Further Experimenting with the fantasy machine tools

29. March 2019 08:51

Here is another result of initial experiments with the fantasy tools. This 12.98 ct. smoky quartz was cut with v-groves on the pavilion instead of the rounded concaves that have been used for previous stones.

Spring is almost here

17. March 2019 16:43

The official start of spring is still a few days away. The orchard is getting dressed for the occasion now.

a clump of daffodils under the pear trees

Hollywood plum tree in bloom

plum blossoms

apple blossoms

5-in-1 peach tree




Beginning Attempt with the Fantasy tools

5. March 2019 21:54

After a number of failed exercises trying to get up to speed with the V-groove tools that came with the ULTRA TEC Faceting fantasy machine, this stone was a step in the right direction.

The grooves were more curves rather than straight sided and my attempts to polish were only partially successful.

The stone is smoky quartz, 6.68 carats, 11.4 mm across


First hints of spring

5. March 2019 17:42

It is another gray day as another major rain storm is descending on the Central Coast. The cool, wet February has kept most of the orchard trees dormant. Only a couple of early varieties have bloomed. However, there are still plenty of blooms as the daffodils are putting on a show. Daffodils are among the few things that gophers ignore and they seem to do well in our moderate climate.


21. February 2019 17:41

And then late this afternoon, a random thunderstorm came through. At first it looked like snow -- only instead of flakes it was round. A bit later it harder and louder as the hail came down. It was cold enough that instead of melting as soon as it stopped bouncing like previous hail we had encountered, this time it laid on the ground until from a distance it looked like a light dusting of snow,

Citrus harvest

21. February 2019 17:36

While most of the apples and stone fruit trees are still dormant, some of the citrus trees are ready to harvest and several are loaded with fruit. Brought in a few this morning. Tangerines, limes and Morro Blood Oranges. Not sure what to do with so many limes. I will juice the oranges to have with breakfast. The taste normal for orange juice, but it does seem odd to have "orange" juice that is red.

Other Tucson Rough Purchases

19. February 2019 21:58

The Tucson rough I bought wasn't all green. Here are a couple other parcels that followed me home.

This is a parcel of garnets from Malawi brought to the USFG event by Dan Lynch. The purchase price was going to finish a children's library in one of the mining communities. When these are cut, sales will go to a UNICEF sponsored program for high school scholarships for Malawi girls.

This is a handful of lovely amethyst obtained from Farooq Hashmi. His handful was a few more than this.

The madera citrine from Steve Ulatowski is incredibly clear. Maybe I should have taken a handful of those as well.

Oregon sunstone. I'm still not sure about sunstone. Probably will know a lot more by the time these are cut.

Back from Tucson

19. February 2019 06:20

I have returned home to a wet and chilly CA Central Coast from Tucson 2019 and trying to get back into reality and a normal routine again.

Nothing serious broken this year except possibly my budget. That does mean I have a lot of new rough to facet during the rest of 2019.

My initial purchases tended to be green. (Mali Garnet, Chrome Diopside, Arizona Peridot, Prasiolite)


Tucson 2019 - Days 8 and 9 - TGMS Show and Rain

18. February 2019 23:30

 Day 8 Thursday

Thursday morning was warmer than the previous days and the sky was cloudy. Steve convinced a few of his New Era Gems staff to join the Sentinel Peak walk.  Ryan brought his drone and demonstrated its capabilities when we reached the base of the “A”. It was tiny and he put it though maneuvers that were like a mechanical hummingbird. Then he showed some of the other features which were equally impressive.


The Tucson Gem and Mineral Club show opened at 10AM. By the time I got near at 10:30, the convention center parking had almost no spaces left and there were long lines to buy entry tickets. I first went into the ballroom off the main hallway. The quality of the material the vendors there were showing was not like your typical club show items. It reminded me of what the InterGem shows were like when I first went to those in the early 1980’s (before they turned into mostly bead shows.)

In the back row of the ballroom, I found the UltraTec booth. Robert Mendoza was there showing the machines and I had the opportunity to ask a couple questions about my fantasy machine as well as show him some samples of I had accomplished with the Fantasy machine in the past few months.

Then down to the main hall. Like the AGTA show there, it was huge and the items in the vendor cases were upscale. There was very little in the lower end of the mineral, gem, etc. market that one typically finds at a club show. Towards the center of the room were the displays from club members.  Also there were exhibits from the Smithsonian, the GIA and similar institutions.  This was definitely not your average club show!

It seemed that the front side of the room had gems and jewelry vendors. Towards the other side were the mineral vendors. Quite a few of them were in tall display cabinets and one could easily feel you were looking at a museum exhibit. Of course the prices for those pieces were not for the faint of heart and light of wallet. Three zeros before the decimal point was not unusual where prices were actually shown.


As afternoon progressed dark clouds got darker and by evening we were having some rain showers.


Day 9 Friday - Packing Up

Friday was the last day of the adventure. The morning started with additional rain showers.  These eventually went away and blue skies eventually broke through for a short time midday.

It was time to sort through things, make sure the suitcases would hold everything for the return trip, and take one last trip around the area. The official time for the Pueblo show was over and most of the vendors there were packing up.  Quite a few vendors in some of the other freeway shows were also closed that day.

vendor at our hotel




Tucson 2019 - Days 5 to 7 - Minor Crash and Shopping for Rough

18. February 2019 23:00

Day 5 Monday

path to look out on Sentinal PeakThe morning walk included a dirt and gravel path to a lookout spot. On the way back to the paved road my attention was not on the ground and I tripped on one of the rocks that were randomly sticking above the path surface. Given a fall last year resulted in a broken wrist, it caused a moment’s panic for my companions on the walk. Fortunately this was a much different situation and I ended up with only a few scrapes and bruises from the rocks.

More Shopping

Now that the basic scouting had been done, the pace could be a lot slower. I headed off to the Hotel Tucson to pick though the bags of old rough John Garsow had to sell. Even after it had been picked over by others for a week, there still was a lot of interesting items there. Of course, a lot of them were for much bigger budgets than mine. Eventually I found an assortment of items that worked.

In my initial visit to the Hotel Tucson, right off the hotel lobby I noticed a display for DVD sets of the PBS show “The Mineral Explorers”. I got email approval from the SLO Gem & Mineral Club board for purchasing the DVDs. So the two season set will be available for the club for future programs and as a library item for members who want to binge the series.

Other Freeway Shows

During the afternoon, I had time to walk through the tents at the Red Lion Inn as well as browse the vendors at the other hotels along the freeway strip.

It was an early return to the hotel followed by dinner and some shopping at a local big box mall.


Day 6 Tuesday

Wildlife on the Walk

The highlight of the morning walk came as we got towards the end. Some movement in the brush below us turned out to be a herd of deer. As we walked further down the road, we could see the deer one by one crossing to the other side at a spot just beyond a curve in the road. We arrived at the curve and another deer was visible in the brush beside the road. We waited a few seconds and it came out of the brush. Then the deer went to the middle of the road where it stopped, turned to look directly at us and paused for its photo op before calmly crossing the rest of the way.

Rough Shopping at New Era's Rooms

It was off to New Era’s rooms at the Pueblo show for the day’s rough shopping. Having checked out the material they had on display, I had a pretty well defined shopping list. Before I headed over there, I had estimated how many pieces, sizes and weight I expected to get. I have been trying to get better at recognizing the size/weight of rough on sight. I found that I often underestimate sizes and pick pieces that are larger than what I wanted and my budget allowed. At least for the first few items, my purchases were right on target.Madera Citrine parcel

While I was at the New Era rooms, Rej Poirier of GemCutStudio fame came by and we talked a bit about how concave faceting was done. One of the many challenges Reg is thinking of taking on for future updates to his software would be to include the impact of concave facets.

That evening, New Era Gems held a party. Good food and good, friendly people.


Day 7 Wednesday

The temperature Wednesday morning was a bit warmer, so for a change, I didn’t have to scrape the frost off the car windows. It was still cool enough that my hands were cold. I need to get some light gloves to bring next year.

Last Shopping

I headed to the other side of the freeway that morning to the 22nd street show to take a second look at the facet rough I had seen a few days earlier and make sure I had not missed something. It was a lot quieter than it had been on the weekend.

Sunstone parcelAt one of the sunstone booths, the mine owner answered some questions I had about the material.  Since I admitted to previously faceting only one sunstone he gave me additional tips for faceting his material. I came away with a couple pieces of practice clear rough and one with a red color center.

After a couple more hours of wandering around the various freeway shows, I headed back to the hotel to rest my feet.


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