Approaching the college-town hamlet on SR 64 in North Carolina known as Brevard, my keen photographic eye aided by my natural curiosity, observed to my left a long row of beautifully ingrained, huge, stone slabs placed strategically in the view of passers-by. At the time I was rushing to find new lodging, but my unconscious mind made a mental note: “return to rock slabs soon.”
My destination: Brevard is in Transylvania County in the Pisgah National Forest where waterfalls and beautiful mountain scenery abound, where high rock cliffs and rushing mountain streams capture your sense of exploration.
Some days later, as I almost passed by the stone slabs a second time, the mental bells and whistles chimed in together to remind me to investigate. I have always been curious about how those monster slabs were cut, much-less transported—this was my chance. The stone slabs were even
more beautiful close-up: some embedded with fossils, some with gem stones; by their very appearance it was obvious to me these natural masterpieces had been chosen by a very creative and practiced eye.
A large, gaping bay at the end of the steel building was open, whining sounds of cutting saw blades, pounding mallets, air guns, electric drills, and ringing telephones filled the air. I love shop work, especially the wood shop smells. The odor of fresh cut wood is akin to that of turpentine—the oil painter’s favorite smell. Peering inside the skylighted building, I could see busy workers sanding, cutting and assembling cabinetry amidst stacks of pre-cut frames, paneled cabinet doors, and stone counter tops. One fellow nearby—sanding the edge of a cut stone—set aside his sander, and lifted his mask displaying a clean un-dusty space around his nose and mouth, he asked: “Hep ya?”
“Is the owner about?” I asked. “Follow me,” he replied. He ushered me back past other busy craftsmen wearing aprons and masks stopping at a work space in the back corner inhabited by a “Paul Bunyan” of a man who was cutting a huge stone slab on a wet-blade, flat-bed table saw. While the saw blade turned, it was drizzled in cooling water as it sawed through the hard-rock slab. The saw-bed, larger than most kitchens, was moving along at a slow-steady rate as the saw cleanly cut a straight line through the granite. The dust-covered worker was carefully guiding the saw cut, eyeballing the precision of it. The blade whined its way through the one and a half inch thick stone slab that had to be eight or ten feet wide and perhaps 12 feet long.
Jeff Warner wears long, shoulder length hair in a loose pony-tail; his mustachioed face, with beard and piercing blue eyes, was the happy face of a man who loves his work. His passion was obvious as his hands moved with assurance and strength. He called out “Be right with ya!” Soon his long cut was complete, the saw whirred down until the saw-brake took hold dragging the huge, round, diamond-tooth blade to a stop.
Stepping forward with a smile and a firm, but not knuckle-bending handshake, Jeff Warner’s friendly demeanor exuded confidence but, more, he immediately appeared to be a very thoughtful kind of Renaissance man to me. The twinkle in his eye told me he was of good humor and didn’t take the world too seriously, the kind of guy you know would be an asset climbing a mountain, canoeing a river or sitting jawing at a bar.
“How do you cut these enormous slabs?” I asked. “Oh, my name is Bill Ahearn and I am traveling across America writing a blog called Remarkable Journeys. Seems to me you are on one.”
“Oh, I don’t cut the stone blocks to slabs, they do that at the quarry. Slab-cutting of huge stone quarry blocks is done by large blades from the bottom-up. Each slab is shimmed as it is cut, maintaining a constant thickness.” he said. “Then they are polished, processed, and shipped to me.”
“I trim the slabs to fit people’s architectural dreams. Stone slabs are quarried all over the world: India, Brazil, Australia, Africa, China, South America, and even the Tate Plant in Georgia,” he laughed.
“My job is careful selection and ornamental cutting. I once made a matching-step, stone staircase for a huge yacht. Personally selecting and marking each stone so the end-result impression was that the steps were all cut from the same vein in a mountain. It was very beautiful. Seems I have a gift for it. I don’t really know where it came from, but I love stone patterns. Tell me about Remarkable Journeys, I am jealous, sounds fascinating.”
So began a rich afternoon of conversation with a man of surprising talents and a genuine love of life. Jeff Warner has done remarkable things: hobo’ed across America, mastered machine shop techniques without professional training, traveled around the world. Jeff exhibits very unique concerns about nature and the environment, and creates wonderful architectural details with an artist’s palette of enormous stone slabs.
Jeff related one fascinating story to me that happened several years ago in the Northwest. Hiking along a trail, Jeff came upon an injured screech owl struggling unsuccessfully to fly. He approached the creature, focusing all of his positive energy toward it. “I put all my mental-emotional strength into it,” he said, “I am not going to hurt you, I want to help.” Amazingly the owl allowed itself to be picked up and carried to Jeff’s truck. Jeff was wearing hiking shorts and the owl rested peacefully with talons wrapped around his rescuer’s bare leg without ever doing injury, while Jeff’s companion drove the truck to an animal rescue center.
Jeff Warner is a very unique, special sort of man with a passion for life and stonework— his uniqueness lies in his creative spirit—that is, his ability and willingness to accept challenges with a creative intellect. “The stones in my palette are not just for counter tops,” he said. “Many people buy them for steps or mantles, or decorative architectural details. People come to me with a plan and I help them select stones for their project that speak to their lifestyle or personality.”
His gift makes him a rare commodity. He travels to quarries and selects only the best examples of nature’s handiwork with which to design his architectural works of art. If there is a way to create a special effect he’ll find it. It is Jeff’s spirit and vision that makes his company, Boulder Creek Stone-Granite Fabrication and Design, prosper at a time when many such companies are foundering.
Indeed it was pleasure to meet him and discover, in the process, a kindred spirit. You can find Jeff at:
BOULDER CREEK STONE GRANITE FABRICATION & DESIGN