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Granite and Marble Masonry Process


The progression of events, which brings natural stone from the quarry in to the home, has not altered much since stone entered the homes of the ancient Greeks. Big blocks of stone are cut from the quarry. From those blocks, thinner pieces cut from the large pieces are called slabs. The slabs are then fashioned and polished and shipped for fitting.

What has changed radically over the years is the type of machinery used in this age-old sequence. Three basic types of machines are involved in the fabrication process: saws, polishers, and routers.

Saws perform several functions during fabrication. A block saw, or gang saw, cuts the massive stone blocks into slabs. These days, diamond wire saws make short work of this. A metal wire is studded with industrial-grade or artificial diamonds, and this wire quickly cuts through stone as hard as granite. A bridge saw is then used to cut the stone slab into the proper shape for its application, whether it is a worktop or a sink. These saws in general use circular metal blades studded with diamonds, and water is sprayed onto the blade to cool it throughout the cutting process. Up to date technology has produced a new type of saw utilizing water jets shared with an abrasive material, which cuts edges and holes quickly and smoothly, and many fabricators are upgrading to these machines.

Polishers grind down the naturally coarse surface of the stone to whatever finishes the customer desires. Hard stones like marble and granite can be polished all the way to a mirror finish. The polisher consists of rotating pads, which are surfaced with an abrasive substance. The finer and smaller the abrasive grits are, the superior the polish. Most up to date polishers can produce a assortment of finishes, from the smooth, soft look of a honed finish to a slick, shiny mirror finish…even decorative finishes like flamed, tumbled, or hammered.

Routers create the edge profiles on a slab, and cut designs on big pieces like fireplace mantles and hearths. There are lots of standard edges for countertops and tables, from straightforward to highly decorative. Routers have a spinning blade covered with diamonds, which is water-cooled. It travels along the edge of the slab to shape it.

In the past, these machines were either operated by hand, or had some imperfect automatic function. The time taken to create a finished countertop was momentous. A countertop with a difficult edge profile might take three weeks or longer.

With the introduction of CNC technology, though, that time has been radically decreased. CNC, or computer numeric control, utilizes digital technology to accurately control all three types of fabrication machines: saws, polishers, and routers. CNC has cut production time down to a single afternoon for a countertop, even with a complex edge. CNC also makes the shaping of intricately designed pieces like stone fireplaces fast and simple. What would usually take a sculptor many weeks to carve may now take as little as a few hours.

Today, a countertop begins its journey through the CNC fabrication process in the home, where a timber or plastic template is cut from the shape of the new kitchen unit’s to make sure that the new worktop is a faultless fit. In the fabrication shop, the template is placed on a digitizing table, where its exact size are recorded and exported to a Computer Assisted Design CAD program. The designer’s modifications to the countertop if any can now be completed, as well as the specification of the wanted edge profile, and the location of holes for sinks, tap, and hobs.

Then the act begins. A massive stone block is put on the block or gang saw, and the computer tells the saw how thick to cut the slab. Once the slab is cut, it is grabbed up by computerized arms and moved to the CNC machine. Here, a series of bridge saws or water jets and routers cut the slab to the correct sizes, cut suitable holes, and shape the edges. The computer controls every part of the shaping process, and the operator does not even have to stay at the machine for the whole duration. The countertop is then moved to the polishing machine, where polishing pads grind the surface of the slab to the wanted finish. Some machines have laser eyes, which make sure that the finish is perfect and even across the entire countertop. Edge polishing machines are then used to finish the edge profiles.

CNC has doubled or more the efficiency of most fabrication shops that have acquired it. It has contributed considerably to the reduction in the cost of natural stone worktops, tables, sinks, tiles, and fireplaces, and will continue to bring these costs down. It has radically increased the quality of the finished product. And the best news of all is that it will only get better! 

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