Blog of London Stone Indian trip. Written by London Stone MD, Steve Walley.
I landed in the capital of Rajasthan this morning at 7.00am after a grueling 22 hours and three flights. Jaipur international airport is newly built and is a vast improvement on the old airport. While on the subject of airports I had a bit of a shock when I arrived in Delhi late last night. It took just two minutes to clear passport control! I was amazed at the speed and efficiency of an airport where I have previously experienced 24 hour delays and rioting passengers. I came back to earth with a bump however when I had to wait 45 minutes to get my luggage due to the carousel having a bit of an off day. I truly realised I was in India when I stepped outside and witnessed 2 slightly built Indians attempting to bump start a full sized coach. It felt good to be back!
First port of call today was to visit a small factory based in the industrial area of Jaipur. The factory is run by “the old man”. “The old man” is an engineer by trade and about 15 years ago decided to get into the stone business. As a skilled engineer “the old man “manufactures all of his own machines. “The old man” specialises in value added natural stone items such as sawn sandstone and various other types of bespoke pieces. The first time I visited this factory 3 years ago I was amazed at how much work was done in such a small place. It was an efficient and extremely productive operation which churned out very high quality finished product. It would not be correct to mention any names but I also discovered that “the old man” was supplying one of the big paving companies in the UK (think of the top 3 household names in the UK and its one of those companies).
If you spend any time driving around Rajasthan there are literally thousands of small companies like this churning out stone for the local, national and international markets. In that respect you realise how fragmented the natural stone industry is in India and how hard it will be to implement any standards, particularly in relation to ethics.
Arriving to meet “the old man” this time round I was surprised at the apparent lack of activity. The stock yard was running low and the only noise could be heard from a large tumbling machine which was in the process of tumbling Sagar black Indian sandstone paving. Customers are always asking how tumbling is carried out and the following pictures and video demonstrate the process.
I was glad to learn that there was a positive reason for the lack of activity. “The old man” was in the process of modernising the plant with the installation of two state of the art water processing machines. The first machine I came across was called the “water blasting machine” It performs exactly the same function as a shot blasting machine which is, to add texture to the surface face of natural stone. It is in essence an extremely powerful jet wash. Although the machine wasn’t fully set up yet I was given a demonstration of the raw power of the water jet. I was amazed as I witnessed a honed piece of sagar black sandstone given a once over with a “jet wash”. In the space of about sixty seconds it had the texture and appearance of a piece of stone which had been shot blasted! Anybody who has cut sagar black sandstone will testify how hard this stone is.
When the machine is fully set up the water blaster will be mounted onto a CNC operated head which moves left to right as a production line rolls beneath it.
Another advantage of water blasting is that the colour of the stone is slightly enhanced by the process. Not to the point of being shiny but just enough to make the colour of the stone a little bit richer.
The second machine being installed was a water cutting jet. A water cutting machine is nothing new to us but is considered to be innovative for a small Indian paving producer.
The water jet is CNC controlled and can cut to a depth of 100mm. CAD drawings can be programmed in and the machine is just left to do its job. The pictures clearly demonstrate the effectiveness and versatility of the machine.
The design options are endless, you could take this as far as your imagination could go. Were not just talking about sandstone here either, the piece of stone with the hexagon detail is rock hard granite.
That was the end of the first day. I had been on the go for about 29 hours now so we decided to pack up and head back to my supplier’s house. Saw a couple of things on the way back that were definitely not cutting edge technology and gave me a little reminder that we were still in India.
First there was that old favourite of a pylon installed in the middle of the road.
Secondly were the two feet pot holes. I thought the potholes on Worton Rd in Isleworth were bad enough
My personal favourite which unfortunately I didn’t photograph was a roundabout being tarmacked while the cars were still going round it. I could not believe my own eyes. Finally someone with half a brain came up with a solution, send the cars round the other way! So we performed a U turn on the roundabout and started to head round it the wrong way into oncoming traffic. What could possibly go wrong?