From Bedrock To Countertop – The Art Of Excavating Natural Stone

October 07, 2013

Looking at a beautiful expanse of polished granite - the centerpiece of a clean, elegant kitchen - it is difficult to imagine that this surface was ever anything else but the luxurious countertop that it is. However, every granite countertop began its life as something else. Before a slab distributor brought it to market, before the granite slab was even a slab, it was a piece of the Earth’s crust.

Granite is an intrusive, igneous rock. Though we often think of igneous rocks as lighter, pumice stones created from cooling lava, igneous rocks can also be heavier and extremely hard, created by lava beneath the Earth’s surface but cooled much more slowly. As granite slowly cooled over millions of years underground, gases were trapped and lava mixed with quartz, forming rocks with large crystals. Underground springs, mineral deposits, earth shifts, temperature fluctuation, and pressure are variants that cannot be duplicated by man and also differ from region to region, which is why each granite countertop will ultimately be unique from the next.

The process of rock to gleaming surface material begins at the quarry. MSI works with quarries around the world, particularly in India and Brazil, to harvest the choicest selections of granite. First, the granite is removed from the earth. There are typically three methods employed to do so, depending on the quarry: Blast Extraction, Air Bag Extraction, and Stone Cut Extraction. The first is just what it sounds like – a hole is drilled, a charge is laid, and a blast separates granite into more manageable pieces. The second is similar, though air is employed to create that blast. The last uses machinery to cut the pieces away. Though some may claim that one method is superior over another, it is really the next steps, cutting slabs and finishing them, that will make the biggest difference to the end consumer. 

The granite is cut to a more workable size using wire saws that are usually outfitted with abrasives and may be lubricated with water to keep the stone cool. These large blocks are then transported to a factory where they are smoothed on all sides to prepare for cutting into slabs and polishing. This smoothing process, sometimes called stone dressing in the industry, removes all of the rough outer edges. Next, the slabs will be sliced from the block, surface finished (polished in most cases, but sometimes honed, and brushed) to bring out the true beauty of the natural stone, cataloged and delivered by MSI from the country of origin to the U.S.. At this stage, it is important to keep the resulting slabs together so that large projects can use multiple slabs that will work together cohesively. Once with the local U.S. fabricator, slabs will receive their final finishing and will be cut to specification.

Granite countertops live several lives before they enter yours. As a mountainside, as a large block of extracted stone, as a slab for export, and finally as a countertop, floor or wall – a visual and functional reminder of Mother Nature’s amazing workshop. Granite is abundant, unique, beautiful and renewable. It is natural artwork that will become the showcase in your home or business.

MSI’s premium surface granite selection offers over 250 color patterns. We have the perfect granite countertop for your project whether your granite needs are for your kitchen, bathroom, or other surface. All granite slabs are in-stock and ready for prompt delivery.