When Vermont Quarries Corp. took over the operation of the historic Danby Quarry in Vermont a decade ago, it continued a tradition of stone production that began in 1903 and has contributed to such American landmarks as the U.S. Supreme Court and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. This summer, Vermont Quarries took this legacy a step further with the establishment of a technologically advanced block fabrication plant, located within the underground quarry.

The plant includes a Simec gangsaw and polishing line as well as a bridge saw, two overhead cranes and other equipment for loading and maneuvering the slabs. Although Vermont Quarries did not have to construct a building for plant, a significant amount of preparation work had to be done within the quarry. "The major step taken was leveling the quarry floor in the areas that we installed the equipment," said Todd Robertson of Vermont Quarries. "Concrete was the main feature, since we built the factory within the quarry and did not need a building. The concrete was poured for the foundation for both overhead cranes, the gangsaw, bridge saw and polishing line."

Before purchasing the equipment for the plant, the owners of Vermont quarries vistied with some of the main manufacturers of stoneworking equipment in Italy, and they also traveled to several stoneworking companies who used block processing equipment. "We selected the equipment based on our knowledge of what we felt was the best equipment out there for what our purposes dictated," Robertson said. Once the equipment was ordered, it took a total of one year to get everything up and running, including shipment of each piece of equipment from Italy to Vermont.

The Simec gangsaw can be equipped with as many as 80 blades when cutting 2-cm-thick material, with less blades used for thicker materials. The saw can be set for stock at 2 cm, 3 cm and some 5 cm, and the company changes the thickness setting based on current customer demand. Rough slabs are then transported and automatically loaded onto the Simec polishing line, which is equipped with a total of 14 polishing heads.

A total of 20 employees work in the Danby Quarry, with four concentrated in the processing plant. "We initially brought over trained Italians to install and operate the equipment, and they also trained our workers to run the equipment," Robertson said. "We have many experienced workers in Vermont, as the stone industry in the region is quite old." The entire plant runs for one full shift, although the gangsaw works two shifts, including one without supervision.

Overall, the plant can produce 4,000 to 5,000 square feet of polished 2-cm-thick slabs per day, although the bulk of the company's production is cut-to-size work. In fact, at the time of Stone World's visit to the plant, it was processing Danby marble for the New York Court of Appeals in Albany, which is being done in 3 1/2-inch-thick slabs of stone. "Our plant's percentage of cut-to-size will be about 70%, with 30% used for stock slab production," Robertson said. "This of course can be changed as needed."

According to Vermont Quarries, the biggest challenge was not establishing the factory, but ensuring that the plant will be operating at capacity at all times. "We have to make sure that the equipment keeps operating and producing saleable material," Robertson said. "We are fortunate to have several large projects lined up aside from our normal slab stock/demand."

In addition to slabs and cut-to-size work, Vermont Quarries also sells tiles out of its Vermont facility. "We currently cut our tile with Architectural Stone in Canada. With their efficiency we do not see a current need to add a tile line, as the savings we not be that great," Robertson said. "We stock all finished tile in Danby so we can oversee our inventory and secure grading." However, the company is planning to invest in new equipment to address the needs of the monument business, in particular the U.S. Veterans Administration's need for upright marble headstones. The first pieces of equipment added will be a wire saw and a second gangsaw.