Fabricator Case Study: Succeeding with a CNC workhorse

April 4, 2006
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Ancient Stone, located in Brentwood in Northern California, produces an average of eight kitchens a week out of its 3,000-square-foot facility, which houses a variety of equipment.


What started out as a hobby for Bob Opsal eventually led to his current career as a stone fabricator and owner of Ancient Stone located in Brentwood in Northern California. Utilizing a CNC machine, the company averages eight kitchens a week, and handles all aspects of natural stone fabrication, including flooring, countertops and full shower enclosures.

The shop is equipped with a Haas GR-710 CNC stoneworking center, to which owner Bob Opsal attributes much of the company's success.
While working for his father, who owned a semiconductor business in Silicone Valley, Opsal and his childhood friend began fabricating granite countertops for their friends' parents, just for fun. As the jobs starting accumulating, he no longer had the time to work at his dad's company, and in 2001, he opened his own stone fabrication shop. The 3,000-square-foot facility houses a variety of state-of-the-art equipment, including a Haas GR-710 CNC stoneworking center, to which Opsal attributes much of the company's success. “I am the only one that operates it,” said the owner, adding that he was put through a 4-day training period to learn the machine. “After the training, I could run it on my own, but it really is an ongoing process. I have had it for two years now, and I am always learning new things on it.”

Ancient Stone utilizes the CNC machine for all aspects of stone fabrication, including sink cutouts, edging and drain boards, among other functions. Opsal knew he wanted a CNC since before opening his shop, as he feels it is key for quality production. “It takes the place of anywhere from five to 10 guys for me, depending on what we are doing with it,” he said. “It is a huge advantage for granite shops to have. It opens up every aspect when you have a CNC running. We can push three kitchens out of it a day. We can edge pieces and do sink cut outs at the same time without even taking the pieces out.”



Opsal said that when a slab comes off of the CNC, it is about an 80% finished product, and then employees do the final polishing by hand to get the perfect shine.
Opsal said that when a slab comes off of the CNC, it is about an 80% finished product, and then employees do the final polishing by hand to get the perfect shine.

In addition to the CNC, the shop is also equipped with a Superior bridge saw from Superior Stone Products of Byron Center, MI, which Opsal discovered at a trade show, and a Bremor edge polisher. Workers at the shop also utilize Omega diamond routers and hand polishers, and Terminator bits and Talon grinder blades from Braxton-Bragg of Knoxville, TN.

Ancient Stone's staff includes five workers inside the shop, two office personnel and three installers. Opsal feels that finding quality employees is one of the biggest problems he faces. “For me, a challenge is looking for employees who will do over and above what you expect them to,” he said. “My main guy grew up with me, and we have known each other since we were five years old. It has been awesome having him around, and it makes it so much easier to work together and get stuff done how it's supposed to be done.”



The company's facility also houses a Superior bridge saw from Superior Stone Products of Byron Center, MI.
Ancient Stone's production is 80% residential and 20% commercial, and the company recently completed a large-scale project for a Gold's Gym in Sacramento, CA. “We used all 3-cm Emerald Pearl, and laminated 6-cm bullnose - all done on the CNC,“ said Opsal, adding that the project was a great success. “We also recently did some work for a local steak restaurant in Discovery Bay. We did all the countertops in Black Galaxy granite, and some walls feature granite as well.”

Opsal has come along way since he first began fabricating stone by hand, averaging one kitchen a week. “I had slabs delivered to my house and rented a forklift,” he said. “My neighbor and I would wheel the slabs into my backyard with a handmade dolly, and I worked off a station that was set up behind my house.”



A Bremor edge polishing machine is also utilized at the shop.
The company purchases its slabs from various local suppliers, including Daltile in San Leandro, Stone Gallery in Oakland, Direct Stone Importers in San Leandro and Graceland Marble and Granite in Livermore. “They're all good to me and have helped me out since the beginning,” said Opsal. “I have met a lot of other fabricators through them. It's cool to have good relations with other fabricators rather than competing with them.”

Aside from attending StonExpo every year, Opsal does research on the Internet to learn about new machines and new material. “I didn't try to make this business happen too fast,” he said. “I try to run as lean as I can. My main focus is getting equipment that will do the quality that I want to put out.”

Ancient Stone's staff includes five workers inside the shop, two office personnel and three installers.

Ancient Stone
Brentwood, CA

Type of work: countertops, flooring, full shower enclosures, some commercial work, plus other miscellaneous items

Machinery: Haas GR-710 CNC stoneworking center; Superior bridge saw from Superior Stone Products; Bremor edge polishing machine; Omega diamond routers and hand polishers; Terminator bits and Talon grinder blades from Braxton-Bragg

Number of Employees: 10

Production Rate: 8 kitchens per week

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