Rock Solid Marble and Granite: Learning stone fabrication
Through trial-and-error, Kurt Bartzsch of Rock Solid Marble and Granite established and grew his fabrication business, including transitioning to a fully digital shop
While working for another company primarily doing tilework, Kurt Bartzsch was given the challenge to start the company’s fabrication shop. Bartzsch primarily learned on a trial-and-error basis before going out on his own.
“Unfortunately, 20 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of these groups that share knowledge,” he said. “So we were doing tilework, and all of a sudden, I was doing marble next to where I was cutting jams, curves and seats that went into vanities. Then, all of a sudden, I had to cut a hole, well how do I do that? It was a lot of trial and error in the beginning. Then one day, I got a granite kitchen and I only had marble tools and we were doing everything dry. I didn’t know how to polish granite and I didn’t have the tools. I had to talk to the suppliers to figure out what to use and how to do it.”
Twelve years ago, Bartzsch decided to branch out on his own, partnering with his wife and brother, to create Rock Solid Marble and Granite in Sheffield, MA. “We started with an AccuGlide track saw,” said Bartzsch. “We were in my cousin’s garage that first year; then moved to a 2,000-square-foot building with a showroom and a fabrication area. That was our first five or six years — right during the recession. We were doing a couple of kitchens a week and growing every year. Then, about four years ago, we got the Park Sierra bridge saw.”
Last year, Bartzsch decided to go the digital workshop route and transition to completely digital. “We either take the next step or we stay small,” said Bartzsch. “We decided to take the plunge and now we have a Park Saber CNC saw, but realized we were not able to fit it in our current location. So we have moved to a property with two buildings — one a showroom and one a shop. We also got a Fastback [edge polisher] from Park and finally got a LT 2D3D from Laser Products. We get all of our tooling and supplies from GranQuartz.”
After buying his brother out of the business a few years back, the company is now 12 people large doing mostly residential work, as well as starting to get into commercial jobs. The average kitchen job size is 60 to 80 square feet. The company also believes in learning about the newest materials and trying to stay ahead of the curve. “We have been working with Neolith now for three or four years,” said Bartzsch. “We have an architect that we work with that specs it and has led to about six jobs. The different blade technologies that are out there really makes things easier. We have also been doing miter jobs as well. Having a CNC saw really helps us do all of this.”
Rock Solid Marble and Granite’s current facility has a 2,200-square-foot showroom, 1,500 square feet for offices and a 5,000-square-foot fabrication shop. Bartzsch runs one shift.
While the shop has seen consistent growth, Bartzsch is trying to find the best ways to be most efficient, as well as becoming less hands on. “We really need to work on a way to streamline our fabrication flow in the shop all the way to installation,” he said. “We do a decent job, but it could be better. I also need to get better at training the guys to do things and not be trying to do it all myself. It’s tough for me to let go at times. I want a high-quality product; it’s what we are known for. So I want to make sure everything is up to my standards. We do a lot of training and it’s sometimes hard to find the time. But we can talk about different issues that came up on a job and the best way to handle them. It helps with the communication with everyone. It also helps me know what the guys are dealing with each day.
“In the future, on our fab side, our Saber CNC is probably running at about 50 percent capacity,” Bartzsch went onto say. “I really want to get that to 80, 90, 100 percent. I know the type of work we have and the man power we currently have affects all of that, but I believe as much as we want to grow the work will be there for us.”
Rock Solid Marble and Granite
Type of Work: Residential and commercial
Machinery: Saber CNC and Fastback edge polisher – both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; a LT-2D3D from Laser Products Industries in Romeoville, IL
Number of Employees: 12