Thursday, December 28, 2006


How long from the time of templates until installation? The usual answer is 2-3 weeks. There may be extenuating circumstances, such as waiting on delivery from another distributor, but if we stock it, it usually falls into that time frame.

We usually template during the trim stage of a new house, fabricate while the painters are in there, then install immediately after the painters leave.

Remodels are usually different. Circumstances vary. But, with remodels, timing is also critical. Raising a family with no kitchen for any length of time is not very good. So, we try to turn those around as quickly as possible.

If it is a normal remodel where only the tops are being replaced, the installation happens in one day. No down time per se.

I hear stories of 6-8-12 weeks out on installation. Frankly, I can't imagine why it would take so long.

There are large shops around the country that do 3-5 day turnarounds. To do that, you have to be all digital, which is exactly what we're implementing in January of 2007. It'll take a while to fine tune, but all the necessary pieces will be in place by then. A digital templating system, the ability to email the templates immediately after our measurement appointment, a digital template projection system and a second CNC for processing. All this will be here very shortly.

Price per square foot

This falls into the category of useless information. Pure 'bait and switch' material. What you really want to know is the TOTAL COST.

Do you buy cars by the pound? I would not think so. Everyone can relate to automotive references, but they only go so far. There may be 3 Honda dealers all selling the exact same model. Only the dealerships differ. Not so in stone. Everyone may start with ubatuba, but the results can vary wildly. And, even atrociously.

Big box stores are notorious for luring you in with the big print and gigging you with the small print. As are a number of the scurrilous wannabees. You are not interested in the starting point, you are interested in the ending point. Bottom line.

Estimating cost, templating cost, edge charge per running inch, trip charge, tear out charge, fixing your cabinets charge, base cost per square foot, laminate charge, installation charge, sink cut charge, undermount charge, stove cut charge, hole drilling charge, fabricating charge, slab cost charge, etc. You get the point. What can start at $36 psf can end up at $57 psf in a hurry.

The summation is, ask more pertinent questions. 'Price per square foot' is the proverbial 'tip of the iceberg'.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pictures of Cachoeiro

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Here are a couple of shots of the topography surrounding Cachoeiro, Brazil. [See an older post on the blog about Cachoeiro]

It is very mountainous. Lots of outcroppings. Very lush looking. We were there in June of this year. In the dead of winter. We should be so lucky. Temperatures ranged from about 55-74 degrees. Shorts weather. They all had on long pants and long shirts. It was not too hard to figure out who the Yank was.

The second picture shows a quarry road. Albeit, a flat one. They are not all this flat. This same type road will go snaking up the side of a mountain with solid rock on one side and the fear of God on the other!!!!! This is how some of these blocks get from 'up there' to 'down here'.

I just spoke with a guy who got back from Brazil last friday. Everyone was whining about how much rain they'd had. They were having fits getting blocks down from the mountains to the factories. This is not good, although not unusual. This is their rainy season. It is also right around Christmas, so a number of factories have a limited production schedule anyway.

The pictures look a lot like the mountain areas in Europe. But, in the summer [now], Cachoeiro can be wickedly hot. Well into the 100s with no relief.

One of the reasons Cachoeiro became the Mecca of stone in Brazil was due to the influx of people from Europe who had stoneworking backgrounds. Lots of Italians migrated into the area, due to the natural marble that existed in the region. This, of course, tied into the rise in the granite slab business.

Special thanks to one of our guys in Brazil for these pictures.

Absolute Black

I'm going to give you some information on this stone and why it has become such a problem.

Originally, Absolute Black came from South Africa. There are a lot of blacks from that part of the world, but this was the darkest with the fewest 'flecks'. For several years now, the quarries have not been producing good blocks. A number of different flaws, but suffice to say, they were not saleable. The 'real' Absolute Black was virtually bullet-proof.

Along come the Indians, as in Eastern part of the world, next to Pakistan. Now, they are not going to admit this, but they have some dark gray stone that they are dying black. There are a number of theories about how they do this. I'm sure the secret is hidden away somewhere, but that is not the point. The point is that they ARE dying it.

Here's the implications: When you use it in a kitchen or any other applications, it is not impervious to acids. Spill some lemon juice on it, let it sit a few minutes and you will have a permanent gray spot where the dye was etched from the stone. There is not a thing I or you or anyone else can do about it. And, it is worse with alternative finishes like leathered or honed surfaces.

If someone is trying to sell you Absolute Black Indian, I'll guarantee you it will not resist acids. I'm a charter member of the SFA, which is the Stone Fabricator's Alliance, and we have members all over the world. Same story everytime on this stone from all the members. It is a problem and most of them will not even sell it. It's that bad.

For now, we'll still offer it, but not without a serious lecture about the do's and don'ts. You need to be aware of the pitfalls.

Friday, December 15, 2006


The freight forwarders just advised that the Renaissance will arrive in Norfolk, Virginia this evening. History tells me it will take about 2 weeks to get here. So, right at the end of the year.
Our agent informs us we'll be the first in the States to have it.
It comes from a smaller producer and they are limiting their production to only certain buyers. We'll certainly be the only ones in Oklahoma to have it.
We'll place the bundles in spots with ample drainage because if we don't, the daily drool pool in front of the stone will require extra personnel to keep it clean. :-}
Latest word has the next two containers arriving on 7Jan 2007 via the same vessel. That would put them in here around the fourth week of January. However, if they make a load transfer in Mozambique, it may be a bit longer....

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


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This is the front side of what is called a polishing line. Just like the one in the picture, a raw slab is put in, flat, through the front side of the machine. When it emerges, it is fully polished up to a 3500 grit shine.

The latest technology in polishing lines employ 23 polishing heads that will begin at 50 grit and graduate up through 3500. With a late model Breton or Pedrini polishing machine, you can process a full slab inside of 2 minutes. It is almost not fair. 3-20 days to cut it, a few hours for resin, and a mere 2 minutes to finish it.

Small shops may have one polishing machine with only 1 head. That will take several hours to polish. Larger factories may have 3 or 4 polishing lines.

Gang Saws

How in the heck do they cut something this hard? Actually, there are a number of ways. But, these pictures show the traditional machinery in use. Picture, in the old lumberjack pictures, one guy on either side of a tree with the multi-toothed saw blade with a handle on each end. Back and forth and back and forth. That is pretty much how it is done.

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This is the flywheel portion of the driving mechanism. It is huge. Small factories may have one. Large factories may run 6 or 8 continually.

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This is the view from the flywheel down the steel girder toward the actual cutting area. The blades [on the end of this girder] are made from spring steel and look just like a pruning blade for wood. The difference is these blades are diamond encrusted. They also continuously pour a slurry that looks like gray oatmeal on top of the blades as they slowly progress through the stone. The slurry contains abrasive agents to aid in the progress.

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This is the back side of the saw. This is where the raw blocks are loaded and the newly cut slabs are extracted.

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These are the carts that transport the blocks from the yard to the rear of the saws. This picture is from Thor Granitos in Rio. A huge outfit.

Anytime you are in a cutting factory, there is a constant din of low grade noise. It sounds like low grade sandpaper slowly moving back and forth across a piece of wood. The factory people tell me you get used to it, but I didn't. They're probably correct, eventually.


Across the country, there seems to be some debate about the advantages or disadvantages of resining stone slabs.

There is really no debate. It is a big plus.

What is it? After the slabs come out of the gang saw, they are dried and then coated with a very thin epoxy [think Super-glue] and then allowed to dry. What this does is penetrate the surface of the slab filling any voids and bonding any fissures so the slabs end up being stronger. And, the surface becomes flatter, which is good. After the glue dries, it then goes through the polishing process where 99% of the glue is removed. Only the voids and sub-surface glues remain.

As a consumer, you can look at the edges of the slab to see if it has what appears to be dried syrup on the edge.

Most exotic stones have to be resined because their waste factor is so high. Resining lowers the waste factor, so exotics then become somewhat more affordable. And, you don't have to be quite so careful handling them. Not that you get sloppy, but rigidity is certainly enhanced.

There are factories that use colored resins, but most of them use a golden colored epoxy with no tint.

Adding epoxy to some stones is absolutely worthless, so don't be alarmed if there is no syrup on ubatuba or absolute black edges. It would no go in, anyway. If it won't take a sealer, it certainly won't take any resin.


After the slabs are loaded into containers, it is Cruise Time. This is a picture of a container ship leaving the port of Vitoria, in northern Brazil. This one is anything but full. They will be hitting another port farther north to add containers before traveling to the States.

When one of these is fully loaded, you would swear the slightest wind from the side would topple the boat. Amazingly, they lose very few loads. Thank Goodness.

In optimum conditions, travel from Vitoria to Houston takes about 3 weeks.

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Ever wonder where all this stone comes from? As I've noted, most of ours comes from Brazil, specifically northern Brazil. The Bahia region is noted for it's unusual offerings. From the pictures below, you can get an idea of the overall scope of the extraction. And, judging by the size of what is behind the current quarry, you can get an idea of how long the quarry will last. They are finite.

There are numerous quarries of some colors. Say, Santa Cecelia and New Venetian Gold. Same for Ubatuba, which was named for the town from whence it came. That quarry is long gone, but the name stuck. The real name is Verde Labrador.

Other quarries are unique. Sucuri is one. This one is a 'boulder' quarry. There are giant boulders way up in the mountains outside of Cachoeiro. They actually carve the blocks out of the boulders. One of these boulders can produce blocks for 4-8 months. Sonya Secchin, one of the owners, told me they had already located the next boulder and they are probably onto that one by now.

One thing that determines slab size is access. Some of the pictures depict relatively flat areas, so transportation of the blocks to the cutters is not too bad. But, the Sucuri quarry runs up a mountain on a snake-like road, so they have to be very careful about the size of the blocks they extract.

New quarries

There are people searching for new materials day and night. Some are geologists and some are just old stone guys. This is a science, but it is science and experience combined. Most of the greens will come from a certain region, blues from another, exotics from another.

If the target of their sales is the United States, they will be looking for wilder materials. If they are targeting Europe or England, they will be looking for plain whites, grays, or consistent blacks. European tastes in stone are the exact reverse of those in the States.

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