SFA: What's the Answer?

Start-up Business Needs: Machinery


Hi everyone. I need your help to make a very important decision.

I'm looking to buy my very first CNC, waterjet, sawjet or whatever I need to keep up with the market.

Currently I have a very basic bridge saw and do all the work by hand with Makitas and a router. I make/install around 15 jobs per week (80% kitchens of 50/ft² or more), doing template with vinyl strips but thinking on getting started on digital pretty soon.

The Robojet is awesome but doesn’t polish the edge. Some CNCs cut and polish the edge but seem to be very slow.

Something to just polish flat for tops and splashes will be great.

Since I can only afford to buy only one machine, maybe two, what should buy first?

Please, honest inputs from fabricators that have been in my shoes before.

Thank you all.

Sam PG


SFA Director

Sam....what is your budget? One machine to you may not be the same as one machine to John Doe.

Where is your bottleneck? Sinks? Polishing edges? Cutting? Installing?

  • Sinks: Get a cnc or a sink machine.
  • Polishing: Get a splash machine.
  • Cutting: Get a 5-axis saw or sawjet.
  • Installing: Get a clone.:grin:

Guy Robertson, SFA

Robertson Manufacturing Inc.

Davenport, Iowa

Dan R.

SFA Member

Budget is important.

  • A used splash machine ($20,000).
  • A new sink CNC ($50,000).
  • A good, used semi-automatic saw (Yukon or Eura) ($30,000).

This would be a great start-up shop and check all the needs for $100,000.

A new CNC saw can cost from $100,000 - $180,000.

As Guy asked, what is your most-pressing need? I would suspect at your current volume, probably finishing (sinks & polishing). In which case a Sasso Flying Flat would be my first choice, followed by a Ghines Sink machine.

Dan R.

Morris Granite

Morris, Ill.




Andy Ross

SFA Member

I was in your shoes a few years ago and bought a laser and router almost at the same time. Over-cut rectangles on the bridge saw and feed them to your CNC router. This set up should get you 10-15 kitchens per week and running a second shift will definitely get you the volume you want with room to grow.

If I had to do it again, this is exactly how I would do it ... again.


Rock Solid Surfaces

Kalamazoo, Mich.

tim farr

SFA Member

If I had it to do over again, I'd buy a hotdog cart........with an umbrella :lol:

Tim Farr

Stoneworks of Augusta, Inc.

3843 Wrightsboro Rd.

Augusta, Ga.



Thank you Andy,

I appreciate your input, I will look into it for sure.

Thank you Guy,

My priorities are sinks and polishing, so I can depend less in manpower. Not easy to find or make them and they're asking too much lately.

If you don't mind to ask:

What’s a CNC or sink machine that you know? Have you used them or know someone that uses FabKIng CNC ? its costs around 40k.

For polishing splashes and flat, would you use something like Marmo Meccanica or do you know a less-expensive one but also reliable ?

Dan R.

SFA Member

Sam, you can buy a good used Sasso Flying Flat for around $20,000. They are easy to work on in-house (changing motors, etc.).

We have Ghines Systematica sink CNC for cutting & polishing sinks. It is manual. but the process is far more efficient than cutting and polishing by hand.

This machine does have some drawbacks:

  1. It cannot do sinks in a bat wing top, or a corner sink.
  2. The machine is only 72" long, so you need additional support (not a huge deal, we use fab stands that screw up/down).

The machine runs well.

The programming is easy.

The polishing pads seem to last forever.

Initially, we struggled with the proper fingerbit and some developmental issues (we had the first two machines in USA).

We moved to a narrow fingerbit to reduce stress on the spindle. These are 4-hp spindles, so they do not run at recommended speed/feed rates as full-size routers (with large motors).

Regardless, Ghines has a larger service support now (it was non-existent then). Call Eddy from Infinity Diamond 703.599.7143.

You are welcome to visit our shop and run one yourself.


SFA Member

There's been lots of good advice. One other thing I'd suggest is becoming a member. There's a lot of information in the members lounge that isn't shared in the general forum.

Chase your bottleneck and figure out what your budget is or, if you go the financing route, you'll need to figure out how much of a payment you can handle. Don't forget to check on your general liability insurance, as that will most likely increase when you add equipment (ours nearly doubled after we fully automated).

Wes Kluender

Classic Granite & More, LLC.

Le Sueur, Minn.



SFA Member

Don't forget to assess your air, water and power needs with the new equipment.

You may be surprised that there is something you need to do before you add equipment.

Dave Scott

Slabworks of Montana

Bozeman, Mont.


"What we leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others" -Pericles

mark s

SFA Member

At your current volume, even a new CNC will immediately start making you money. For your budget a used one is a definite option, but get a competent tech familiar with the exact machine you want to buy and have him disassemble, prep for ship, install, and train. I would strongly recommend against buying a machine you can't see running.

If you are confident about growth and consistently already showing a profit, getting financing shouldn't be difficult. You have plenty of people to grow given you are doing that much work already by hand. A CNC will save you two (or more) people per shift vs. manual assuming your market will accept a good CNC polish as a replacement for a hand-finished edge.

If a polished slat edge is all you need, then a CNC saw and flat-edge machine is an option.

For flat edges a Flying Flat or Park Fastback are good machines. I have the Fastback and it's been pretty reliable and does a nice job.

Join the SFA. Easily the best move I ever made.

Mark S.

Custom Stone Interiors

St. Cloud, Minn.

"I spent most of my money on motorcycles, women, and beer. The rest I wasted." author unknown


I'm a machinery guy, but I won't go there. Take a close look at your material handling. Too often it is ignored. It's not as sexy as a CNC, but I have seen many a shop wasting time and money in that area. I would include slab unloading and handling, loading and unloading machines, and on-the-job techniques. It is an inexpensive way to boost production not to mention keeping your shop people safe.

John Bergman

Bergman-Blair Machine Corp.

Prescott, Ariz.

928-443-1100 / 516-381-6774 cell



SFA Member

tim farr wrote:

If I had it to do over again, I'd buy a hotdog cart........with an umbrella :lol:

Best advice on here:grin:


SFA Sponsor-Guardian

Glad to see your reaching out to the SFA for first-hand knowledge and experience in the early stages of starting a new operation! As your’re experiencing, countless guys on this platform have been in your exact shoes before – whether it was a couple years ago or 20+ years ago. There’s no better resource – so I would also strongly recommend becoming a member.

Anyway, if you are looking into water recycling for your new operation feel free to reach out to us – we have been designing and installing water recycling system in stone shops across the country for 25 years. We have water systems installed all over FL so we could connect you with a couple local shops who have been using our systems for years. Our number is 603.758.1900.

Good luck sir!!!

Jim Bolduc

Water Treatment Solutions





SFA Member

Wow, that is a loaded question. Here is a long-winded answer.

Your goal is to make money. You do that by increasing your sales through your production practices.

What will allow your production to increase sales? Do what the other members said: Find your bottleneck.

Is sawing your bottleneck? Will faster sawing increase production? Often the bottleneck is sales, installation, bookkeeping, customer service, quoting, cash flow.... Identify your bottleneck and that is where you put your money.

Even an old bridge saw will cut more than 15 kitchens a week. Sawing is probably not your bottleneck.

Sink cutouts, bump-outs, curved overhangs can take a lot of time. A CNC will handle those nicely. Assuming that you cut a rectangle with a bridge saw, and do the rest on a CNC ... you should be able to fabricate 150 ft² in an 8-hr shift with some practice. But will that process get you more sales and allow you to grow? That depends on your local market and the type of work you do and if fabrication and polishing is your bottleneck.

Let's say you only install rectangles. The CNC is an expensive way to finish simple rectangles. You have to have a programmer, operator, measure tech and a back-up system (polishers) for when the CNC is down. That, and you still need to do some hand-polishing. It is more-expensive to fabricate and finish using a CNC verus hand work. It is certainly not faster.

The main advantage is the ability to scale up with another machine or two using the same amount of labor. Then add a second shift (usually 3 workers) to double your production. But you’re not there yet. With simple kitchens, (rectangles) I find that a backsplash machine is the lowest-cost method to get most of the work done. You still have to do hand work, but not as much.

Let’s say you only do fancy kitchens with lots of curves. A CNC may be the way to go, if you have cheap water and a way to dispose of dirty water. Otherwise you are looking at a water-recycling process as well. You cannot go cheap on water recycling with a CNC. Those that do not clean their water pay for it several times over with CNC repair costs and a shorter life of the machine.

Let's say you do mostly miter-edge work. Then a simple miter machine might break the bottleneck.

If your quality is suffering, then your money may be better spent on supervision and QC.

It is fun to buy a new machine. And it is good business to buy a machine if it will truly fix a problem in the most-cost-efficient way. Otherwise, you are just getting the sexy machine for the fun of owning it. At the end of the day, you will still have the original problems and bottlenecks.

My advice would be to read the book " The Goal" by Eli Goldratt. It is an easy- and fun-to-read book that will help you make the best decisions for your operation regarding your process and machine purchases.

Randy Hunn

Euro Stone Craft

13912 Park Center Road

Herndon, Va.


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