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Founded in 2003 by Marty and Bonnie Graves, Chippewa Stone of Whitehall, NY, has continually expanded its operations over the years. In addition to quarrying and processing traditional stone veneer and other products, it also bolstered its business by developing equipment to expand into thin stone veneer.
The company’s roots can actually be attributed to the lumber trade, as Marty Graves had worked in the logging industry in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York. Based on his experience in learning the region’s natural resources, he began extracting stone from the area. In addition to Marty and Bonnie Graves, their son, Marty Graves, Jr., works for the company.
Business grew steadily over the years, and the company was able to help offset the effects of the recession by moving into thin stone veneer production two years ago. “We were always processing the stone we quarried, and [thin stone] is where the market went,” explained Bonnie Graves, who added that approximately half of the company’s current production is thin stone veneer.
Chippewa Stone sells to dealers across the country, including customers as far away as California, and it also provides stone directly for local projects in Upstate New York.
The company has 200 acres of land for quarrying in Whitehall, NY, as well as processing facilities in Whitehall and Fort Ann, NY.
Recently, Chippewa Stone expanded its operations with the purchase of 100 acres of farmland in Whitehall known as Ryder Road Farm. While the farm remains active raising alpacas, it is also the site where stone is split and processed into thin stone veneer as well as traditional 4-inch veneer.
Chippewa Stone offers a range of final products, including rectangles and squares, random “mosaic” pieces, flagging, ashlar and more, and its standard material range includes eight different colors ranging from purple to shades of brown, tan and blue.
In all the company has 20 employees, and it produces material year round. Although the harsh Adirondack winters do not always allow for stone quarrying, Chippewa Stone stockpiles material to ensure that the production facilities can remain in operation all year.
Chippewa Stone is currently extracting eight different colors of stone from seven separate sites within its quarrying area. “As you progress up the mountain, the color changes,” explained Marty Graves, Jr. “Our purple Chippewa granite is at the highest point.”
At the time of Stone World’s visit to the site, stone was being extracted from the company’s North Ledge area, which is at one of the lower elevations of the mountain.
To extract the material, the process begins with blasting. “You have to be careful not to blast too hard because the stone would be fractured,” explained Ray Kirby of Chippewa Stone.
Once material is freed from the quarry face, larger slabs of stone — referred to as “step stones” — are kept intact, while the smaller blocks and boulders are then further broken down to sizes that can be more easily handled. To accomplish this, holes are created with a pneumatic hand drill, and the traditional feather-and-wedge method is used to split the pieces down to a size that can be delivered by truck to the processing facility, where they are further worked.
The process of drilling and splitting the stone relies on the experience and skill of the staff to recognize the best methods for working with each piece. “He has to know where to drill and where to split it,” said Marty Graves, Jr. “We want the least amount of drill holes, so we are looking for clefts and fractures.”
While many of the extraction sites operate with methods similar to those used in the North Ledge area, the company’s Black Bear granite — one of Chippewa Stone’s most popular varieties — is yielded using different methods. Located adjacent to the company’s Blue Indigo site, pieces of Black Bear granite are essentially gathered by sifting through the top layer of the quarry, and they are then split down to size.
After truckloads of stone are delivered to the company’s processing facilities, they are broken down into various products either by hand or using guillotine splitters. Once they are properly sized, products such as random squares, mosaics and flagging are loaded onto pallets for shipment.
Meanwhile, thin stone veneer is produced on saws that were developed in house by Ray Kirby of Chippewa Stone. The machines can saw pieces measuring as large as 16 x 30 inches, and the thickness for thin stone veneer is generally ¾ to 1 ¼ inches +/- and 2 inches +/- is also a popular thickness. Thin stone veneer is typically shipped on pallets that hold 100 square feet of material each.
Chippewa Stone’s saws are particularly innovative when it comes to sawing corner pieces, as they can produce elements with varying sizes on either side of the “L” shape to create a “staggered” appearance in the final installation.
Production for thin stone veneer stands at approximately 125 square feet per saw per day, and in addition to thin stone and traditional veneer, the company also offers architectural products such as mantles and hearthstones in regular, chiseled and thermal finishes.
Capturing Saratoga spirit in thin stone veneer
Known across the country for its famous horse-racing track, Saratoga Springs, NY, is a classic Adirondack town, with traditional architecture that reflects the region’s historic roots. In the residential sector, many of the city’s homes utilize local materials, and they are utilizing natural stone in a variety of ways.
An example of this can be seen in a residence recently completed by Witt Construction, Inc., an award-winning firm based in Saratoga Springs, which employs thin stone veneer from Chippewa Stone of Whitehall, NY.
In designing the home, the firm selected Chippewa Stone’s Black Bear granite. “We’ve worked with this material before, and it really gives an old look,” explained John Witt, President of Witt Construction. “It looks like it was laid up 200 years ago.”
Approximately 1,000 square feet of stone was used for the residence, and the pieces are 2 inches thick in random sizes. “We also used a ‘smear’ joint so that it looks like the pieces were re-mortared over time,” Witt said.