw…lapidary saws are expensive. But if you want to
slab, I recommend a self-feed 12 inch for pieces up to 5 inches.
Hard, soft no matter…works great on agate or turquoise. The
Lortone LS12 is a great machine. If you plan to just do trimming
consider purchasing a tile saw from your local hardware store. For
less than $100 you can get a 7 inch saw that will also do small
slabs…no fancy vises or self feed but they are cheap.

Many people swear by the 6 inch, 6 wheel Genie from Diamond Pacific.
It is a great little machine but is heavy and only has one speed.
Otherwise, it has plenty of attachments (including a trim saw) and is
a real work horse though a bit pricy.

If you plan to do loooottttsss of cutting, consider a Titan 8". Lots
of rim speed and loads of surface to grind on. Very pricy though.

Check out the Graves web site at

So you know, I work at Graves. If you have any questions, give me a
call any Thurs/Fri at 1-800-327-9103.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

I like my genie machine, but it’s pricey. I was lucky to get mine
used. List price is over $1600, but you can find it for less. It’s

because you don’t have to physically switch out your wheels…you
just move on to the next one. You can also get a saw attachment for
it, but I don’t know how easy it is to switch it out. The only thing
with it is that not everything polishes well with diamond. Some
things, I find, do better with felt/leather and cerium or tin
oxide…so I have a separate flat lap machine I have set up for


A good entry level lapidary machine is the all-u-need made by
Hitech. It’s a flat lap with multiple diamond grade abrasive laps.
What’s nice about it is you can use it in your house and requires no
special plumbing. I bought mine on ebay for around $450 for the 8"
model. I use mine mostly for inlay work now. If cost is not the
problem look into a Diamond Pacific Genie. Kingsley North has about
the best prices on lapidary equipment -

Also, look into used lapidary equipment. Either at ebay or newspaper
ads. I’ve found most of my lapidary equipment buying used.

What size saw you need depends on if you are going to be rough
material into slabs or if you are going to buy your material already
slabbed. If you are going to slab your own you will want a saw with a
minimum 10" blade. For preslabbed material you can get by with a 6"

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Well, the inlay shop I ran in Albuquerque years ago had 1-36" saw,
1-24" saw, 4-10" saws, 6 - 6" saws, two Highland Park vertical
sanders, and about 12 10" grinding wheels scattered around. That’s
probably a biiiiiiiiit much for a novice… As with all things Orchid,
you will get varying advice. My advise would be to get anything on
this page, or similar:

I looked again at the cabmate, and I wouldn’t like it because it’s
much more difficult to cut cabs on the flat side of a wheel than what
more resembles offhand grinding. That’s partly because of the motion
of the wheel - a suface that is coming towards you, instead of
spinning past you sideways. It’s also pretty flimsy. Diamond wheels
are superior in many ways, but they are expensive and certainly not
necessary - learn how to use a wheel dresser and sharpener, and
you’ll be fine. My brother has been doing fine inlay for 25 years,
and he prefers silicon carbide. If you get a good combo unit -
Lortone is not perfect, but they’ve been in business since the
stoneage (pun intended) - it’s economical, it’s “plug and play”,
you’ll get everything you need, all in one box, including the saw -
a 6" saw will do you fine for quite some time, if not forever. Rio
Grande has some nice diamond combos for twice the price, if you have
it to spend, but I’m telling you, if you’ve never cut before, you
don’t need it. You can always change the wheels later, too. The only
real issue with combo units is the bearings - a 2 foot long shaft
with stress in various places on an aluminum base, and if you push
them hard over some years they’ll go out. Individual arbors and free
standing saws are mostly pro stuff- and a combo unit takes up about
the space of a microwave oven… Plus a hotplate, dopwax, cut-up
dowels for dopsticks - wooden matches for little stuff, cerium oxid,
tin oxide, LindeA, some abrasive belts - 220, 400, 600, you’re in
business. If you go diamond, you’ll need to learn the micron thing,
and charging disks - well, if you DO want to just dive into that,
good for you. I’m saying, though, for $350 or $500 you can be
cutting jade, and if you decide it’s not for you, you can sell it in
a week.

I might as well post this ad just in case anyone is considering
buying a used faceting setup.

I am selling my 2yr old polymetric xristal tek 87
( faceting machine. It’s in excellent condition
and has helped me cut many very nice, exotic stones (all the ones on
my website were cut on that machine, plus a lot that aren’t on

It’s an 8" unit, will come with extras like 2 dop arms, 2 96 index
gears, 1 80 index gear, a ton of dops, 2 extra drive belts (I haven’t
had to change one yet), and I’ll even throw in Norm & Steele’s
introduction to meet point faceting. The two dop arms allow you to
cut 2 stones at once (not simultaneously) so if you got a rush order
you could take off what you’re working on, put the other arm it, cut
the stone, then switch back to what you were working on previously.

This setup is designed for faceting stones with precision. It’s not
a hacking machine used to cob off rough, or make beads or something.
This is for creating beautifully cut stones, the type you can’t buy
commercially (although you could cut those things if you really
wanted to).

The package price is $1600 + shipping. Sounds like a lot but it
really isn’t for what you’re getting.

Just figured I’d throw this out there. I don’t really HAVE to sell
it but figured I’d try a little if it doesn’t go I’ll save it for a
backup or something.


I like my UltraTec for faceting. I built a gew saw for making big
stones into little ones. I reecently seem to have inherited lapidary
equipment from a historical center, lots of stuff from somebody who
retired from the gem biz about 20 years ago.


I found the Groves Cab mate to be a very good versatile small
machine… I just bought the base unit only and made up the machine
with a stainless steel drip pan and vary speed DC motor. Will send a

Changing wheels is quick and easy. move adaptable than multiple wheel
unit. since it will use drums wheels laps and a trim saw blade… It
could accommodate a chuck to drill with but I like the drill vertical
I didn’t spend much on the base unit this way but you might prefer a
complete unit.


to get started; a 6" trim saw, and if you can afford it, a diamond
pacific diamond unit. you can probably find a used 6" saw for about
$150, the diamond pacific for about $750

Much faster to use diamond abrasives than carbide, although I do use
both. After the 6" saw, you can start adding from there. Now, after
some 30+ years of cutting, I have, i think, 9 saws, not counting the
smaller hand operated ones add another dozen or so)

Mark Zirinsky, Denver