You might think that getting natural stone from a quarry to your home’s floor is a fairly simple process. Something like just slice and ship. But like all pieces of art, which natural stone should be considered, there’s also a real art to its production. For millions of years, a combination of heat and pressure created blocks of natural stone, including granite, marble, travertine, limestone, and slate. As the earth's crust began to grow and erode, it pushed minerals up from its core, forming massive rock deposits, which we refer to as “quarries”.
These quarries are found in many countries throughout the world: Italy, China, Spain, India, Canada, Turkey, Mexico and the United States. There, people who have been quarrying stone for generations, work with precision and passion, with expert selection skills, and a devotion to their craft that’s second to none. They are among the world’s last true artisans and their pride and heritage runs as deep as the stone they quarry. We’re sure they would be honored to see their artwork showcased across the floors of your home.
However, science now plays a major role at the quarry. Recent advances in the stone industry’s equipment and technology have greatly impacted the process of extracting stone from the quarry and installing it in a home. Today’s modern tools can accomplish this with speed and efficiency. At the quarry, giant blocks of stone are cut out of the earth with diamond studded, high-speed equipment. This diamond wire cutting system has revolutionized the extraction process; a once laborious and time-consuming manual task.
The blocks of stone are then moved to a processing plant where they are cut into slabs. High-speed gang saws are used to slice the blocks into multiple slabs. A gang saw is fitted with several blades, typically about 12 to 15 feet long, that make simultaneous parallel cuts. Not your typical hand saw. If you’re wondering what happens to all the heat produced, water cools the blades while in motion and also helps control the dust. And would you believe it takes about 2 days for a gang saw to completely cut a 20-ton block of stone?
Next, machines take a shine to the slabs. The slabs are sent through a polishing machine that puts the desired finish on the piece. How is this done? A polishing machine operates using spindles that rotate polishing pads at high speeds over the top of the stone. Most of these polishing machines can produce a number of different finishes, from a rough, rustic texture to a mirrored polish. These options are another one of the beauties of natural stone.
During this stage, the slab is also calibrated, meaning its surface is worked down to a relatively uniform thickness across the length of the material. The next collaborator is the fabricator. At the fabricator’s facility the slab is customized for specific installations. Edges are shaped and polished. This is done with a series of small saws, or router bits, which are, again, diamond studded and water-cooled. They rotate at high speeds and pass across the edge of the slab to shape the sides into the desired edge detail. If the slab has been designated to become tiles, the slab is cut down into smaller squares such as 12” x 12”, 16” x 16”, 18” x 18” etc.
A different, more precise machine will give the tiles their final polish after they have been cut. The tiles are then packaged, shipped and stored uniquely: they are stored vertically, never one package on top of the other.
These are the solid facts on how natural stone is made. We hope they build a firmer foundation of knowledge – make you a smarter shopper. Perhaps they’ve even laid the groundwork for a decision to make natural stone a flooring solution for the way you live.