Stone Column

Technology and craftsmanship running side by side

August 21, 2001
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In this issue of Stone World, we are presenting our annual Focus on Slate. And in addition to covering prominent architectural projects using this material, we reporting on a major slate producer in this issue's "Re-Emerging U.S. Stone Industry" feature. The subject - Tatko Brothers/Sheldon Slate Products - is not only of historical interest, but it is also a case study for the application of modern stoneworking technology (page 30).

With quarries and factories on the historic slate belt of Upstate New York and Vermont, Tatko Brothers/Sheldon Slate Products manufactures roofing slate as well as floor tile and a broad range of structural pieces, such countertops, vanities, sills and stair treads. The manufacturing process, which begins within the quarry, is a carefully planned combination of personal craftsmanship and state-of-the-art equipment.

At the quarry, experienced workers (including a senior member of the Tatko family) evaluate the blocks and split them as needed - depending on the size of the piece and its final application. Then, at the primary sawing mill, the combination of hand-working and technology runs in even closer proximity. Blocks are cut to size with a diamond saw, and the pieces run on a conveyor to a worker who then splits them into the desired thickness by hand.

This blending of handwork and technology is at work in virtually every step of the process, no matter what product is being manufactured. For countertop production, the company has an automated bridge saw and router, but it also relies on its workers to hand-finish the inside edges of the sink cut-outs and other areas. It even employs an artist to hand-draw designs, which are scanned into a computer and sand-blasted onto the surface of the slate.

The end result of this collaboration of human skill and technological advancement can be seen in the completed projects supplied by the company. In this issue, we are publishing a feature on the stonework at the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, GA (page 70). The design of the facility uses Vermont natural green slate, which was quarried and fabricated by Sheldon Slate Products. The floor pattern uses three different tile sizes, which had to be cut to exacting specifications to achieve the desired look. In all, a total of 30,000 square feet of slate were fabricated for the project.

Of course, Tatko Brothers/Sheldon Slate Products is not the only slate producer combining experience and technology. Our Focus on Slate includes a broad range of architectural projects that demonstrate superb craftsmanship by firms in the U.S. as well as countries such as Brazil and England. And as long as the technology and personnel skills remain in focus, we will continue to see outstanding architectural projects in natural slate.

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