Stonecutting in Computer Age
by Frank LaPierre
Stonecutting, that traditional craft handed down from father to son, has now entered the world of computers.
Many of the Old World artists who suffered days on end over their work would probably spin in their graves if they could see how the business has changed today.
But in most cases the change is for the better, economically and artistically.
For the push button console that operates a high-powered diamond cutter at V. Fontana & Sons Monument Company in Colma is able to keep the cost of real stone monuments within the reach of everyone's pocketbook.
Much of the work is still, by necessity, accomplished by hand and sweat, but the "bulk" work--cutting the stone to size, polishing, and slicing--is now done by machine.
What once required several days of chipping with a hammer and chisel now consumes less than a day, often a matter of hours. And the end result is often a far better product, precise in every respect.
The age of computers has reached into almost every industry. How does this affect craftsmen such as Elio Fontana?
"It had to come sooner or later. The cost of such machinery is naturally high, but it enables us to produce a fine product at a cost people can afford."
The specially made diamond cutterat the Fontana company is the only one of its kind on the West Coast, and "perhaps anywhere in the United States," Fontana explained.
It was custom-made for the company after Fontana saw a similar unit at a stone cutters' convention several months ago.
"But the only one I saw was huge--it was used by wholesale companies," he said.
He told the manufacturer a smaller unit built along the same lines would be ideal for his work.
Months later the unit was delivered to the Colma site and installed.
The workmen are still learning, along with Fontana, just what the computerized machine can do. "So far its saved us an awful lot of work and has done a fantastic job on turning out a greater workload," Fontana said.