About the OPLC Faceters Companion CD
by Bob Keller, CD Editor and Compiler
Greetings fellow faceters and welcome to the OPLC Faceters Companion CD! The seed of the idea for a CD for faceters was planted while attending the Faceters Symposium 2000, hosted by the Faceter's Guild of Southern California and held in conjunction with the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies "Gold and Gem Show 2000" in Riverside, California.
Our registration packets for the Faceters Symposium 2000 included a photocopied set of gemstone designs, which I thought a nice touch. Charles Covill (pictured left) was one of the symposium speakers and during his presentation he mentioned he had some floppies with copies of his "Odds" series of designs in GemCad format freely available and was promptly run out of them by interested participants.
When considering possibilities for a memento for participants of Old Pueblo Lapidary Club's 2002 Tucson Show Hobnob for Faceters, a collection of gemstone designs seemed most appropriate. The evolution in media from dead tree format to floppy disk to CD provides exponentially increasing advantages in terms of the amount and richness of the content that can be incorporated and delivered. CD media has become very inexpensive and virtually every personal computer is equipped with a CD drive nowadays, so the idea of a CD had a lot of appeal.
My initial concept for this CD project simply involved using CD media to distribute a collection of gemstone designs in GemCad (.gem) format, eyeing the several orders of magnitude larger storage capacity and low cost of CD-R media compared to a floppy disks. However, I wasn't at work on this project very long before I started considering a format for indexing the design files and the potential of CDs for delivering rich content started to register.
Virtually every personal computer also has a web browser installed nowadays, so using HTML format for the Faceters Companion provides a familiar and well developed publishing vehicle capable of delivering rich content. Delivering HTML via a CD instead of a network or telephone modem connection side steps the World Wide Wait and provides the browser with the exhilarating experience of ultra-high bandwidth performance. The storage capacity on a garden variety CD exceeds half a gigabyte, which would require a rather large and expensive web site to deliver online.
An Invitation to GemCad...
Robert Strickland's GemCad software is ubiquitously employed by gemstone designers and has fairly recently been released to the faceting community as freeware. The strong interest in Charles Covill's floppy of .gems at the Faceters Symposium 2000 indicated to me that a fair number of the participants were also GemCad users. Robert Strickland has also provided a GemCad Printer Utility for Windows to compliment his original suite of DOS applications. The GemCad Printer Utility for Windows can be used independently of the GemCad DOS suite to open GemCad's native .gem format files, view the designs and print out diagrams and facet particulars using Windows and your Windows printer drivers.
The GemCad Printer Utility for Windows makes GemCad .gem format files very attractive as a lingua franca among faceters for publishing and exchanging design files in the digital world. The .gem format is very compact and provides all the essential information required to generate the design diagrams and facet particulars needed to cut the design. Using .gems, designs can be readily exchanged as email attachments and a CD is capable of storing many thousands of them.
Installers for the GemCad DOS suite of software, the GemCad Print Utility for Windows and user documentation has been included on this CD to encourage those of you who are not yet GemCad users and facilitate you in checking it out. GemCad is very useful for routine tasks such as tangent ratio and reality checking designs for typos or outright errors prior to cutting them in addition to being a powerful design tool. And the price is certainly right...
There is some learning curve to GemCad but after getting in a little stick time you may just begin to find yourself interested in gemstone design. With so many designs available to faceters nowadays and more being published all the time, some will not hear the call or find it worth their while to learn to design gemstones. However, design is an enjoyable facet of the hobby for increasing numbers of faceters and there are certain satisfactions that come from cutting your own designs which you may find well worth suffering through the curve. The evolution of personal computers in general and GemCad in particular has provided revolutionary tools that bring experimenting and playing with gemstone design within the realm of any hobbyist so inclined.
From Here to Where...?
It seems to me a CD is a nearly ideal vehicle to present tutorials and instruction for beginning faceters. Towards the end of employing the Faceters Companion as a faceting instructor's class hand out, I've endeavored to incorporate a number of designs which are suitable projects for novices as well as a number of articles that describe and address fundamental faceting techniques and knowledge. Of course I have also incorporated designs and content which are geared towards more advanced faceters, including some material pertaining to competitive faceting.
I think a good way to encourage designers and authors to support and contribute to a project like the Faceters Companion is to make it available for personal use as freeware. In addition to seeding the attendees of the OPLC get together, master copies of the CD will be provided to faceting guilds and clubs to circulate among their members for making personal copies as well as to AFMS Regionals for their libraries. Employing HTML format also facilitates making the CD content directly available on the WWW.
A number of faceters who will not be attending the 2002 Tucson Show and OPLC get together have expressed an interest in obtaining copies of the Faceters Companion. Unfortunately, even though the media has become inexpensive, there are other costs involved in making and mailing physical copies of CDs which become significant and draining on a concentrated source providing copies for gratis in quantity.
An online version of the Faceters Companion is provided to facilitate economic publication and distribution of the designs and articles incorporated in this V2.002 edition CD. Copy permission is also provided for members of faceting guilds and gem and mineral clubs and societies to make up to 25 copies of this CD and distribute them to their fellow members and other faceters of their acquaintance provided they do so without charge. Copy permission may also be granted on a case-by-case basis to appropriate non-profit guilds, clubs and societies to reproduce and distribute more than 25 copies of the OPLC Faceters Companion V2.002 CD at a nominal charge to defray their costs.
I hope you enjoy your OPLC Faceters Companion V2.002. If you find this CD project for faceters interesting and worthwhile, please consider participating as a content contributor for future editions.