Thursday, October 2, 2008

Alabama Marble

Our power came back on Wednesday, September 17 after the winds from hurricane Ike had come through the area. We resumed business with the installation of Meg's 8,000 lb. limestone Cougar at a private residence near Lagrange, KY on Thursday, September 18. Then, we made preparations for her installation of a bronze fountain group at LSU. We left home on Monday, September 22 and made the successful installation on Wednesday, September 24. On the way home, we took a side trip to find the quarry for Alabama White Marble.
We found the quarry about 5 miles west of Sylacauga, Alabama. Under a deep layer of red clay is a thick 'vein' of marble that stretches 17 miles from this quarry, under the town of Sylacauga and a little to the other side. This is the only operating quarry in the area that cuts the marble from the ground. There are at least 2 other huge operations that are blasting out the marble for industrial processes. But, for sculpture purposes, this is the only game in town.
Looking to the left of the pit is a group of buildings that house the production equipment for the company. They produce floor tiles, window sills and similar products. You can see 2 cascading piles of slabbed scrap marble pieces on the side of the hill. I think that this material has a lot of potential uses.
They cut out clean, white blocks for sale and for their own production. (The block on the left has a mark that looks like a petroglyph).
One of the most interesting things that we discovered, was the variation in coloring and veining to be found with this marble. The colors run from white to cream to a light orange (shown above). The veins run from light grey to light blue and light green. Our main purpose was to find if this quarry could be a source for supplying big blocks for our public art commissions. I was able to talk to the owner of the quarry, Stefhan Musolino. He informed me that they had the capability to cut custom sized and large blocks. I was happy to hear that they did not have the size restrictions that I had found with Indiana Limestone.
What we needed was a 'sample' (about 5 tons) of the stone, so that we could do a cost analysis on labor - for bidding jobs. We also needed to get a 'taste' of how the stone worked; to find out what kind of detail it could take etc. For this, we were directed to this pile of rough-shaped blocks. Mr. Musolino has vision for his stone to become the industry standard for sculpture-grade material. To this effect, he is establishing an exchange program with Italian sculptors from Pietra Santa, Italy; with the cooperative efforts of the City of Sylacauga.
After selecting our blocks from the rough pile, we had some time before they could load us. So, we took that opportunity to tour their production facility. The marble blocks are brought into an area with t-saws (2 blades at right angles to each other.
The saws cut off long slabs, like this one. This marble is translucent when cut this thin.
The slabs, like the stack in the foreground, have been milled to the right width and thickness. Then they are fed through a series of polishing machines.
When they are making floor tiles, they have this machine that cuts 5 tiles from the slab, at the same time.
The finished product is packed for shipping.
This large warehouse holds the pallets of product until time for shipping. I was told that 8 semi loads had gone out the day before.
They were ready to load us. I went back to the piles to point out which pieces for the excavator to move. They used this machine to get the pieces to a place where the forklift could get hold of them.
The forklift took our pieces from the pile to the truck. The operator, shown here, is the foreman William Crowe. If you're lucky, you'll get a chance to work with him. He's fantastic to work with - competent, and a total trip!
They had me back the truck up to a loading dock with a ramp. The forklift put the blocks right into the truck. It was safe, fast and efficient.
Unloading at the studio was a bit more of a challenge, as we only have the knuckle boom crane.
Leon and Frankie Vessels, who do most of our trucking, had loaned us the use of their pallet jack and had loaned us some pallets and cribbing.
The pallet jack made it possible to pull these big pieces of marble to the back of the truck where we could get hold of them with the crane. We're both very excited about this new material and we're eager to try some of it. Stay tuned.

4 comments:

Kelly McFerran said...

Hello, Can you tell me exactly where this quarry is located? Or the name of the name of the facility where they produce the tile? Thanks!

don lawler said...

The Alabama Marble Company is located 5 miles west of Sylacauga, AL. The best bet is to look them up on the web - maybe give them a call. If you find this e-mail in a timely manner, you may look up the Sylacauga Marble Festival which is about to get underway soon.

Kelly McFerran said...

Thank you so so much for responding so quickly! I noticed online that the Alabama Marble Company is closed. At least that what Google says; I can still try calling. I actually just happened upon the festival website and emailed someone. Fingers crossed! Thanks again!

don lawler said...

I believe that I remember someone mentioning that they'd closed down operations at the quarry. The festival is your best bet for getting a chance to get hold of some AL Marble. The folks at Sylacauga are great - I highly recommend that you try to attend the festival and carve along side other professionals. They usually bring in sculptors from Italy.