• “Dynamite Orange” leads the way to Kafka Granite’s success

    QN-MR-8-Kafka Granite 166by Bill and Mary Weaver

    Family owned and operated Kafka Granite, began 35 years ago as a small business selling decomposed granite for local road construction. That changed when one day, owner Glenn Kafka was trying to move a particularly recalcitrant school-bus-sized rock to reach a large deposit of decomposed granite on its other side. His efforts failed, until he reluctantly chose to dynamite the large boulder. To Glenn’s surprise, that boulder was made of a beautiful, sparkling stone that caught his attention.

    With its sparkles and flecks of pink and charcoal mixed in, Kafka named the granite material, “Dynamite Orange.” It was then that he decided this decorative stone could become one of his company’s foremost products. Following this discovery, Glenn met with Wausau Tile, a local precast concrete manufacturer that specialized in decorative stone. There, he presented the colorful aggregate for their consideration. While they were impressed with the stone and Glenn’s efforts, they were looking for more color options than he was prepared to offer.

    After a few weeks of looking for other material to meet their request, Glenn returned with six additional colors. This was a turning point for Kafka Granite, because by adding more colors of granite, quartzite, quartz, and marble to his product line, his business began to change.

    Today, Wausau Tile is one of Kafka Granite’s largest customers. More importantly, Kafka Granite is a nationally recognized leader in the specialty aggregate industry as well.
    As time passed, Glenn visited other quarries and conferred with geologists to locate as many colors of decorative stone as possible. Now he transports this material via rail and truck from sites throughout the U.S. and Canada to his aggregate crushing operation near Mosinee, WI. Much of that material is stockpiled so as Kafka receives an order for a particular color, those rocks are available and ready for processing.

    Product Quality Control from Quarry to Customer

    “As a producer,” explained Glenn Kafka, “we are able to monitor the quality of the product from the beginning to the end — from blasting the rock in the quarry, to the manufacturing process, to delivery of the finished product. We direct it through the crushing and screening process to meet exact specifications. Then, we store the product until it’s delivered to the customer. If an order calls for dried materials, the aggregate is dried following the crushing process. From there, it is bagged and stored under cover.”

    “While most of our products are sold in bulk, some is packaged in 3000-pound Super Sacks®. We also bag it in 50 pound bags for easier handling. In either case, we strive to deliver a clean product,” he said.

    Crushers for Very Hard Rock

    Kafka Granite currently has two crushing and screening lines, which allows them to crush two different colors of aggregate at the same time. Surprisingly, to keep up with demand, the crushing lines work straight through the frigid sub-zero Wisconsin winters.

    “The main crushing line’s primary is a 36 by 42 Universal jaw crusher and our secondary and tertiary jaws, are Trios,” he began. “We have a triple roll crusher-screener.” Additionally, the main crushing line includes a Torgerson horizontal impact crusher, a Rosecamp roll crusher, a Stedman cage mill, several foreign-made jaws, a Svedela 6 by 16-foot incline final screener as well as a Midwestern Vari-Vibe Screener.”

    Glenn said for his second crushing line, he chose a Canica crusher with a Telsmith Level Flow Screener. “All our conveyors and feeders were made by Kafka Conveyors,” Glenn added. (Kafka Conveyors & Equipment is owned and operated by Glenn’s younger brother Jim Kafka whose innovative skills have helped him fabricate specialized equipment for Glenn’s operations.)

    Color-Matching Samples and Adherence to Specs

    Kafka’s sales team deals with architects and manufacturers who frequently request custom sized or color matched materials from Kafka’s collection of more than 60 naturally colored products. When the customer’s request is for something not in the sample “files,” Glenn’s son Chris, 28, occasionally uses a small lab-sized crusher to produce small samples for the customer’s testing and approval.

    “The sales team sends me a list of sample colors and sizes their customers would like,” Chris said. “Then I try to match them. When a customer approves a sample, I retain a sample permanently, so if they ever want more, I know what they are looking for,” Chris explained. “We even color-match existing structures, some of them as much as 60 years old.”

    When he’s not making up and sending out samples, Chris makes sure that every product that leaves the plant meets or exceeds specifications. That includes color checks as well as a “sieve analyses” to determine the percent of each particle size in the mix. “My sieves measure particles down to talcum powder size,” Chris explained. “If there is too much fine material in the sample, I’ll tell the crusher operators to slow down a little, so fewer fines are produced.”

    Glenn’s focus on meeting or exceeding specs, every time, is a primary reason that Kafka Granite’s colored aggregate are found in innumerable architectural and landscape projects across the US and in many foreign countries.

    Specialty Aggregate Products

    Kafka Granite supplies more than 60 different colors of crushed granite, quartz, marble, and recycled materials used in architectural and decorative precast concrete products. Kafka’s aggregates are also popular for use in epoxy resin products such as manufactured quartz countertops, epoxy resin tiles and terrazzo flooring. The company’s ability to crush and package a clean, dry, and consistent aggregate product makes it a popular supplier to epoxy resin product manufacturers throughout North America.

    Epoxy overlay applications, like high-friction surfacing, is another use of Kafka aggregates. This material makes driving safer on bridges, overpasses and sharp curves. Kafka also promotes their epoxy overlay aggregates for Streetscape applications, offering both an enhanced decorative element to preexisting hardscape, and a safer, non-slip surface for pedestrians.

    “These surfaces save lives,” said Glenn. “We adjust to each state’s individual specs on size and hardness. Two of the hardest granites we have, which are used for this purpose, are our Platinum Granite and Black Gabbro.”

    Pathway and Ball Yard Materials

    Nearly all of Kafka Granite’s crushing by-products can be re-screened for the use in other products. For example, parks, municipalities, businesses and homeowners who want driveway and pathway areas that will drain water naturally (unlike pavement), can choose from natural decomposed granite and crushed stone screening material that comes in 40 different colors. It can enhance and beautify their properties, while providing stable footing.

    Kafka Granite’s Standard Pathway material is screened to 1/4 inch, with a certain percentage of fines mixed in for better firmness and footing. It compacts well to offer a firm, yet natural surface. For a more resilient pathway surface, they offer a pre-blended aggregate with a natural organic binder, which creates a Stabilized Pathway surface.

    “Not all binders work as advertised,” Glenn explained. “We’ve found through our experience that different aggregates, climates and designs can determine the performance of a specific binder. That is why we offer different options. These include Stabilizer Solutions and Organic-Lock products that help to insure the best possible finished product.”

    As a result, these stabilized aggregates have been widely used on nature trails, bike paths, golf course cart paths, in botanical gardens, driveways, and in many other applications where a more natural look and feel is desired. The mixture is water-activated, and is not complicated to install. Once installed, it requires minimal maintenance, maintaining its firmness but remaining porous.
    Their line of ball yard materials is similar in that it is a natural, decomposed granite, used for topdressing, infield mixes and warning track mixes. It works great for baseball and softball fields. They offer a standard line with options that include pre-blends of stabilizing binders or a water-shedding wax polymer that mixes with the decomposed granite to offer an even more resilient playing surface. These surfaces drastically reduce maintenance, dust and rained-out events, while offering players firm footing and consistent ball hops.
    Cleaned and Sized Wisconsin Granite Cobbles and Boulders
    In addition to specialty aggregates, pathway and ball yard materials, Kafka Granite supplies decorative stone to many Midwestern landscape yards and contractors. In addition to 20 colors of landscape stone mulch used as ground covering, Kafka Granite also supplies naturally round, glacially deposited, multi-colored Wisconsin Granite cobbles and boulders. These range in size from small, 4 to 6-inch cobbles to over six-foot boulders. They are used for landscaping, retaining walls, ponds, waterfalls and as accent pieces.

    In this process, Kafka Granite separates the Wisconsin Granite cobbles and boulders from the surrounding sand, using a Grizzly at a quarry site not far from the processing plant. They transport the cobbles and boulders to the processing plant, where they are cleaned and sized on a piece of machinery designed and built by Glenn and his brother, Jim. For more information on Kafka Granite, visit their website at www.kafkagranite.com.

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