If you know what you’re looking for, much can be discovered by looking at the wear patterns on diamond tooling, like the two Scorpion fingerbits shown above. These were the actual bits tested by Stone Spectrum, with some surprising – and eye-opening – results. Below: Viper Calibration tool mounted on Stone Spectrum’s Northwoods CNC machine.by Peter J. Marcucci

Photos by Gilbert Goodall

Mouse over photos for captions

Fab-Shop owners: You’ve made the investment, trained the people and brought in the work – but do you take the time to evaluate the efficiency of your machine tooling? Fortunately, the folks at Stone Spectrum Inc., Arcadia, Indiana did.   

 Stone Spectrum’s highly mechanized, 30,000 square-foot shop houses two bridge saws, two inline polishers, three CNC machines and two backsplash edge machines.Serving residential and commercial markets in the greater Indianapolis area as well as four surrounding states since 2003—Stone Spectrum’s culture is one of speed and quality, sharply defined by numbers measured with the yardstick of reason by their CNC techs: smooth operators not afraid to shake off old ideas and try new ones. Additionally, it’s a strategy of growth well aware that you can have the biggest building, the best people and the latest machines—but without fast, reliable tooling—products won’t go out the door promptly. But on any given day, culture eats strategy for breakfast, and profits trump both. 

The Thoughts, Impressions, and Conclusions of Three Experts

Measuring wear on the Viper Calibration tool, after more than 15,000 linear  feet of runtimeOver the course of 5 months, during 2 separate interviews with Stone Spectrum’s Josh Spencer and CNC technicians’ Shawn Montgomery and Daryl Montgomery revealed some very interesting information about the Scorpion Finger Bits, Viper CNC Calibration tool, and KDrill Core Bits they were testing from Braxton-Bragg. The following testimonies are an accurate account of those interviews.

Testing the Scorpion Fingerbit

Part of the The Stone Spectrum LLC Crew, standing left to right: Gloria Rivera, Wilman Argueta, Christopher Moore, David Jaco, Lawrence DeYoung, Darrell Montgomery, Jaime Casco, Gil Goodall.  Sitting left to right are Catarino Delgado, Beth Lowe, Juan Tepas, Shawn Montgomery, Geoff Cain, Josh Spencer.“We’ve been a Braxton-Bragg customer for 4 years,” recalled Josh Spencer, “and when Mike King called me, I told him that we do the majority of our business with Braxton-Bragg and that you guys have cut our costs down by a huge margin with free shipping and matching prices on things that we normally buy. Mike then suggested using more of Braxton-Bragg’s stuff and stated a guaranteed tool life for one of his finger bits. Basically, he was on me about starting to use more of Braxton-Bragg’s stuff. Now, ’Guaranteed For Life‘ is something I had heard many times in the past from a lot of manufacturers and suppliers. Everybody says that, no matter who you talk to.    

KDrill core bit currently in testing, after over 200 holes, showing minimal wear.“We’ve worked side-by-side with a lot of different tooling manufacturers and spent a lot of time testing to make our quality better in a more efficient time factor, and trust me—we will continue to do that. A finger bit is the one thing that you’re going to wear out more than anything else, so the first thing you’re going to look for is who has the best. Our machines tell us how many linear feet come out of every tool, and we try and get that tool to outlast the next one. On a daily basis, our goal is to try and get that tool to outlast the next one, and because we have  good machine operators that enjoy and care about their job and are paid well to do that job, we are able to have guys that care about the tools. Their whole goal is to produce the best product quickly at the lowest cost. 

“At the time we were running a Braxton-Bragg competitor’s bit and were getting 300-500 linear feet out of it. We thought that was huge, but Mike was willing to give me the challenge, and I said ‘Mike, I’ll make you a deal: you send me one, and I’ll tell you how good it is! My guys are good machine operators—they don’t tear up tools, they don’t snap tools. I will run it and tell you how good it is.’ 

“So Mike was kind enough to get Braxton-Bragg to comp us a Scorpion Finger Bit, and after running it extensively we took if off and it still had life on it after cutting one-thousand sixty-eight feet. The cost of that bit was just a little less than the bit we had previously been using, and we realized it had given us over double the linear feet of work from any finger bit we had been using. Meanwhile, my guys just said, ‘Keep buying these bits — this is crazy.’ CNC guys don’t want to stop a machine and change tools — who does ? Plus, they saw the savings in it. So I bought the next one and we put it on... Now it’s been on a month and it’s only halfway worn. I’ve got over seven-hundred feet on it as of today, and I’m looking to get twelve-hundred-feet out of it! Moreover, other name brands we’ve used haven’t had the good wear pattern like the Scorpion.” 

CNC programmer Shawn Montgomery took up the tale. “Compared to the other brands that we’ve used, the amount of wear and runtime is phenomenal, and from a pricing standpoint it totally makes sense when you’ve got something that lasts twice as long for half the purchase price. These finger bits have been wearing fairly even, too, which prolongs the life of the other tooling that comes after. So it only makes sense to use this tool!”  

Viper ® CNC Calibration Tool

Josh continued, “The Viper Calibration Tool that we’ve been using has over 15,000 linear feet of runtime on it. Of course, when you’re gauging stone, at some point, you’re going to take off more or less material, and that’s what we use it for most of the time; but on the other side of the spectrum, we ran into a couple of occasions in the last month or so where we had to re-calibrate whole slabs. 

Many times when a calibration tool wears, it wears round on the outsides, and while calibrating these slabs, we saw very little rounding, which tells us that it is not wearing quickly, not to mention that it had 15,000 feet of run time on it. So to me these numbers are just phenomenal. We’ve had this Northwood Machine CNC for a year, and early on went through both sides of 2 calibration tools from a different manufacturer pretty quickly; both were about a third more expensive than the Viper. I don’t have the exact run times for those wheels at the moment, but for comparison, both wheels, both sides, were worn-out within 3 months, while the Viper, has been used for 9 nine months —  is still on the original side, and only a third of the way worn!”    

Shawn Montgomery: “Calibrating materials used for countertops, ensures that our seams fit together, perfectly. Stone, even engineered stone, can be bowed or warped, and milling protects our expensive CNC tooling from being damaged. A lot of the tooling these days, are ‘closed-in-tooling’, where you’re routing both top and bottom; so calibrating is critical to making sure that the material is gauged and you’re not wearing your profiles improperly. Most of the time we calibrate our slabs to 1.187, but in the last two months we’ve calibrated 2 full slabs from 3cm down to 2cm thickness and found very little wear on the Viper Calibration Tool; however, in past a experience with another manufacturer’s calibration tool of the same size, we blew through both sides of the tool doing the same linear-footage to 2cm thickness. That said, we take off that much material, with any calibration tool, we do step mill it twice, with low amp draw and no glow at the point of contact.” 

KDrill Ultra-Thin CNC Core Bit

 Josh: “Here’s another thing. We are also performing tests on KDrill core bits. Usually other core bits get between 200-300 holes — so we’ll see how this one lasts.” 

Daryl Montgomery: “We have two KDrill core bits that just won’t wear out. One has been in service for 4 months with over 2,972 holes, and the other for 3 weeks, with over 250 holes on it.” 

Josh: “Yes, and it’s not showing any wear on it yet. I do expect we’ll see the same great wear factor as the finger bit, and I’m not saying the wear factor has to be double or even triple. Even if the wear factor is the same as the others, combined with better shipping and service, Braxton-Bragg shouldn’t have a problem at all in the market. Some of the other tool companies tell me how good their tooling is—I hear it all the time, and I just tell them, ‘If you’re that confident, send me one.’ Usually they won’t.” 

Shawn: “I’ve never seen a core bit like this, it’s just crazy. We are not doing anything different, like turning the speed down or RPMs. It has got to be the quality of the tool. Other more expensive brands that are twice the price will only get 300-400 holes.” 

Josh: “These guys have been doing it 8 plus years—evaluating is nothing new to them, and the numbers they’ve seen in the last 8 months, using tooling from Braxton-Bragg, is amazing. I expect, that as long as Braxton-Bragg is having the same tool manufacturer make them, and you have to be, because your tools are outlasting your competitors—we’ll see the same wear factor; and if that continues, along with great pricing, you guys shouldn’t have a problem at all in the market. 

“Everything I’ve been told by Braxton-Bragg usually works. That said, if they send me something and it isn’t quite what I expected, they just send a label and say send it back. And as a plus, when ordering—it doesn’t matter if it’s one item or a whole skid of stuff—I can call in an order, on any day, and don’t have to wait for free shipping!  

“We are people of our word here, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without good machines, good people, and good tooling. We’ve always tried to make the market and not send it down the road to the other shops. So if Braxton-Bragg saves us a dollar, that lets us put that dollar into more material and take more market share, and now clients don’t have to buy Ubatuba—they can afford Delicatus. We make more money, and they save money and get something they didn’t think they could get.” 

For more information the Braxton-Bragg’s tooling reviewed in this article call their toll-free number 800-575-4401 and also visit their website www.braxton-bragg.com for a complete list of cnc tooling, core bits, blades, and fabrication machinery and supplies.