R 56: My husband and I are in the home building business. We are looking into the possibility of starting a fabricating business ourselves. I was wondering if you could point us in the right direction as far as gathering information and purchasing equipment. Also, some products and equipment to stay away from or better yet what you might recommend. March 3
Offer 1: I have often wondered why more builders did not fabricate their own stone counter tops. The process is, after all, relatively low tech and the profit margins ample.
All you really need is a location with electricity and water, and protection from the cold if you are located up North. Dust is a major problem and some commercial developments will not permit the mess.
For material handling you will need either a forklift with a slab clamp or an A-frame with a winch. You will need slab racks, padded fabrication tables, and slab carts.
There are shops that do all of their fabrication with a $150.00 worm drive saw equipped with a diamond blade and a couple of angle grinders for profiling and polishing. This is of course labor intensive and requires a high skill level, but very limited amounts of capital. The next step up is a portable track saw and stone router. The track saw assures straight cuts and thereby greatly reduces the amount of grinding required to true up the piece. A router makes perfect edge profiles, saves time, and can be operated by unskilled labor. I recommend hand polishing with diamond pads rather than using the polishing bits made for these routers.
The next level of sophistication is a bridge saw. These typically cost from 40 to 50k for a decent model. Below this price point you will encounter serious limitations in the saw’s capabilities that you will come to regret down the road. Then there are of course computer driven machines costing hundreds of thousands. To justify the costs, your volume must be great and the machines kept running. Should one of these machines break down, which they quite often do, you will have to fly in a factory technician for repairs and this will be expensive.
Should you have any specific questions, I would be happy to try and answer them for you.