Moving beyond standard countertops

October 12, 2006
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Estate Granite & Marble recently added an Intermac Master 43 CNC stoneworking center from AGM to its 13,500-square-foot facility in Redding, CA. According to the company's Director of Operations, Hal Davis, the CNC machine will enable the company to produce more repetitious work for larger projects such as hotels and banks.


Estate Granite & Marble, a full fledged stone and tile design and installation company, currently fabricates and installs an average of six to nine kitchens per week out of its 13,500-square-foot facility in Redding, CA. The company, founded by Hal Davis, Michael Huber and Keith Hickman, is based on the principle of “Old World craftsmanship meeting New World technologies.” The company's motto - “Completely…out of the box” - is reflected through unique applications of multiple-lamination edge details, as well as the use of light, water and fire.

Prior to launching Estate Granite & Marble, Davis co-owned a corporation that purchased land and developed and remodeled high-end properties. “As a statistician, I followed the fact that over 85% of buyers for high-end homes were couples, and of these, 99% of the decision makers were the wives,” he explained, adding that their favorite rooms were the kitchen and master bathrooms. “And the real 'sizzle' in these rooms is the countertops, so the love was a natural.”

The company's shop houses a Sebring bridge saw from Matrix Stone Products of Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Equipping the facility

Estate Granite & Marble's shop houses a Sebring bridge saw from Matrix Stone Products of Rancho Cucamonga, CA; a Beaver II chiseling machine from Stone Pro Equipment Co. of Effingham, IL; and a Pro-Edge III edging machine from Park Industries from St. Cloud, MN. “If we need a part, it is there yesterday,” said the fabricator, referring to Park Industries customer service. “I could literally call Park at anytime, day or night, and someone is there to answer my questions and walk me through any dilemma.”

The company's most recent investment, an Intermac Master 43 CNC stoneworking center from AGM of Pineville, NC, will enable the company to produce more repetitious work for projects such as hotels and banks, as well as providing an increase in efficiency on custom applications, according to Davis, who added that the machine came highly recommended by a friend “He made it clear to me that this machine is the most advanced CNC on the market today,” Davis said. “It is PC-based, not controller-based. It has sliding doors in front, which help prevent injuries, and it also features excellent tool programming. Normally, you have to go in and measure each tool, which could take several hours. This machine uses a camera, and does the same process more accurately on-screen in about 10 minutes. Another perk is the large bed, which we needed since we work with a lot of large slabs.” Davis and the company's co-owners learned how to operate the CNC off site at another shop in Sacramento, CA, during a one-day workshop. “The AGM CNC practically runs itself,” he added.

Additionally, the shop contains various hand tools, including three Stinger portable routers from Hard Rock Tool of Anaheim, CA; 20 Makita grinders and hand polishers and two Flex hand grinders from Braxton-Bragg Corp. of Knoxville, TN; as well as 20 air polishers from Alpha Professional Tools of Oakland, NJ.

The benefits of all of the company's equipment, according to Davis, include increased production and increased quality. The owners also plan to purchase an inline edging machine, which they will look into during StonExpo 2006, which will be held from November 9 to 11, 2006 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The facility is also equipped with a Pro-Edge III edging machine from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN. “If we need a part, it is there yesterday,” said the fabricator referring to Park Industries customer service. “I could literally call Park at anytime, day or night, and someone is there to answer my questions and walk me through any dilemma.”

Current production

The company's market is evenly divided into new construction and remodels, and production currently stands at 90% residential and 10% commercial. However, Davis believes that the CNC will significantly impact the production ratio. “We have a lot of contacts in Las Vegas who want us to do larger commercial projects such as hotels and banks,” he said, adding that the CNC was the answer to this situation. “Ninety-eight percent of our work is 2-cm stone because we laminate it, and the CNC will enable us to work with 3-cm stone for the larger projects.” Davis also hopes that the CNC will help double the company's production capacity.

Estate Granite & Marble mostly works with granite, marble, travertine and onyx, and products include kitchen countertops, waterfalls, full slab showers, outdoor furniture, barbecues, tables, fireplaces, etc.

Employees at the shop utilize a plethora of hand tools from various manufacturers.

In December 2005, the company began experimenting with a 6-cm dual-lamination application that utilized the translucent beauty of onyx. “By placing the onyx as the center lamination, and then backlighting it with commercial grade L.E.D.'s, all controlled by a remote dimmer switch, we created what appears to be the first of its kind,” explained Davis.

The company's motto “Completely…out of the box” is reflected through unique applications of multiple lamination edge details, as well as the use of light, water and fire.

Complying with the company's motto to think outside of the box, the owners are constantly pushing the bar to create new and innovative products. “My partners and I have engineering backgrounds - we are unique in our approach to contracting,” said Davis. “We push the machines, the tools and the creative instincts.”

Estate Granite & Marble currently employs a staff of 14, who are specially trained upon being hired through referral. “We implement a strong cross-training environment,” said Davis. “Each person can cut on the bridge saw, use all hand tools, run the machines and even install.”

In December 2005, the company began experimenting with a 6-cm dual-lamination application that utilized the translucent beauty of onyx.

When the company first began, slabs were purchased both overseas and from local distributors. “I started out doing both, but quickly found that my local suppliers were much better suited in the development of strong relationships,” the fabricator said.

As a fabricator, Davis finds it challenging to educate the customers. “We like to try and find a balance between function and fashion,” he said. “For example, when designing a kitchen, it is important to know if the homeowners dine out a lot or like to stay in and cook. Also, some edges aren't practical for those who like to entertain, and some are more child-friendly than others. We take the time to explain to our customers where something might be shortcoming. We believe that a well-informed customer makes wiser choices, and realize that an ounce of foresight is worth more than a ton of hindsight. We want them to understand the application they are requesting and make sure that their expectations are realistic.”

“By placing the onyx as the center lamination, and then backlighting it with commercial grade L.E.D.'s, all controlled by a remote dimmer switch, we created what appears to be the first of its kind,” explained Davis.

Estate Granite & Marble

Redding, CA

Type of work: countertops, waterfalls, full slab showers, fireplaces, outdoor furniture, etc.

Machinery: Sebring bridge saw from Matrix Stone Products of Rancho Cucamonga, CA; a Beaver II chiseling machine from Stone Pro Equipment Co. of Effingham, IL; a Pro-Edge III edging machine from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; an Intermac Master 43 CNC stoneworking center from AGM of Pineville, NC; tooling and hand polishers from Braxton-Bragg Corp. of Knoxville, TN; three Stinger portable routers from Hard Rock Tool of Anaheim, CA; air polishers from Alpha Professional Tools of Oakland, NJ

Number of Employees: 14

Production Rate: six to nine kitchens per week

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