Growing up in Stone
For Matt Zafros, owner of Honed Surfaces, stone fabrication runs in the family. When Matt was 13, his father started a stone fabrication shop, and Matt spent summers in high school and college polishing backsplash and later running some of the machines. His dad had a YUKON® Bridge Saw in his shop, Matt’s first introduction to Park Industries®. One memory that still stands out to Matt came when he was about 18 and had to call into Park’s service department to fix a limit switch – a fix he knew nothing about at the time. Matt describes it this way, “Customer service was fantastic about walking me through each step in the process, about teaching me how to fix it. They were so patient and thorough.” It was in that moment that Matt knew if he ever had his choice of a brand of machinery, it would be from Park.
The Beginnings of Honed
In 2009, Matt moved to Dallas, Texas and started working at another company. It was somewhat of a difficult period in his career due to things out of his control, but despite the challenges, Matt focused on his reputation and his commitments he had with his builders. That focus and those relationships laid the groundwork for what would later become Honed Surfaces. And the majority of those same builders are still with him today.
In 2016, Matt was unhappy with the direction of his employer, and started planning to start a stone shop of his own. Then, Matt met David Horowitz, the owner of a big millwork company for a job he was doing. The owner was similarly dissatisfied with their situation, so the two started discussing the possibility of a partnership. Over the next year, they built a relationship, found a building, and purchased the equipment they needed – all Park equipment at Matt’s request – and in 2017, Honed Surfaces was born.
When asked why it had to be Park equipment, Matt’s answer comes easily and quickly. Matt shares, “I always knew that it would be Park. It’s all my father had, and the decision was reaffirmed for me any time I used any other machinery.”
The building that Honed was started in is about 16,000 sq. ft., bigger than Matt had initially planned, but its size afforded him the opportunity to design the flow of his shop in the most efficient way. This flow gave Matt some immediate returns on efficiency.
The layout of his shop wasn’t the only thing improving Matt’s efficiency. The Park equipment he installed – a YUKON® II, HydroClear™, and FASTBACK® II – all contributed to his improvements. One example is the auto miter and auto-cut features on the YUKON® II, which Matt loved. He recalls a large job for a hotel that he was able to complete (safely) in one day with Oliver, his 5-yr old son. The combination of the YUKON® II and the FASTBACK® II worked perfectly. Matt recalls, “The job was for 300 thresholds out of 1cm material. My son would grab them off the YUKON® II, bring the pieces to me, and I would feed them through the FASTBACK® II. With just the two of us, just my son – my five-year-old son – we were able to complete almost that whole job in a single day. That shows you what the FASTBACK® II can do.”
Matt continues, “I do commercial work, which is primarily miter work, so I don’t always need the FASTBACK® II. When we do 3cm, we’re finishing jobs in an hour, which is fantastic. The FASTBACK® II ended up being a great investment and fits well in my shop. When I think about the amount of time I’ve wasted hand-polishing splash… (laughs) After seeing what the FASTBACK® II can do, I can’t imagine not having it. It’s easily paid for itself.”
The Leap to Digital
Having grown up around the YUKON® and being so intimately familiar with the machine and its capabilities, Matt delayed making the digital leap. He and his partner had been talking about it when he attended a Digital Stoneworking Expo in Chicago and was introduced to the SABERjet™. It wasn’t until later, at a TISE show, that he hit his tipping point. Matt recalls, “We went to TISE, and my partner wanted to look at competitive equipment – we looked at a bunch, but the whole time I knew it wasn’t going to change anything – I wanted Park. They helped change how I thought about processing parts, and next thing I knew I was at a nearby shop to see a SABERjet™ run. I knew we would get one, so when I got a call about the upcoming release of the SABERjet™ XP, it was an easy choice.” Matt’s leap to digital included a crane system, Slabsmith, and Pathfinder™ in addition to the SABERjet™ XP – many great enhancements that would transform the way he fabricates.
Matt’s SABERjet™ XP 5-Axis CNC Sawjet was installed at the end of 2019. At first, going digital was a bit overwhelming, but Park was there to ease him through the transition. Matt says, “At first, I didn’t know where to start. Park was terrific though – training was awesome, and it gave me a great amount of confidence.” When asked about the improvements he’s seen since installing the SABERjet™ XP, Matt shares, “It’s just so fast! My sales revenue has increased by 50% and my labor costs have stayed flat. I just couldn’t stop smiling! The fact that my sales went up that much is absolutely because I added the SABERjet™ XP. The saw runs so smoothly, I really can’t keep the thing fed to be honest. With three guys fabricating and one guy sawing, I’m finishing over 8 slabs per day – all with mitered drop edges! My crew is exactly the same as it was last year. That blew my mind. The saw is that fast, and I’m always learning new tricks that it can do.”
Mitered work courtesy of the SABERjet™ XP & Honed Surfaces
Matt describes the work they do at Honed as “custom commercial.” There are a lot of straight edges and mitering. In the 7 or 8 months since purchasing the SABERjet™ XP, Matt continues to increase the speed at which he fabricates and keeps identifying new ways to improve. He says, “I like to keep testing the machines, to see what they can do. I love learning about what’s possible.”
Challenges in the market continue to present, but Matt confidently meets each one. A recent example is slab size – they keep getting bigger – but he has still been able to run everything on his Park equipment. The emergence of porcelain is another, and Matt has been able to cut everything he has needed to, already finding ways to improve his cut time.
Another way that he has been expanding their efficiency is to push as much work as possible to the machines. Matt describes it like this, “I try to do everything I need to on the machine. Sometimes my guys will suggest doing small parts by hand, but I know that the machine can do it. It’s been able to do everything I need it to do, and we keep getting faster at it. I don’t want my installers doing any of the work in the field. We’ve only got four guys in the shop, but we’ve been able to do everything here – the installers just put it in place!”
Advice for Others
The benefits of being a SABERjet™ XP owner are obvious for Matt. The improved speed and added capacity alone are huge improvements over his previous, manual process. He encourages others to consider making the transition to digital too. Matt says, “Especially for smaller shops, it’s invaluable. The amount of time and shop labor it saves is worth it right off the bat. It seems like a big price tag, but it’s worth it. With the SABERjet™ XP, the sky’s the limit for us. I’m able to make my customers so happy with fast turnaround times, and my business is just skyrocketing right now! It’s hard to actually put into words how much that saw has changed my shop. No job is too complicated any more. Everything is easy now.” Matt goes on to share what he loves about his FASTBACK® II. “It’s easy and it’s fast. Nobody has to worry about polishing splash. In the time it takes someone to clamp a piece down and get it ready to polish, the FASTBACK® has it done already. It’s just great!”
Being a Park shop has never been a question for Matt, having grown up with his dad’s YUKON® and having never experienced anything less than exceptional service. When asked why it matters for others, Matt concludes by saying, “The equipment is great – I’ve never had an issue with it that Park couldn’t fix.”
He concludes, “All machines can have issues, but no company gets them taken care of like Park. The biggest reason I would recommend Park, is the service. Next day parts and prompt, helpful technicians – they really are second to none.”