Frederick M.

Hueston, PhD

It was going to be an unseasonably hot and humid day here in Florida… one of those days when you step outside and feel like you could slice the air with a knife. Not a fun day to be working outside. Fortunately, most of my inspections are inside, with a few exceptions. 

I decided to get an early start and  headed to my favorite greasy spoon across the street to grab a cup of joe and some bacon and eggs. I put on my shoes, grabbed my fedora and headed out the door. I walked into the diner and something was different.  I could not quite put my finger on it, until Flo walked up to the counter and slid my cup of joe under this big plastic partition. I felt like I was sitting in front of the visiting area in a prison. Not that I know how that is — I’ve seen it in several movies. The only thing missing was one of those phones to talk to her. 

I looked over to my left and the old Admiral was trying to eat his bagel through his mask.  I bet he drives with his mask on, too. Not sure why people do that. Maybe they’re afraid of their air conditioners sucking the virus in through the car vents. Hey, I guess it could happen.  

Flo was trying to talk with me as she usually does but I could hardly make out what she was saying though that darn partition. I just nodded my head in agreement and laughed a few times, figuring she was making her usually smart comment. I was thinking about doing a pantomime asking for the check when my phone rang. 

“Stone Detective, speaking.” There was a familiar voice on the other end —  one of my students from my stone and tile inspection class a few years back. He sounded a bit frustrated and started complaining about this black marble that he could not seem to get polished. He told me that he had just completed a job right next door with the same marble, and it turned out great.  But this one wouldn’t polish no matter what he did. I calmed him down and told him that the new marble top more than likely had the coronavirus and that is why he was having problems. I told him he would need to wear a mask while working on that marble. For a minute he took me seriously and probably thought that the Stone Detective finally lost all his marbles. No pun intended.  I laughed and he finally realized I was joking. I told him this is a common problem and, in my day, I ran into this problem numerous times. There are several reasons this can happen. I outlined those reasons to him as follows:

Even though the stone is from the same quarry, it could have been extracted from a different area of the quarry. Different areas can differ in their densities, mineral make-up, etcetera.

How the stone is installed can also make a difference. For example, if the setting mortar used contained a lot of soluble salts, it could react differently. The salts can become trapped in the pores of the stone causing it to spall when you start to hone it.

How the stone is maintained and sealed can make it react differently. Sealer can contain certain polymers that can react differently to polishing.

The age of the installation can also make a difference. Older installations react differently than newer installations. The wear can be different, requiring more aggressive diamonds.

The water used to hone and polish may be different. Does the homeowner have a water softener or some type of water treatment?

Many times, if you’re using new or different diamond abrasives than you used on the neighbor’s marble, it can react differently.

I told him that this is what makes the stone business interesting. We are dealing with a product of nature and it sometimes does not always react the same. This is true for fabricators, as well. I told him therefore you should always do a small test before attempting to grind, hone or polish any stone. You never know how it is going to react. 

I gave him some additional tips and walked back into the diner as Flo was slipping my check under the plastic partition. I asked her if she wanted me to sanitize my credit card before I handed it to her. She raised her hand, blew me a raspberry and gave me a particularly rude gesture. That’s how I know she cares!

 Another case solved at the cost of cold eggs.

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. Fred has also been writing for the
Slippery Rock for over 20 years. 

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