Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

I had just finished my weekly radio show on Recrystallization Revisited when my phone rang. My first thought was that the caller might be a listener who had a question not answered on the show. Those of you who know me know that I am not a fan of the recrystallization process. As a matter of fact, I wrote a rather opinionated article on the subject back in 1990 (and boy, do I feel old now!). For those who want to listen to that show (shameless plug) go to

For some floor jobs, a lightweight machine is essential. My client in Vegas found out the hard way.

For some floor jobs, a lightweight machine is essential. My client in Vegas found out the
hard way.

I answered the phone and couldn’t remember if I should answer it as the Stone Detective or my real name, so I just said, “Hello.” The voice on the other end sounded desperate. He had a deep – and I mean James Earl Jones–deep – voice. He identified himself as a stone restoration contractor and he had a problem with a terrazzo floor his company was refinishing. He described what they did to the floor, and I patiently waited for him to get to the problem. He went on for what seemed like the length of a Star Wars movie. My eyes were starting to glaze over when I thought I heard him say, “Luke – I am your father.” I must have been daydreaming; his deep, smooth voice had me mesmerized. Yeah, I am sure that was it.

Finally, he said they were getting a gray slurry when honing the floor. My first thought was that they were crystallizing the terrazzo and it was still wet. For you readers who don’t know, you can’t crystallize a wet surface.  But lo and behold, he was not using the crystallization process. They were getting the gray slurry while honing, not during the final polish. He was burnishing the floor with a 10,000-grit maintenance pad. That was an unexpected result, so I asked him all the standard questions. I couldn’t find anything in my questioning that would cause such a problem. 

He kept asking me, “What did I do wrong?”  At this point, I did not have a clue. I asked him to send me some pics of the slurry. I received the pics, and sure enough they were getting a gray slurry. I had an idea what was causing it, but before I could give him a reason, he asked if I could come see it for myself. Well, I wasn’t going to pass up a trip to one of my favorite cities. Can you guess which city that is? (Hint: I do my popular stone inspection and troubleshooting seminar there every year.)

 If you guessed Vegas, you got it in one. The job site happened to be a famous casino, and also happened to be one I was very familiar with.  I told Vader I would hop on the very next flight and could meet first thing in the morning.

My flight arrived at McCarran at 6 a.m. I took an Uber to the hotel, checked in and headed to my room to wait on the call to meet Vader. I had just settled back on the bed with the gazillion pillows they provide when my cell phone rang. A deep voice said, “I’m here next to the Starbucks.”  I put my shoes back on and headed downstairs. As I approached Starbucks I wondered if I had time to grab a cup of that famous five bucks coffee. Except in Vegas, that $5.00 cup of joe was more like eight bucks. Oh well – It’s Vegas. 

As I waited in line, I noticed a tall, broad-shouldered gentleman pacing back and forth toward the back of the hall adjacent to where I was standing. I thought he had to be my contact. In a minute I would find out. I grabbed my coffee and headed over to him. I was right. He greeted me with a firm handshake, told me to follow him, and he led me down the long corridor. As we reached the end of the hall, he pointed to the terrazzo and said, “That’s what we are getting.” I could have sworn he added, “Luke. That is your destiny.” Again with the daydreaming – must have been the early flight. 

I got down on my knees and took a closer look. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so I asked again what they did to refinish and polish the terrazzo. He told me they started with a 120-grit diamond and progressed all the way to 1,000- grit, and then polished with a 10,000-grit pad on a burnisher. That sounded OK to me, so I asked if I could see the equipment. He told me to follow him, and we entered the back of the house area.  He opened a closet, and then I immediately saw the problem. The machine they were using to hone the floor must have been over 500 pounds! It was one of those large, planetary head concrete grinders. I told him that the problem was the machine was most likely too heavy, and it was putting too much pressure on the zinc strips in the terrazzo and smearing the metal across the floor. I also said I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but definitely he should try a lighter machine. Long story short: the lighter machine did the trick, so another problem solved. He said thanks, and I turned around and almost said, “May the Force be with you!” I just shook his hand, and smiled. I was off to play some poker.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Send your email comments to him at