If you are shopping for granite, you’ve probably seen endless photos of beautiful installations and rows of pristine slabs at suppliers. But have you ever wondered how granite goes from untouched rock sitting beneath the earth’s surface to a polished countertop shaped specifically for your kitchen?
In this article, we’ll give you an insider look into the journey of stone–from quarry to kitchen.
Granite is found close enough to the surface that it can be cut from shallow quarries. In order to get the granite into transportable blocks, small holes are drilled in the shape of the desired block size. Carefully planned explosives placed into these holes create just enough blast to separate the block of granite from the bedrock without breaking the block itself.
The blasting engineers must be very careful to direct the falling block onto a bed of soft sand so that it doesn’t crack or split at a bad angle. Earth moving equipment is used get these huge raw blocks of granite to load into heavy duty trucks, to be transported to slab fabrication facilities.
Many blocks of granite of granite then travel by ship from Brazil (the largest source of granite) or wherever they are quarried to countries like Italy, India, and China. These countries have large facilities with advanced machinery for cutting them into slabs.
The majority of granite used for countertops in the U.S. is quarried in Brazil and India. Both countries have developed state of the art stone fabrication facilities. Granite is quarried in the States in places like Vermont and Virginia, but these are mostly plain colors that are used for building materials.
From Block to Granite Slab
Once a block arrives at a stone cutting (fabrication) facility, it is cut into slabs. To cut the block into even 2 cm or 3 cm thick slabs, it is run through giant saws that make many slices into the stone at once. These can simply have many large round blades side by side or diamond wire blades that cut through the slab like an egg slicer. It can take up to an hour for these blades to go through one foot of stone, so you can imagine how long it takes for an entire 10′ x 5′ x 10′ block, for example, to be cut into slabs.
The recent introduction of diamond wire cutting saws and other advanced technology to the industry have increased the speed and accuracy of this process, leading to more granite on the market and a less expensive finish products for homeowners.
That’s why you may not see as much granite in older homes; it used to be much more expensive, but now is within reach of the average middle-class homeowner.
Polishing the Surface to Reveal the Granite’s Natural Beauty
Once the large blocks of granite are cut into big slabs, the surfaces must be polished to bring out the natural colors and patterns and make them smooth to the touch. This is done by running the slabs horizontally through slab polishing machines.
These machines have large, diamond polishing pads that slowly bring out the shine in the stone with each new layer of polishing. Much like wood, granite much be polished with progressively finer pads to get a quality finish. This process just polishes the top surface of the stone, leaving the slabs with rough edges.
From Manufacturer to Supplier to Fabricator
After the slabs are polished, they are put into bundles of 6-7 slabs, almost always in the order they were cut from the block (in order to create bundles that have consistent patterning and color).
These bundles are placed into large shipping containers and transported to the US by boat. The containers are off-loaded there before starting the journey over land to wholesale supplier in cities around the country.
These suppliers sell exclusively to fabricators, the companies that cut, polish, and install granite counters in homes and businesses.MS International (popular as MSI) is one such importer of natural stone and is considered as the largest importer of natural stone into United States.
Fabricators like Arch City Granite and Marble visit these suppliers to pick the marble and granite slabs that they will bring back to their showrooms and warehouses. We hand pick the slabs that are of good quality and have visually pleasing patterns.
Digital Measuring of Kitchen Countertops
After a homeowner chooses a particular color of granite, the fabricator sends a trained technician out to do a precise measurement of their cabinets. We use a Proliner Digital Templating Machine to get the most precise measurements possible, allowing us to cut the slabs into exactly the right size pieces to best fit each unique home.
High quality fabricators use a computer aided design (CAD Drawing) to plan out the best way to cut each unique slab to make the most of its pattern and size. The detailed cuts into various parts of the kitchen countertops are shown to the home owner before the actual cutting takes place.
Stone cutting with Water Jet Technology
Usage of combination of diamond blade and waterjet cutting in the stone fabrication industry has revolutionized the stone industry. Very intricate cuts and custom shapes can be cut efficiently with these machines. Arch City Granite in St. Louis uses one of the latest generation Sawjet machines made in USA. Sawjet not only cuts faster but also reduces the wastage of stone to the minimum. Home owners get better prices without compromising quality standards.
Modern CNC Stone Fabrication Technology
Once the slabs are cut into the right size pieces using on our Saw-Jet saw, we use our CNC (computer numeric control) stone routing machines to cut and polish custom edges on the pieces of granite countertop and cut-out precise shapes for any sinks or cooktops
Final Touches by Skilled Craftsmen
As soon as the pieces come out of the CNC machine, our fabrication team inspects each piece, making hand-polishing finishes and finalizing any details that could not be crafted in the machine.
Last, but not least, we load the finished pieces onto our trucks, carefully carry them inside your home, and install them on your cabinets. Sinks are attached to the granite, faucet holes are drilled, and stone installers make sure that the cooktop fits perfectly into the cutout made.
The final product, the fully installed kitchen granite countertops are ready to be enjoyed by the homeowner.
For more details on how we cut, polish and install granite countertops at Arch City Granite & Marble, check out the full description of our fabrication and installation processes by visiting our website.