Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Got Marble?

So, my plans to be done with the mudroom by Thanksgiving are slowly going asunder. There are two jobs I’m farming out and so far it looks like it is going to be a very bad crop. It seems every where I turn I'm met with nothing but excuses and blank stares.

First, there was the mill work I needed to get made. It consists of 6, fairly simple plinth blocks and 14, 6 foot pieces of casing. It is a half a days work for a decent mill with a capable and energetic staff. It was twelve days ago that I dropped off the sample at The Blue Ox Mill and to date I have not even received a bid on the job. After the first 6 phone calls I have given up. This place is notoriously bad at finishing – or even starting – work on time, but I went back to them because they have the knives already cut for the profile of casing I have.

The knives were cut specifically for me the last time I ordered casing from them. So to go to another mill at this point I would not only need to start the whole process over, but I would need to pay another fee ($75?) to get another set of knives cut. Extremely frustrating. I’m giving them until Friday and if they don’t produce something - ANYTHING - by then I will not only go and get my samples back, but I will begin “Operation Bad-Mouth” in which I slander their already bad reputation all over town. To be honest, most people will just roll their eyes and say something like, “While the hell did you go back to them. Every body knows how bad they are”. It’ll probably just make me look like an idiot to admit that I went back, so maybe I won’t even admit it. I’ll just quietly go some place else.

Then there is the marble I need cut for the two corner cabinets. This is probably no more that 5 sq ft of marble. I made two templates out of that 3/16th inch foam board you would mount photos and pictures on prior to framing. Last time I had marble cut it was 3 simple pieces I needed for the apron around the bathroom sink. This was 3 pieces of stone roughly 6X24 inches with no milling at all. Just straight cuts. It couldn’t get any simpler than that. I don’t remember how long it took, but it was something like 8 weeks and as many phone calls to get it done.

At the time, the place I went to was the only game in town. I might be able to make the 30 or 40 mile round trip to Fortuna, but I really can’t be sure if any other place has exactly what I want. Needless to say, I didn’t want to go back to the other guys. Since that time, a new place called “Got Marble?” has opened. They are located in a large, industrial warehouse about half way between Eureka and Arcata. I took a drive out there a few weeks back to see if they had the ¾ inch white marble I’m looking for.

The place is huge and they have dozens of varieties of stone in large slabs leaning against racks. The slabs are all the size of a sheet of plywood, roughly 4X8 feet, and maybe ¾ of an inch thick. There is a lot of freakin’ stone in one slab. Way more than I need. I walked down one row and quickly found what I was looking for. I went back to the office and there was a guy on the phone there. When he got off we started talking about the marble. I explained I only needed a few small pieces and I already had the templates cut.

He said, “Oh, well, we only sell slabs. We don’t do any cutting.”
Me, “Yean mean, I must buy the entire slab of marble.”
Him, “Yep”

I asked him who the heck buys whole slabs of stone and he said they get a lot of DIYers in there. This was a Saturday and I was the only person in sight. I asked him if he knew of any fabricators that could do what I want and he was stumped. I left, more than a little disappointed.

I looked in the phone book for monument makers (think tomb stones). There was only one so I called him on Monday. I told him what I needed and he said he could do it, no problem. I went in yesterday and took my templates, plus a small sample of the marble left over from another project. I didn’t want any mistakes on this. He looked it over and seemed like it wouldn’t be a problem at all. He then looks up and asks, “So when can you bring the marble in.” I was like, “Uh? What do you mean”. He was all like, “Oh, well, I don’t carry anything in this size. I thought you just wanted me to cut your marble”. He points to his stone selection and there isn’t a piece larger 12X24 inches.


So today with drooping shoulders and head I dragged myself back to the guys who screwed me over the last time. I raced down there on my lunch hour with my now well traveled templates in hand. I went in and the place seemed empty. I looked out in the shop and couldn’t find anyone. I called out a few times as I made my way down a hallway past one empty room after another. I finally found a young woman in an almost empty room staring out a window. I told her I wanted to get some marble cut in the shape of my templates. There was an awkward silence as she stared at the templates like they were some alien artifact that her mind couldn’t comprehend.

After a few seconds I repeated my request, only this time with more detail. “These are templates I’ve made for counters for corner cabinets. I want to get marble cut in the these shapes.” I gave each word more emphasis and annunciation as I pointed at the templates. She reached out for the templates and muttered, “Ummm, OK”. I cautiously handed her a piece of paper with some additional measurements, and with a clear voice, and in simple sentences I explained that it was for the backsplash pieces. She stared at my writing like it was written in some foreign language.

After more silence from her I asked if the guys were out on a job doing an installation. She said yes and I suggested I just write down my name and number on the piece of paper with the backsplash measurements. She smiled and nodded in agreement. I wrote down my name and number and left her standing there in the almost empty room. I got a little ways down the hallway and called back to her to tell her to not lose the templates because I would want them back if they can’t do the work. I didn’t get a response.

I’m having a bunch of old house fanatics over on the 14th of November. What do you think the odds are of me having either the millwork or the marble by then? I’m thinking the odds aren’t too good.


Patrick said...


Taking a page from your book, I have started doing more and more marble fabrication on my own with pretty good results...I used a diamond blade on a skil saw, and a 4 inch grinder with a cheap masonry wheel for the rough shaping and then a product called PVA marble polishing wheels that really clean up nicely. Of course, I'm only doing simple round-overs on the edges.

I have found that if you use real carrera marble (from Italy) that it cuts better, shapes nicely, and looks more authentic--You can see some of the work on my blog--specifically the downstairs fireplace mantles and hearth, the bathroom "built-in" and the upstairs fireplace...

I have purchased the marble from a salvage shop (Ohmega Salvage in Berkely), but I have also seen smaller pieces on Craig'slist (under material)...I even got some free pieces in the free section. I once called a fabricator and bought some of his scraps for pennies on the dollar.

Anyhow--I hear your frustration.

Best of luck with your project

Greg said...

Totally! These pieces would be easy to cut, if I could just find the right sizes. I can't see buying 32 sq ft from Got Marble just to do these little pieces. Not only the cost, but how do you deal with something that heavy and large?

Patrick said...

At the salvage store, I once found a piece that was too large for the project I was taking on...

I asked if they would be willing to sell me a piece of it--and allow me to cut the piece on site. They were gracious enough to allow me to do that...I rough cut the piece into several managable pieces and finished them up at option if you can find someone that's willing to let you do this, but it doesn't sound like you have that many options. Frustrating.