Recently, a one-of-a-kind carving project was completed for a Manhattan penthouse, and it provides an example that the art of stone-carving is still alive in America.Dimensional Stone and Tile Designs, Inc., a major stone fabrication company located in Mount Vernon, NY, was responsible for the project, custom designing and carving a bathtub from a solid block of Minnesota Northern Buff Limestone that was quarried by Vetter Stone, in Mankato, MN.

On behalf of the client, the block of limestone was personally selected at the quarry by Brian Cardone, Sr., President of Dimensional Stone and Tile Designs, Inc., and it was then trucked to the fabrication shop in Mount Vernon for carving.

Forming the tub

“ We wanted to maintain that level of fun,” Cardone, Sr. added. “We wanted to do it old school. We didn’t use hoists or anything like that. ” said Brian Cardone, Sr. 

The block of limestone was expertly carved into the shape of a bathtub based on a custom design created by Dimensional Stone, and the carver was Ciro Mejia.

“This was a project of fun, as opposed to ‘this is business,’ “ Cardone, Sr. said. “We had to make a tub that was 7 feet long and 40 inches wide in three months. We put the block in the warehouse and said ‘go for it.’ All of the work was done with a grinder and a sander, along with a hammer and chisel at times. The block went from 5,000 pounds to a finished piece of 2,400 pounds. Not knowing what was inside the block was a little scary. There was so much dust that we blew out three or four grinders. We went through a lot of sandpaper.”

The carving process started by breaking large pieces of stone out from the interior of the solid block, literally grinding, chipping and digging to the desired level and shape, and then hand-carving the inside of the tub to the exact specifications required. This process involved delicate handwork, shaping the inside curvature of the stone to precise measurements and also creating the interior ogee edge design. The result is a beautiful, smooth interior edge.

Once the interior shaping of the tub and the edging was completed, work on shaping the exterior of the tub began. The exterior carving is where the true skill of the carver is required most. The challenging nature of this process requires the carver to work very carefully to make sure that not too much stone is chipped away as to do so would compromise the overall thickness of the tub wall or floor, which could potentially cause cracking or breakage when the tub is shipped to its final destination.

“The material is very unforgiving, and there are soft pockets in the stone,” explained Brian Cardone, Jr., Fabrication Manager for Dimensional Stone. “The hardest part was figuring out the tolerance of the stone and not compromising the design of the tub.”

Cardone, Jr. added that some ingenuity was required in handling the massive piece of stone. “We had to flip the tub several times, and we had to do it by hand,” he said, adding that he relied on a technique shared with him by a colleague in the monument industry. “We used bags of sand and ice. Once you flip the tub onto the sand, the sand stays under the tub. But the ice melts and you have your workspace back.”

“We wanted to maintain that level of fun,” Cardone, Sr. added. “We wanted to do it old school. We didn’t use hoists or anything like that.”

An intricate design

The exterior design of the tub features two small hand-carved bullnose edges that run the entire circumference of the tub, as well as a large hand-carved bullnose along the top outside edge. Finally, the exterior features a large custom designed fleur-de-lis that was hand-carved into the stone surface. The fleur-de-lis, which was carved as an embossed design element so as to minimize the potential for chipping or other damage, was done in relief. This meant that the entire exterior stone surface had to be carved down in order for the fleur-de-lis to stand out.

“When we did the fleur-de-lis, it was originally supposed to be smooth, but that almost took away from the hand-carved aspect of it, so we left in the chisel marks,” Cardone, Jr. said.

Finally, after all the carving and finishing was done, the entire tub was sealed a number of times prior to being readied for shipping to the installation destination.

Because of the size and weight of the finished tub, Dimensional Stone designed and built a special trolley with which to transport the finished tub to its destination. The 200-pound trolley enables the finished tub, which weighs in at approximately 2,300 pounds, to be easily loaded and unloaded from the delivery truck and moved into its final location. In this particular case, the tub was delivered and installed for a client whose home is on the 55th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper.

Overcoming logistical challenges

Dimensional Stone had to overcome the logistical challenges of dealing with the building’s freight elevator size and load restrictions as well as work closely with the building’s chief engineer to insure that delivery to the 55th floor would be done as safely as possible. Once delivered and ready to be set in place, the tub was sealed inside and out in order to provide the maximum protection against seepage.

From the start of the fabrication process to the point the tub was delivered, this custom stone tub project took four months to complete. According to Dimensional Stone, by having the project completed entirely in the U.S., the client was afforded much greater involvement in the stone selection process, and they had the ability to inspect the project at any stage, which enabled potential changes to be made while the project is underway.

Now complete, the project stands as a testament to American craftsmanship. “Nobody believes this,” Cardone, Jr. said. “They think that it was done overseas, but then we show them the slide show of the project.”

“At the end, we can truly say, ‘Made in America,’ “ Cardone, Sr. added. “It endorses the fact that there are so many craftsmen here that have that ability to work with their hands.”