Stone Column

Re-emerging:
An innovative force in New York sandstone

September 1, 2003
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When Robert Bellospirito sold his construction business on Long Island and purchased 40 acres of land in upstate New York over a decade ago, he had no idea that the stone quarry soon to be discovered on his property would be the start of his now thriving business, Devonian Stone of New York, Inc. The key to his success has been not only the high-quality Glacier Blue[tm] Devonian sandstone he quarries and fabricates, but also the creative and innovative steps he has taken to build his company.

In 1995, a neighbor pointed out to Bellospirito that there was an old quarry on his land. "He took me up there with some friends who were quarrymen all their lives, and they showed me how to cut the stone with hammers and chisels," explained Bellospirito. "That's how I first started to mine this quarry. I cut a couple of palettes (1,000 square feet) by hand, brought it down to Long Island and sold it." And that was just the beginning.

To speed up the process, Bellospirito soon began to purchase equipment, starting with an automated saw with a 6-foot, 6-inch blade, and worked his way up to the 20-acre, 13,000-square-foot fabrication facility in operation today, which has the ability to produce 500,000 square feet of top-quality dimension stone per year.

A hardy soul with an enterprising spirit, Bellospirito is the quintessential entrepreneur who is always thinking outside the box and devising new methods for perfecting his trade and increasing productivity. His natural curiosity led him to not only seek out knowledge of the history of the stone, but also develop new ways to locate the highest quality material possible.

With the help of geologist Bill Kelly of the New York State Geological Survey, Bellospirito began to learn about the geological formation of Devonian sandstone. "Bill Kelly taught me more than the basic geology of the area," said Bellospirito. "He taught me how it was formed, how this material was deposited here, and what it was subjected to in order to achieve this level of quality."

Found only in New York, Glacier Blue[tm] Devonian sandstone is a sedimentary sandstone formed during the Devonian Period. This striking and workable building stone evolved during 410 million years of glacial pressures and natural mountain-forming events.

"I've crossed blue ice glaciers up in northern British Columbia on horseback and I've seen what they look like," said Bellospirito, when explaining where the name Glacier Blue came from. "It's a beautiful blue ice color. This stone has a baby blue color similar to that. Also, glaciers were somewhat directly responsible for the quality of this material because of the weight and pressure that they had put on top of it."

When asked if it can be found anywhere else in the world, Bellospirito replies, "Not this material."

Environmental awareness

Once he knew about the geological history of Devonian sandstone, the trick was locating it. He developed a scientific mining method that was not only environmentally friendly, but also an accurate way of determining bed size and quality.

"When I got into this business, I saw the way that everybody was locating this type of mineral," he explained. "They would look for outcroppings along the edges of the mountain and take bulldozers and dig a fairly good size hole. Ninety percent of the time they don't find what they're looking for, so they just leave a big gaping hole in the side of the mountain. Coming from Long Island, I moved here for one reason -- this place is beautiful, and I've got a lot of respect for the environment. So I thought there had to be some way of exploring for this mineral without tearing up the countryside."

Instead of bulldozers, Bellospirito developed a scientific, modern way of exploring for the mineral that is not only efficient and environmentally friendly, but has been approved by the New York State Geological Survey and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Furthermore, Bill Kelly of the NYSGS and Paul Misiaszek, formerly of the NYDEC and now with the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona, has credited Bellospirito with the first modern scientific mineral exploration for Devonian sandstone.

Being environmentally minded, Bellospirito looks for pre-existing quarries to mine. "I'm a pilot, and I have my own airplane, and one of the things I use it for is exploration," he explained. "I go out and try to find older mine sites because all of the layered flagstone has already been removed, putting me closer to the solid blue Devonian sandstone underneath, and these older mines are a mess and need to be environmentally reclaimed anyway."

Once the sandstone has been mined, Bellospirito makes a point of reclaiming the land by refilling the quarry so that the land is once again usable. "I have to think of a systematic, efficient environmentally friendly way to develop a mining -- and also a land reclamation -- plan. It's not only how I'm going to take the material out, but it's just as important to figure out how we're going to put the land back into a usable state once we're done." In removing the stone from the quarry, the blocks are cut out of the ground through wire sawing. Bellospirito is a licensed blaster and instructor, and Devonian Stone of New York, Inc. does all of its own blasting for the overburden.

The quarrier claims the success of his company is largely due to the quality of his employees, however, he still makes sure to be personally involved in all aspects of the business -- every step of the way. "This includes everything from first going onto a piece of raw land to determine if there might be the possibility of finding this material, then doing the mineral exploration," he explained. "The next step is mine site development. So that's the quarry aspect of it. Then it's the quality control of blocks coming out of the mine site getting shipped down to the plant, cutting the material up into a finished product, all aspects of production -- finishing, right down to quality control and shipping." As if that weren't enough, there are always inventive new ideas to explore that will help the entire process run even more smoothly.

Building machinery

In 2001, Bellospirito looked into acquiring a flame finishing machine that could handle the amount of stone he needed to process, but he felt the options available didn't offer enough speed for the cost. So, he decided to build his own.

Starting by drawing out the design with pencil on paper, he then fabricated the machine out of raw steel. "I went and bought all the raw steel, cut the steel, machined it myself and put everything together," he said, when describing the process. "I built it entirely with my two hands."

Phil Ward of Maverick Automation stepped in to help with the electronics and programming. The machine was put into operation in January 2002, and has been running flawlessly ever since. The machine and the entire conveyor system, which is about 80 feet long, are fully automated, allowing it to efficiently burn 8 to 10 square feet of stone a minute. Glacier Blue[tm] Devonian sandstone is the only stone currently produced using this patented technology.

Aside from inventing and constructing his company's patented flame finisher, Bellospirito routinely reworks and transforms other machinery and equipment he uses so that it better suits his needs. When asked about the importance of being innovative, he responds, "It's crucial to productivity, otherwise I wouldn't be able to produce nearly as much."

The end result is a sandstone product that can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including everything from custom pieces for homeowners to mason supplies for complex architectural jobs.

Each piece of Glacier Blue[tm] Devonian sandstone is cut from a bed of solid rock. Since it is not a natural cleft stone, it is possible to control the size, tolerance and quality of the stone. With the strict quality control in the industry and cut tolerances of I 1¿inch, it can be cut and finished to exacting specifications.

"It's a fantastic building stone," said Bellospirito. "It's largely made up of silica with a quartzite cement, which gives the material incredible strength. It has excellent wear capabilities, but it's also an incredibly workable stone, so you can make almost anything out of it."

For proof of the stone's high level of structural integrity, it was subjected to tests by Atlantic Testing Laboratories, Ltd. in Albany, NY, and Soil & Material Testing, Inc. in Binghamton, NY, done in accordance with ASTM C 127 specifications. When a concentrated load was applied at the center of a 48- x 18- x 2-inch-thick paver supported on four corners, the paver withstood over 3,000 pounds before failure occurred. The Flexural Strength ASTM C880 is 2,563 psi and the Compressive Strength is over 19,000 psi.

The Glacier Blue[tm] Devonian sandstone product line includes but is not limited to: blocks, slabs, paving stones, wall and floor tiles, cladding, countertops, steps, wall and pier

caps, and coping as well as structural building stone. Finishes include: sawn, flamed, honed, high honed, polished, bushhammered, sandblasted, river-washed and many others.

"We don't do any installations, but I owned a construction company on Long Island for 15 years that did installations, so I am an expert at installation, and I am more than happy to give recommendations on installing finished pieces," said Bellospirito.

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