Every granite headstone begins its life at a quarry. Quarrymen use a pneumatic drill to bore vertical holes into bedrock along a cut line that is usually 20 ft deep. To cut granite blacks from the bedrock, they then use large steel bits with teeth to cut into the core of the rock.
These blocks of granite are typically quite large, measuring roughly 10 ft long and 3 ft wide and high. These blocks weigh more than 20,000 lbs. To move these enormous granite blocks, they are lifted with extremely strong cables attached to a large derrick (i.e., hoisting apparatus) and placed on a flatbed truck for the journey to a headstone manufacturer.
Upon arrival at the headstone manufacturer, the granite blocks are cut down to much more manageable sizes using a rotary diamond saw. The smaller slabs are typically 6-12 inches thick, increasing in increments of 2 inches. To cut through such large blocks of granite, the rotary diamond saw is equipped with a 5 or 11 ft solid steel diamond blade.
Once cut to an ideal width, the granite slabs are sent to be polished. As you can probably imagine, the process isn’t easy since granite is such hard rock. To achieve a smooth finish, the granite passes through between 8 and 13 rotating heads that have varying levels of grit ranging from harsh to buffer pads. The buffer pads at the end of the line are coated with tin oxide powder or water and aluminum to achieve that glossy finish. After this step, the rock is cut or rock pitched into the desired size and shape for the monument.
Lastly, the headstone is inscribed by the monument builder with lettering and artwork. The customer is usually included heavily in this part of the process to ensure everything is satisfactory, from design to final engraving and laser etchings.