Making beautiful countertops and vanities with Hypertherm waterjet
Business owner reports his productivity is up by 500 percent
Natural stone is a luxury product, but it’s the material’s strength that makes it ideal for kitchen countertops and bathroom vanities. Granite is the most popular stone because it’s scratch and stain resistant when sealed, and it literally comes in hundreds of beautiful colors.
North Dakota couple, Blake and Jill Wamstad, own and operate Hatton Granite Countertops. For over 15 years, the Wamstads have made countertops and vanities for new building projects and remodels. Blake is a hands-on business owner who enjoys programming and operating the machines in their shop. He designs, fabricates, delivers, and installs custom kitchen countertops and bathroom vanities throughout the area and into Canada, completing 350 residential kitchens annually and many more bathrooms and commercial jobs.
But before any countertop or vanity is installed, a team of miners must carefully extract the stone from a quarry’s walls and floors. Though Hypertherm’s home state of New Hampshire was once a major granite producer, today nearly all granite used in construction comes from Brazil, China, India, or Italy. Granite is extracted in large rectangular blocks before being loaded onto trains and ships for delivery to countries around the world.
The next step is to cut the blocks into thinner, more manageable slabs for use on countertops which range from ¾ of an inch to 1 ¼ inches in thickness. These slabs are then sold and shipped to stone fabricators like Hatton Granite for further processing.
Though each fabricator has a different way of doing things, Blake and his team at Hatton use sophisticated software to match each piece of granite to a particular job. An average kitchen takes a slab and a half of stone, a bathroom vanity much less. Cabinets are measured and templates created to make the best use of a particular slab. Once the team has identified the slab or slabs needed for a job, it is time to cut and shape the stone.
Hatton uses a combination machine equipped with both a saw and a precision waterjet system. The machine is the FUSION® CNC SawJet Series from Park Industries®, a manufacturer of stone working equipment in neighboring Minnesota. This photo is of Blake with his own Fusion.
Blake first learned about Park Industries at a tradeshow and since that introduction has purchased four Park Industries systems, consistently trading-in and trading-up. Park Industries explains that the FUSION CNC saws stone three times faster than conventional bridge saws. It’s also incredibly accurate, making it easy for fabricators like Hatton Granite to produce precise edges. Hypertherm HyPrecision® and HyPrecision® Predictive waterjet pumps are the only waterjet systems Park Industries sells.
The FUSION CNC that Blake is currently using is designed specifically for countertop fabrication. Blake and other Hatton Granite employees place the slab onto the FUSION CNC and turn it on. The saw cuts the slab down to size, and then the Hypertherm waterjet cuts out needed angles, rounded edges, and holes for the sink and faucet inserts. Hatton runs its table at least four days a week, cutting an average of 1,000 feet of stone in that time.
Since bringing the FUSION CNC online seven years ago, Blake says his productivity is up by 500 percent and yet his head-count is exactly the same.
“We have four fabricators including me. If we continued to work like we did before the Hypertherm waterjet, we would need at least 20 people to do the same amount of work,” Blake says. “Before every thing had to be done by hand. Waterjet increased the number of jobs we can do by 500 percent, and it did this without increasing my labor costs.”
In addition to saving Blake hundreds of hours in labor and helping him get countertops to his customers more quickly, the waterjet cutting process on the FUSION CNC helps him use less granite, lowering his material costs.
He explains, “Because natural stone has fissures, the old method of grinding the stone to shape would often put too much pressure on these weaker spots which could chip or break the stone. Waterjet is an abrasion process. It doesn’t put any pressure on the stone so the stone is more likely to survive the shaping process without breaking.”
Blake notes that with the introduction of the FUSION CNC, he has become a material handler because the fabrication part is no longer necessary. The new machine does all the work and every countertop or vanity comes off the table ready for install. Plus the work is no longer back-breaking giving the team more energy to enjoy life and time with their families.