From Bullnose to Miters to Profits
If you’re an “old timer,” you may remember the nascent stone industry of the 1980s when the double laminate bullnose was the “must have” edge on every installation, both commercial and residential.
In those days, the only material available from wholesalers was 2cm thick, and then it was mostly marble and travertine. You had a very valuable employee if they could not only mix a color that matched the stone, but then could mark out and fully shape and polish a bullnose edge that was 1-1/2 inches thick and a full 180 degrees of arc, using just a heavy-duty grinder and a 60 and 120 grit stone, followed by 220, 320, and if necessary, 600 grit sandpaper to achieve a great polish. Those were heady days, when the shop workers really knew the stone they worked very well.
As the 1980s came to a close, the market turned to granite and the making of the double laminate bullnose really slowed down the shop, because granite was so much harder to work, and although the skilled shop worker employed the technique of using a diamond tile saw blade on a wormdrive to increase the speed of fabrication, it was not enough to keep up with increasing demand for the bullnose edge.
The Park Industries Pro-Edge was introduced in 1992. The Pro- Edge was not the first “C” frame machine on the market, but Park was the first to make one that reliably produced several toroidal edges with precision, and it revolutionized edge shaping and speed in the shop. The Pro-Edge IV is the latest and greatest.
Omni Cubed’s Miter-Up Clamps give you a secure hold while your adhesive sets, for the best possible results.
It was sometime in 1992 when Park Industries introduced the first truly revolutionary piece of equipment to the stone industry: The Pro Edge. Park was not the first to make what is generically called a “C” frame machine, but they were the first to make one that reliably produced several toroidal edges with precision. The Pro Edge outweighed all other makes of the same machine, mostly Italian. We Americans are generally very doubtful of claims made by machine manufacturers, and so it may not be so surprising to learn that the first Pro Edge was exported to Vancouver, BC, Canada to Bordignon Marble & Granite LTD. Mr. Bordignon was well rewarded for the risk he took, and soon word spread that this machine from Park Tool was the real deal. Park Tool would go on to sell hundreds and hundreds of these machines and many off these machines have seen more than 20 years of service.
What the Pro Edge did was to replace the very difficult task of profiling a bullnose edge by hand, and produce between 60 to 80 lineal feet a day, depending on the shop and the material, where the best of our shop workers could produce about eight liner feet per day. I’ll let you do the math, but I think you can see the leverage the Pro Edge brought to a company’s revenue stream, if you could afford it. Now, it was only necessary for the shop worker to mix a good color and then learn how to use the machine, which would just take a few hours, if that long, and your bullnose bottleneck was gone. True, there were and still are hand-held routers and they are very reliable, but for many they were just a stop on the way to acquiring a “C” frame machine. And now the double laminate bullnose has almost disappeared from the designer scene. The only place you will most likely see a double laminate bullnose is on imported Chinese pre-fabricated countertops. Does anyone want to let the Chinese know that their favorite export edge is out of vogue? Didn’t think so. Still, the “C” frame bullnose machine will deliver great value today but it will not be much help for the current bane of the modern shop: the “mitered drop edge.”
If your shop has not yet dealt with this latest darling of the designer world then get ready. The mitered edge is going to cause many a shop, if not prepared, to go to grief. The problem here is that there are several machines that can saw the edge for you, but it cannot glue the edge up square for you and then rub the corner down to create a nice finished arras. To do the gluing and finishing we must go back to the skilled shop worker.
But wait – there’s more! Increasingly, designers are drawing what is called the “waterfall” edge, which is basically an end panel of stone that goes from the floor and intersects with the countertop up above either at a 45 degree miter or a butt edge. Do yourself a favor and push for the butt edge.
What this means is that your installers, who have only ever installed flat horizontal pieces, will now have to deal with a rising vertical surface that mostly rises from an uneven floor surface up to a countertop that may or may not cooperate, to make an even joint. In any case, expect miters to create new sources of grief for most stone shops, and get used to having to rely upon the installation skills of the installers to make things work. Expect the number of jobs installed per week to go down if your market starts to embrace this edge, and especially beware of the “aircraft carrier” islands that have these waterfall edges at the ends.
You may think that making an island with these side panels, with flat edges, would be easy, but you would be wrong. Even if you use a butt edge, the edges rarely line up properly and require the final blending in the field. If the joints are mitered, there is always the extreme likelihood that the mitered edge will get chipped between the shop and the jobsite.
A mitered edge is quite dramatic and makes for a very attractive edge. The miter technique has been around a long time and it is surprising that these new “waterfall” and “drop” edges were not popular much earlier.
So what’s a fabricator to do? Gear up and do not be afraid to raise your prices. The designer world knows that this edge is expensive to make, and the owners know that this edge asserts their status. Look up the latest tools to help make mitered edges very profitable for you.