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Author Topic: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?  (Read 6451 times)

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Slabbercabber

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2020, 05:46:16 AM »

The Buehler is an amazing piece of equipment that will make the project far easier.  I used one while I was working and with experience it can be made to cut and polish your blank to just the thickness needed.  You still have some watchmaking challenges ahead but your job just became downright practical.  The unit I used was in a metals lab and there was no way I would be allowed to cut stone with it.  The dust would have had half the company down on me.
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Craigab

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2020, 03:17:10 PM »

The Buehler is an amazing piece of equipment that will make the project far easier.  I used one while I was working and with experience it can be made to cut and polish your blank to just the thickness needed.  You still have some watchmaking challenges ahead but your job just became downright practical.  The unit I used was in a metals lab and there was no way I would be allowed to cut stone with it.  The dust would have had half the company down on me.

How did you modify the Buehler to polish? Did you put 4" diamond flat laps on it and move the vice in and out as a make shift lap?
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Slabbercabber

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2020, 04:19:00 PM »

The blade had one side covered in very fine abrasive.  I have no idea where it came from but it left a nice polished surface on the steel.  We were cutting fish hooks, so not a lot of crossover there.  The hooks were first encased in thermoplastic making a cylinder about the size of a watch dial.
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ileney

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2020, 05:26:33 AM »

Nothing to add except that the larger saws use oil instead of water, and I do not think you want oil on your material, and the larger blades tend to be rougher/lower grit/thicker. It sounds like your friend can provide the ideal solution.
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dpn

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2020, 11:19:43 PM »

Hi everyone, here's the latest on this project:

1. I believe that the most efficient way to create a custom dial using fordite is to do the following: (a) lathe flat pieces of fordite into a short cylinder of the correct diameter; (b) use the Buehler to make perfectly flat 0.2mm slices of that cylinder; (c) attach the thin slice to a 0.2mm brass dial template for a total height of 0.4mm; (d) drill a 1.75mm central hole in the fordite for the watch hands, using the brass dial template as a guide; (e) attach the chapter ring; and (f) personalize the dial using carefully-positioned film free decal paper. Thankfully, half-height (0.2mm) blank brass dials are readily available for certain movement brands.

2. I've obtained quite a few pieces of fordite in appropriate sizes to work with.

3. I've connected with a local jewelry/lapidary studio, for guidance, instruction, and access to a lathe.

4. My archaeologist buddy reiterated that I have full access to his Buehler IsoMet Low Speed Precision Cutter. Out of respect for him and his tools, I'll be buying a blade specifically for the fordite cutting.

Here is a list of available blades, and I'd greatly appreciate anyone's insight as to which specific blade I should buy. Given what I know about fordite (fairly hard, easy to work with, potentially brittle), I'm leaning toward the option I've put in bold below. The blades themselves are quite pricey ("price on request" and a recollection that they were $150-200/blade), so I'm not going to be able to determine the best empirically. What do y'all think my best bet would be?

  • IsoMet 30HC - Polymers Rubber, Soft Gummy Materials
  • IsoMet 20HC - Aggressive Sectioning of Metals
  • IsoMet 15HC - Metal Matrix Composite, PCBs, Bone, Ti, TSC
  • IsoMet 20LC - Hard tough Materials, Structural Ceramics
  • IsoMet 15LC - Hard Brittle Materials, Glass, Al2O3, ZrO3, Concrete
  • IsoMet 10LC - Medium to Soft Ceramics, Glass Fiber Reinforced Composites
  • IsoMet 5LC - Soft, Friable Ceramics, Composites with Fine Reinforcing, CaF2, MgF2, Carbon Composites
  • IsoCut CBN - Fe, Co, Ni based alloys and super alloys

Again, thank you everyone who has helped me think through this process. I still really want to get in contact with @Craigab, and I'm also still working on the details. With luck, however, I'll have some thin dial sections cut with the Buehler to show off in a few weeks. I'll update the thread here when there's more progress to report.
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dpn

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2020, 01:43:04 PM »

I'll make a new post on the subject, but I'm at the stage where I need to figure out how to lathe rectangular slabs of fordite that are 1.5cm high into cylinders that are 37mm or 28.5mm in diameter. Photo attached of a representative chunk that I'm ready to lathe.



Once I have cylinders of fordite, I can start slicing them on the Buehler precision cutter. I've also got the watchmaking part of this exercise mostly dialed in, and I'll be ready to start assembling prototypes.

I'm super excited about working with fordite, but I'm also really excited about working with actual minerals -- labradorite would be amazing, in addition to lapis, malachite, bumblebee jasper, etc. Once I get this process nailed down, the sky is the limit ...
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dpn

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #21 on: August 24, 2020, 02:36:39 PM »

Quick update for anyone who is still curious:

1) I've connected with a local watchmaker and jeweler, who got interested in this project. He's going to show me how to operate and let me borrow a Unimat model-maker's lathe to turn cylinders out of my rough fordite slabs.

2) I've got the next steps dialed in and ready to go, as soon as I get my slabs turned. The Buehler is ready to rock and roll, and I've got my half-height brass dials ready to go as well.

3) If anyone is curious, I'm laser-cutting carbon steel chapter rings that I'll be gluing on top of the watch dials.

This has been a really fun research project and thought exercise, and if all goes well I'll be cutting materials next week. Hopefully I'll be able to post process pictures. As I've learned more about stone watch dials and lapidary work, I'm really excited about expanding beyond fordite into natural materials (labradorite, malachite, turqouise, lapis, etc.).

Cheers,

Dan
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dpn

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2020, 08:23:20 PM »

I'll be slicing my fordite cylinders into thin disks over the weekend. Fingers crossed, but I'm getting there.

I ended up just using a diamond hole saw and a bench drill press to bore the cylinders. They're not the exact diameter they need to be, but they're super close -- within 0.5mm. I'll just be gently and carefully hand sanding them to fit the brass dial blanks once they're glued on. It was a cool feeling realizing that I could cut one big step out of the process by skipping the lathe.

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ileney

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #23 on: September 01, 2020, 11:29:55 AM »

Wow! This is really amazing! I probably would somehow have tried to just cut a circle by hand and sand down a thin slab, and it never would have worked out. This really requires a huge amound of thought and special equipment. I have much more respect for these gemstone dials now that I know what goes into them. Let us know how it works out. I can;t wait to see the finished products!
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dpn

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #24 on: September 01, 2020, 03:15:24 PM »

Right on, thanks for the encouragement! I was wondering whether it was worth continuing updates here. ;-)

I'm still trying to schedule my time with the Buehler, but that's the last major step in this process. It's also where the rubber will meet the road: If I can get a handful of good 0.2mm thin slices, I'm in business. If I can't get good slices, I'll need to rethink my approach. It'll probably involve me getting the thinnest slices I *can* get, and then hand-sanding them down to the correct height.
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Craigab

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #25 on: September 10, 2020, 02:51:35 PM »

Yes please continue your updates. 
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dpn

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #26 on: September 21, 2020, 12:17:49 PM »

Thanks all for the encouragement.

I'm still in a holding pattern, waiting for my buddy to retrieve his Buehler from his ex's house. I'm pulling my hair out with anxiety, since I have everything else ready to go to start manufacturing my first run of ten dials!

Because of limited availability of the half-height (0.2mm thick) blank brass dials I'm using to make my first ten Seiko-compatible dials, I'm working with a Chinese manufacturer via Alibaba to have a run of 200x half-height Seiko dials and 200x half-height ETA 6498 dials manufactured. This is an entirely new can of worms, and I'm waiting to receive my first ETA 6498 half-height dial prototype before I approve full production.

@Craigab was very generous with his time, and he walked me through some techniques and suggestions to cut dials from other materials. I'm 100% psyched to start exploring other options, once I finish my first run of dials.

I posted on another thread about how to work with "Cadillac Ranch Fordite," which is a really interesting material that is far more delicate than "normal" fordite. The long and short of that is that, after I complete my first run of 10 "normal" fordite dials, I'm going to be using Cactus Juice and a vacuum chamber to stabilize the "Cadillac Ranch" stuff. Being able to stabilize materials will be of great help once I branch out into other stone materials.

For a variety of reasons, I'm hoping to work with the following minerals/stones first after I get my fordite process dialed in. I'd love any feedback on these choices, and would love to hear about other really cool stones that might make great watch dials:

  • Turquoise
  • Sugilite
  • Bloodstone
  • Labradorite
  • Bumble Bee Jasper

Finally, because pictures make everything better, here are some high resolution scans of some of the fordite I've cut and polished. It's a really cool material.

Fordite-1 (Large).jpg
*Fordite-1 (Large).jpg (196.11 kB . 1080x1080 - viewed 89 times)
Fordite-2 (Large).jpg
*Fordite-2 (Large).jpg (160.47 kB . 1080x1080 - viewed 89 times)
Fordite-3 (Large).jpg
*Fordite-3 (Large).jpg (156.26 kB . 1080x1080 - viewed 90 times)
Fordite-4 (Large).jpg
*Fordite-4 (Large).jpg (279.92 kB . 1080x1080 - viewed 89 times)

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irockhound

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #27 on: September 21, 2020, 03:58:37 PM »

I would be scared to death to work that thin with Labradorite Because it is a triclinic crystal formation and has 3 cleavage planes, 2 that intersect at right angles.  I just can't see it ending well on such thin cuts personally.
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dpn

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #28 on: September 21, 2020, 05:09:32 PM »

Great notes @irockhound.

I know this company managed to do it: https://lundis-bleus.com/en/produit/1120-ld-labradorite/

But I'm thinking that they either a) tolerate a HUGE failure rate; or b) Can go with a taller final dial, so that they're not cutting as thin as I need to.

I'll scratch that one off the list.
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R.U. Sirius

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Re: Watch Dials: Super Thin and Precise Cuts?
« Reply #29 on: September 21, 2020, 09:02:24 PM »

Labradorite, much like any other natural stone (apart from perhaps some high quality, fracture-free jade or agate) is not tough enough to be used as a stand-alone dial. It is epoxied to a metal blank (likely black-colored in case of labradorite, opal, etc. to enhance colours), and then thinned down to desired thickness on a flat lap. There may be other stabilization steps involved to further strengthen the structure (impregnation with epoxy or another resin system to fill natural fractures).
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