TabbyStone of Jacksonville, Florida

TabbyStone specializes in architectural precast that replicates the traditional “tabby” or coquina used in the historical architecture of the area. The company has been in business since 1988 serving architects, builders, contractors and designers with interior and exterior precast products. Mark Spina, production manager, talks about creating foam molds that allow TabbyStone to quickly fulfill customer’s demands for unique and creative precast concrete designs.

TabbyStone precast concrete residential

Managing Lead Times

Pouring concrete into ready made molds allowed work to go on without a hitch, but custom designs were another issue. They increased the costs and work, especially when building them up with wood. TabbyStone was having a local shop cut foam molds, but this caused long turn around times. Mark Spina of TabbyStone explains:

“We had been subbing the foam cutting out to a local guy. At first it was a two week lead time and that was tolerable, but when he got busy I was lucky to get them in 3 or 4 weeks. Our number one reason we decided to go ahead and make our own molds was to have control over lead times.”

Researching The Market

Mark explains the search process for a suitable hot wire cutting machine:

“We had looked at the large industrial sized hot wire cutter that our foam producer uses. Then we went to a trade show in Orlando and to the World of Concrete in Las Vegas, and we looked at the various foam cutting machines that were available. We did a lot of research. I thought the quality of Hotwire Direct seemed to make a difference and it seemed to me a simpler and more logically made machine than a lot of the others.”

In 2004 TabbyStone began using Hotwire Direct’s 8700 CNC (with the turntable, bowl cutter and lathe attachments) and 3000 Shaper machines to make expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam molds in house.

TabbyStone precast concrete signs for subdivision

Creative Authority

After purchasing the 8700 CNC foam cutting machine and using it in-house things changed in terms of creativity and productivity for TabbyStone, Mark continues:

“It has changed our business night and day. It has enabled us to do more intricate shapes because before we would use molds we had in stock or molds we could make out of wood. But by having the foam machine the ideas are pretty limitless. Whatever someone can draw or dream up we’ll come up with a way to make it, and before we would have to stay away from a lot of that.”

TabbyStone precast window trim

With their foam craftsmanship TabbyStone has been able to fulfill more customers’ special requests. Mark shares some examples of their creativity:

“For example, we’ve cut some huge bowls on the CNC bowl cutter that we wouldn’t have been able to do before. We’ve also done helixes with it for a spiral staircase with the turntable. That mold is the most difficult in the world to make, the helix, and I’ve come up with a way to do it on this machine. As a result, more customers have come to us because we are able to advance our designs.”

TabbyStone precast fountains

Perfect Curves Every Time

TabbyStone also uses the automated 3000 Shaper. Initially Mark wasn’t sure he needed this machine, but after creating molds with it for over a year, he reports:

“The 3000 Shaper is a terrific machine, I love that thing! We use it everyday for arches, bases, caps, circles, bowls, and all kinds of stuff. When we picked up the 3000 Shaper I didn’t think we would use it that much because we had a manual swing-arm that we used for the same function. We cut our blanks on the 8700 CNC machine and take them to the shaper and run it through there and Wow! We get perfect curves every time on the 3000 Shaper! We weren’t getting that before with our manual swing arm.”

TabbyStone precast residential with pool

Value Beyond The Purchase Price

TabbyStone is learning every day that by using Hotwire Direct tools for their precast concrete molds the overall quality of their work is higher. The machines have been a profitable investment for TabbyStone, and Mark says this about the value of the equipment:

“The price of the equipment has not been an issue. We paid a fair price for what I think is a superior machine. It’s held up well and we haven’t had any troubles with it and so it’s turned out well worth it. In the long run it’s been making us money from the first day we had it so it’s not worth worrying about, it’s an easy decision to make.”

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