Newly equipped for high-tech stoneworking

October 1, 2007
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After several years of building a successful laminate countertop business, Odyssey Tops of Myerstown, PA, invested in top-of-the-line stoneworking machinery.

Founded in 2001 as a manufacturer of laminate countertops, Odyssey Tops, Inc. of Myerstown, PA, recently expanded its operation to include quartz surfacing. And when it did so, not only did it move into a larger 24,000-square-foot building, but it also brought in the latest generation of stoneworking technology.

The company’s principals have solid experience in the kitchen and countertop trade. Kevin Davis, who has 25 years of experience in the business, is President, and Dane Bicher, with 30 years of experience, is Vice President.

After several successful years in their countertop venture, the owners of Odyssey Tops recently expanded into fabricating LG Viatera and Caesarstone quartz surfacing. The company does work for Lowe’s do-it-yourself retailers and regional home centers such as John H. Myers and Son, Inc., which is based out of York, PA, and Shelly’s Lumber, which is based out of Quakertown, PA. The expansion into quartz surfacing has added to the number of Lowe’s stores serviced by Odyssey Tops, and the product has also been well received by the company’s dealer clients.

Projects include new home construction as well as remodeling jobs, and the company works mainly in central/eastern Pennsylvania.

Odyssey Tops purchased its stoneworking machinery in February of this year, and it was installed in April and May. “I always thought that we would get into [stone processing],” Bicher said. “ It was an opportunity for us to expand, which we knew we wanted to do. And the market really demanded it as well.”

One of the primary pieces of equipment in the shop is an Italian-made Omag Mill 4X CNC stoneworking center, which was purchased through Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC. According to the company, the machine was in use approximately two to three weeks after it was delivered. “You’re learning every day what the machine can do,” Davis said. “It is an ongoing process. We’ve had great support from Salem along the way.”

The CNC machine is equipped with Diamut tooling from Salem Stone, and Blick vacuum pods are used to hold the workpieces in place. In assessing the machine’s performance, the company has been pleased with its ability to finish the edges of the workpiece. “They don’t have to be finished by hand when we’re working the quartz,” Davis said. “That surprised us the most. There have been very little touch-ups.”

The CNC unit has one primary programmer, but three different workers can operate the machine. “Learning the CAD system is challenging for anyone,” Bicher said. “But on the other hand, every younger worker has experience with computers, so they already have a certain comfort level.”

Currently, the company is using hard templates, and the working dimensions are then programmed into the CNC unit, but it is researching electronic templating systems.

Prior to processing on the CNC machine, slabs are cut to size on a GMM Eura bridge saw, supplied by Salem Stone. Additionally, water is treated using a system from Fraccaroli & Balzan of Italy, also purchased through Salem Stone.

When deciding to expand into quartz surfacing and, ultimately, into natural stone, the owners of Odyssey Tops knew from the beginning that they wanted to invest in advanced technology. “We decided that we wanted to make the commitment and purchase machinery that would set us up for the long run,” said Davis. “We met with Dan [McDevitt of Salem Stone], and talked about our goals.” They also talked about shop layout and material flow. “We weren’t sure where [the equipment] would go, but everything fit so perfectly.”

The company has the capacity to fabricate 25 to 40 quartz and granite countertops per week. It has a total of 28 employees, including part-time staff, and eight of its workers are focused on the quartz operation. Most workers are trained in house, although some have experience in the cabinet trade, which is prevalent in the area.

The same templating crews can process laminate as well as quartz jobs, but they must consider the seams when working with quartz surfacing or stone. The company is placing its seams at corners, and it offers very precise seams with little visual impact due to the machinery it employs. Finished jobs are delivered to the jobsite using box trucks.

Although Odyssey Tops specializes in countertops, it is also using the new stoneworking technology for fireplace surrounds. “We just cut it on the CNC and drop it off,” Bicher said.

With everything in place, Odyssey Tops has been enjoying success in its latest venture. “Fortunately for us, we beat the competition to the market, and we’ve grown by meeting deadlines.” On a professional level, the company principals are also proud to point out that Lowe’s has ranked Odyssey Tops among its top LG product fabricators nationwide.

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