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Q: What is the biggest challenge you are facing today in terms of your edgework, and how are you meeting this challenge?Mark Lauzon, Stoneworks, Hubbard, OR: The challenge is to figure out how to balance the workload. We are now running a CNC, and it presents different issues altogether. We now try to schedule at least one chisled edge job per week. The handwork allows us to double our production and squeeze in an additional kitchen, which is near pure profit.
We polish all of our edges by hand. We run the first four metal tools and do the rest the old fashioned way. A machine cannot feel a pit or a fissure. I am convinced there is a quantifiable difference between a hand-finished edge and a machine edge. Our customers will pay the difference, and they expect it. Charge accordingly.
Mark Meriaux, The Granite Shop, Smyrna, GA: Regarding resined slabs, most of the fabricators on this site have figured out ways to get edges to match tops on resined materials. There are varied methods used on different materials, but there is NOT a single method that works across the board. [The edges of] some resined materials polish up just fine; some need color-enhancing chemicals to be applied between honing and final polishing stages. Some stones/minerals seem to react to oxidation or UV (air or sun) to help get the edge to match. Mark Lauzon even did some â€œextremeâ€ temperature testing on resined slabs that yielded outstanding results.
Regarding tooling, we are always looking for new/innovative tools to improve quality, productivity and safety. Mark Smith on this site has helped to promote some newer diamond tooling (metal pads, new blade/cup wheel designs, etc.) that have increased productivity. We started using vacuum-brazed drum wheels for safety reasons; the Silica Carbide stones we used before would occasionally â€œexplode,â€ causing a very dangerous situation for anyone standing nearby.
Donny Taylor, Natural Stone Fabricators, LLC, Albany, GA: Machine tooling is always a topic of interest for me as well. I am always looking for better, faster tooling for the CNC as well as the edge machine. On that note: I have heard good things about the Winner line of CNC bits from Tyrolit Vincent. I am still researching them, but I will be able to share more information after trying out a set.
As far as polishing resined slab edges goes, I have learned a few tricks to match the edges to the surface. It really isn't a big deal once you get it down; just another standard practice these days.
Mark Lauzon, Stoneworks, Hubbard, OR: I have a really bad one right now. It is a darker stone that the supplier is calling Golden Ray. The color goes from a rich chocolate to where the resin is almost white on the edge work. It is by far the most extreme I have ever seen. How are you dealing with these? I tried warming the stone and using an enhancer, but it has not helped much.
Normally, a good enhancer has solved the problem, but I am at a loss. I love resined slabs; just not this one.
You just wipe some on the edge, let soak for a few seconds and wipe off. It may take two applications.
Jeff Leun, The Stone Haus Inc., Chattanooga, TN: Some resined slabs wouldn't even make it to market without the resin; they are heavily pitted and sort of fall apart when cutting, grinding, sanding and even polishing. We run into quite a few new stones that we swipe with polyester after cutting, again after prepping and sometimes after polishing. Adapting to what's new is what keeps the job interesting for me. Learning to charge accordingly on a new stone without losing the job to an uninformed competitor is the hard part.
Brian Briggs, Granite Guys, Inc., Ft. Pierce, FL: In terms of edging, we are currently shaping with a router (Sector E-1V and a Magnum 5) and polishing with hand machines. Our quality is superb, but as you know, this is time consuming and hits the bottom line. We are currently working on the financing of a Northwood 138S CNC router. After we have this machine, we will be doing the same as Mark Lauzon. We will run the first 4 to 5 bits and then finish with hand polishers.
Regarding resined slabs, we educate our customers about the usefulness of resined materials. We also let them know that there can be a difference in color from the edge to the face of the stone. Generally, we stop at 400 and then use Ager to deepen the color. We let it dry and then water polish. On occasion, we will need to apply a second coat after polishing.
Regarding tooling, we are constantly looking for longer-lasting and better tooling. We look for longevity and quality over price, but we do take price into consideration as well. We have tested several different saw blades, and every time we have gone back to the 16-inch Terminator. We are currently comparing different water polishing pads and router bits.
Steven Hauser, CIRCA, Inc., Greenville, SC: [My feelings are] the same as above. Now I think it should be expanded to defining what a machine can't do. None of the guides can feel hardness or softness variances, and thus, the machine can't be the end-all.
Some of the worst hack jobs are run by CNC technology without skilled artisans manning it. Thus, the problem with edges is the low barrier of entry in the markets.
Brian Briggs, Granite Guys, Inc., Ft. Pierce, FL: We have two shops in our area that have all of the machinery, beautiful showrooms, lots of slabs in the yard and new trucks. They sell it dirt cheap and do [poor] work. It would not bother me if they advertised themselves for what they are - high production factories. But they say they are custom shops with excellent craftsmen. What a joke.
Editor's Note: Stone World would like to thank Mark Lauzon, the administrator of www.stoneadvice.com, for his assistance in arranging this Online Forum. Look for future forums in Stone World throughout the year.