Sawing Basalt

Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 02:24PM
Private Commission, Studio Practice

23rd October 2014:
The last two days I have been at the superb granite factory of Fyfe Glenrock, just north of Aberdeen, 'The Granite City'. I was over seeing the sawing of the half boulder I transported from Penmaenmawr Quarry two weeks ago. This is to become a reception desk for The Crown Estate's new HQ in Piccadilly.

The process seems a simple one: place the Basalt block on a trolley, wheel it underneath a vast wire saw and cut, many times. Whilst this is in essence what happened, it took an unusual amount of time to jig the block up on the trolley in just the right position and level, that would mean the top, bottom and back side of the desk got cut in exactly the right place, down to the millimetre. Being a desk, this object has an acute functionality.

The saw we used is a wire saw, common in quarries across the world. It works in just the same way as a cheese wire would on a block of cheese, only slower, as the water cooled wired has many diamond teeth crimped onto it, to act as the cutter: the cut in the second image took six hours! The block had to be taken out of the saw room after each cut, the excess material removed and new measurements made, then back in for another cut. The next step is to polish the surface of the desk and then start to cut out the underneath apertures where legs and computers will fit.

Its a marvellous thing to watch those men handle such large blocks with the slow gentleness one would expect to find in a cabinet makers workshop. There were moments of anxiety though, when having committed a line to be sawn and trusting that it would yield the flat plane in the correct place within the block, having spent a long time trying to understand where in that irregular shaped block, the best position would be to yield the ideal desk.