Order

Ultra Tec

New V5 Review

John Dyer reviews the Ultra Tec Digital Angle Dial

read more ...


DAD Review

John Dyer reviews the Ultra Tec Digital Angle Dial

read more ...

08.13.2009

Report and analysis of the DAD by Brad Amos-a recognized and respected scientist at Cambridge University.

read more ...


Contact information

John Dyer & Co.
5021 Vernon Ave. S. Suite 123
Edina, MN 55436
USA

1-715-830-0126

www.johndyergems.com

Why BUY the ultra tec?

Since a faceting machine is a reasonably sizable investment and can be the cause of much satisfaction if it works well or frustration if it does not, it pays to consider your options carefully when buying a machine.

Personally, I feel that the Ultra Tec faceting machine is the best buy at any price and will try to explain some of the reasons I have for thinking this. Many people refer to the Ultra Tec faceting machine as the "Ultra TECH" but the correct spelling is ULTRA TEC.


What to look for in a faceting machine

Faceting is a highly precise business (or at least it is meant to be) that is very dependent on good equipment and patience for superior results. Because of this you want a faceting machine that is extremely solid and inflexible.

Surprisingly regardless of the importance of this fact this is probably the most common problem with faceting machines on the market today. Many of them, due to design or manufacturing flaws, have too much "flex". Now as a machinist would know, all machines, even large lathes and mills, have some SMALL degree of flex. Since you do not want a faceting machine that you need a crane to lift they all will have at least a small amount of flex but it should be something that you need extreme care and experience to find or detect.


Ultra Tech, Ultra Tec faceting machineThe Ultra Tec is a very solid machine, not that after YEARS of hard use there is not a TINY bit of flex but not enough to really bother me or for me to send it in to the factory yet. Some of the other machines on the market have extreme amounts of flex, especially when maladjusted.  

The Ultra Tec is one of the few faceting machines on the market (maybe the only??) that has a constant angle reading even when it is not "on the stop". While this may be hard for a beginner to understand let me just say that it opens up lots of possibilities for creativity and speed. It is a feature I which I feel to be VERY useful.

If you are going to be using your machine much I would recommend one with 8 inch wheels.  While most of the machines on the market at this time use 8 inch wheels there are a few that use 6 inch wheels. A 6 inch wheel is slightly cheaper to buy but by my calculations they have about half the surface area of an 8 inch wheel so the 8 inch wheel lasts much longer while costing only slightly more. The only benefit that I can see to a six inch machine is if you want to carry it frequently in your luggage during flights overseas. (That would get kind of heavy after while and explaining it to customs could be a trick!)

Since I see that this list could go on and on I will just list the benefits of the Ultra Tec as opposed to many competing machines in a fairly brief manner as well as the very few detractions that I know of.



Ultra Tec Checklist

  • Pros
One of the most solid machines I have seen or used.

8 inch wheel (cheaper to use and good for larger gems).

Made in the USA (handy for repairs & service if necessary).

A Lifetime Warranty by the manufacturer.

Likely to remain in business for the foreseeable future, (run by the sons of the former CEO who are fairly young).

They are reasonably sensitive to user feedback and have improved the design steadily over the years.

Future upgrades designed to be used with prior models (see our news page).

Constant angle reading even when not on the stop.

RUBBER splash guard and coated knob to hold your lap on. (This saves MANY potential broken gems and is a problem with a number of competing machines).

Can cut and polish tables at 90 degrees without a 45 degree adapter, one of three machines that can do this that I know of. (Polishing like this is NOT a recommended technique for large gems.)

Relatively simple dop keying system, if you use the dop keys (I don't). You can even make your own small diameter dops (straight and cone shaped) fairly easily if you have a mini metal lathe and some 1/4 inch brass stock (I do!).

And just so I don't scare you, yes they have a wide variety of ready made dops & accessories you can buy.

1/10 angle setting accuracy. (Relatively common today but the Ultra Tec is one of the easier ones to set.)

Now with the optional new Digital Angle Dial (DAD) it has 1/100 angle accuracy and even greater ease of use!

A "Hard Stop", my preferred kind. It means that it "stops" you once you reach the angle you set.

A LARGE user base to give tips and other info regarding use of the machine.

The Ultra Tec transfer jig I use seems to work well. (They have changed this but the new model looks sound.) Many other manufacturer's transfer jigs are dubious at best. This causes many problems.

Overall the machine wears very well in my experience.

  • Cons

The plastic drip tank tends to break after a while, just buy a different brand (click here for my recommendation) for $30-60 and you are fine.

The drain hose can plug up and back flow. This is rare and a problem with any number of other machines, just unplug it and go back to work slightly the wetter.

After years of use a small spring inside the angle dial wears out causing about 3/4 degree of slop. This is fairly easy to notice when it happens. This is a pretty cheap fix usually.

There is a SLIGHT chance of hitting your gem on the metal hooks that hold the splash pan's side down for girdling. Just put 1/4 inch inside diameter rubber tubing from the hardware store over them.

The height adjustment is threaded so you must crank it up and down. This is actually a benefit and more solid than other designs but it can take a little longer to change the height (a question of seconds only important to the professional). I am working with Ultra Tec to test an increased pitch thread so that it goes faster. (As of 10/26/09 this  faster pitch thread is available as an option, in the future it may become standard.)

This cannot be considered a complete list, especially of the pros but I hope it will give you something to go on in making your choice.


Summary

In summary, there are many pros to the Ultra Tec and the few cons that I know of are either easily fixed or not that serious in my opinion.

So many other faceting machines say they are the "best machine for the price" that just indicates that there is a better faceting machine and I believe that the Ultra Tec is the best machine for general faceting, whether or not you factor in price.

Buying a cheap faceting machine will just make your cutting experience less enjoyable and you will want to get a better machine in the long run.

What may seem like a big price difference at the start if almost always repaid in less aggravation and wasted time. Also by the time you buy the machine, laps, dops (often dops only work on the machine they are made for) and other extras this price differential is not such a big part of the total investment and will reap a big payback in satisfaction and ease of use.

I have over the years bought other machines than the Ultra Tec either because of price (when starting out) or because I wanted a faceting machine in a country where it was difficult to import equipment and I ended up buying a machine someone else had imported. In all of the cases I have been very underwhelmed with the quality of the machine (in spite of being made in the USA) and ended up either selling them for a loss or wishing I had bought an Ultra Tec.

If you are very concerned about investing that much in a hobby / profession that you might or might not like I would recommend that you at least start to learn using someone else's machine before you buy. This can be the best way as you both learn and test the waters for a reasonable price. Try looking for Faceters clubs in your area or do internet searches for cutters or schools that teach faceting.

Happy Faceting!