In 2020 the most common stone to memorialize our loved ones is granite. Its been proven that granite is the most beautiful and long-lasting of all the stones. Though, it was not always the preferred choice for headstones. Like most things in life, the use of granite came from progression and growth. Over the years, many different types of stone have been used. Slate was one of the very first to be used here in America. It was readily available in New England and quickly became the most common material for creating headstones.
Marble became very popular for an extended period. Even today, a small group still prefers the initial shine and appeal of marble. Experts agree that granite is the better choice. Marble, unlike granite, has the unfortunate characteristic of eroding after time. Its erosion makes it nearly impossible to read the names on the headstone after several years. A marble headstone is shiny and beautiful when it’s new. After a time, however, its appearance always fades. Around the turn of the 1900s, marble was no longer the favored stone. Granite had been introduced and showed a far superior staying power over its counterparts. Today granite still holds the crown in the world of headstones. It has proven to maintain its beauty for years and honors our beloved with dignity and grace.
The process of making a granite headstone is likely more involved than we would expect. First, removing the stone from the bedrock. There are several ways to retrieve granite: drilling, Jet piercing, and water Jet piercing. Using any of these three methods will effectively cut a large piece of granite in the earth. Next, Using a pneumatic drill, horizontal holes get bore into the granite. Wrapped explosives are then placed inside the holes and detonated. Once this process takes place, the granite is free from the quarry.
The stone is then wrapped with cable and lifted onto a flatbed truck for transport. Large holes may be drilled into the side of the granite to secure the wires before loading on the flatbed as well. On average, a new slab of granite will be 3 feet wide 3 feet thick and 10 feet long. The stone will weigh around 20,000 lbs (9,100kgs). The size and weight make removing and relocating a new chunk of granite dangerous if not done by professionals.
After being transported to the manufacturing house, the granite will be unloaded and placed on a conveyor belt. The large piece of stone will then be cut into smaller segments using a rotary diamond saw. The newly cut slabs are typically 6-12 inches thick, depending on what’s needed.
From there, the cuts pass under several rotating heads. The number of heads depends on the original condition of the stone, usually between 8-13 heads. The first of these heads start extraordinarily abrasive, and they get lighter as the stone passes. The first few of the heads are made of harsh diamond scruff. The last of the heads are equipped with felt pads. The pads are accompanied by water and powder to give the stone a smooth glossy finish as they buff out all imperfections.
The newly polished stone is sent down the conveyor to a hydraulic breaker. The Breaker is a massive machine equipped with carbide teeth that exert close to 5,000 PSI. The hydraulic pressure from the Breaker applied to the granite slab, creating a vertical cut down the granite.
Now the stone is ready to be fashioned into the appropriate shape. This process is done in two ways. The more accurate and cost-effective way is with a multi-blade diamond saw. This type of machine can hold upwards of 30 blades at once. However, usually, the multi-blade saw is only loaded with 8 or 9. With eight blades loaded onto the saw, the machine could cut through 27ft of granite in an hour. The second way of shaping the stone is by hand. This method requires a hammer and chisel and provides a much more authentic and artistic feel to the piece.
After being shaped, the stone is polished again. The second, and perhaps most critical of the two polishings so far is done in two ways. First, the vertical edges are polished by an automated polisher similar to the surface polisher. The machine starts with the most robust levels and works its way down in grit until the vertical edges are smooth. While that is happening, the radial edges are also being ground down using two diamond grinding drums. One being a more hardened diamond drum and the other being a finer drum.
If the stone needs any more detail or custom adjustments, it is taken to a machine called the diamond wire saw. Here, computer software and the device work in harmony while being controlled by a skilled operator. This process allows for a more sophisticated design to be implemented. Any more involved carving or detailing beyond this point will be done by hand.
At this point, rock pitching may be used on the stone to give the authentic feel and look that you would get from the hammer and Chisel. As opposed to the clean-cut lines you get when using the multi-blade diamond saw mentioned earlier. If rock pitching is wanted or needed, a chisel would be used on the outer edges of the stone to bring out a more personalized look.
Once the stone has been fully polished and shaped to the exact specifications, the engraving can begin. Sandblasting is generally used to complete the engraving. This process can be done manually or be automated. The manual process starts with a liquid glue being applied over the stone. A rubber stencil is then aligned with a carbon-backed layout of the design and placed over the adhesive. The design transfers onto the stencil, and an artist then cuts out the letters and designs that are wanted. A secure closed area is essential in both.
Finally, the stone is sprayed with high pressure steam to remove any leftover debris. The stone is hand polished and inspected one final time before being wrapped in protective materials and securely packaged for transport to your local headstone supplier such as Maggardlaserart.com to be custom lasered.