"Technology Puts a New Face on Old Industry"
(The Old Recorder, March 2001)

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These days at least one local stone yard has more to offer than flagstone, strip stone and moss rock. Just drop by Western Stone on Ute Highway in Lyons and see the assortment of new products the old stone industry is turning out.

The sandstone furniture catches the eye of tourists and townspeople alike. Perhaps you've noticed the benches outside the Old Lyons Recorder on Main Street. Western Stone not only produces picnic benches, chairs, tables, planters and sundials to be used outside, but also coffee tables and dining tables for formal settings indoors as well.

Paul Frysig, who with Mike Whipp, bought the business from John Fitts last July, sees many more innovations on the horizon.

"We want to get the industry out of the 1930s and bring it into the 21st century," he said.

The Westernback Diamond Saw, newly invented by Frysig, enables him to cut Lyons sandstone to the extremely tight tolerances demanded for brass seams and to meet European specifications. With patents pending on this machine (and many of his furniture designs as well), he has been manufacturing them locally and has sold about two dozen. Mistequay on Fifth Avenue provides the machined parts; larger parts are produced at a fabrication shop in Platteville. Final assembly takes place on the premises of Western Stone.

A trailer that tilts and uses rollers to slide off pallets is yet another brainchild of Frysig's. Four computer systems on the site help him translate ideas into reality.

"Using computers has always come easy to me," Frysig said.

Most recently, computers have helped him apply laser technology to the ancient art of stonecutting.

"We've always been able to cut outside corners; it's the inside corner that's been hardest to cut," he said.

Water lasers now enable him to create patterns on his computer and download them to CMW, who cuts them quite neatly into the face of sandstone slabs. Check out the new sundials with points of the compass cut out and the filled with granite inserts.

In 1994, the Old Lyons Recorder reported a new sandstone product originally developed by local residents Steve Kelling of Colorado Precision Optics. He applied technology and machinery used for grinding lenses that measure the vast distances of outer space, to create polished sandstone tiles. Often the super smooth surfaces reveal a marble-like pattern.

Kelling's polishing machine now belongs to Western Stone. The polished tiles go into formal settings, usually on the walls of office buildings, as counter tops, veneering or wherever an ultra smooth finish is in demand.

Frysig ships his sandstone furniture and other new products from Vermont to California, and overseas to France and Italy. You will also find some fascinating imports at Western Stone; white and black stone from China and pumice stone from Juarez, Mexico, hand carved into exotic-looking vessels of all shapes and sizes. They have granite from Wyoming, limestone from Texas and a sienna buff sandstone from Oklahoma.

Like many other stoneyard owners in town, Frysig can trace his family's involvement in the industry back three generations. His grandfather left Copenhagen, Denmark at the age of five. He first came to Lyons as a switchman on the railroad. Later he worked in the quarries.

Paul Frysig was born in Lyons, his father drove trucks for Loukonnen Bros., and John Fitts. After spending most of his childhood in Indiana, the younger Frysig came back to Lyons on his own at 16. He supported himself through his high school years by washing dishes in restaurants and picking moss rock.

Finally Fitts took him under his wing, teaching him the stone business from the ground up. Frysig passed his own knowledge on to Lynn Randolph, who ran Western Stone in the latter years of Fitts' ownership.

Meanwhile, Frysig was getting an education at various schools including ITT and Denver Community College. As a mechanical engineer at Baseline Industries, he designed gas chromatographs and total hydrocarbon analyzers. Later, he performed contract work for Ball Aerospace, Texaco and Shell, and designed houses for building contractors including the Eagle Canon subdivision.

An advocate of educating the consumer, he has Internet web sites and has made several "How To" videos on various aspects of sandstone construction.