Visit to the underground quarry of Vassens French Limestone
On a recent trip to the area just north of Paris, I was invited to see the quarry and factory that produces Vassens limestone. The underground quarry has 250 kms of tunnels and makes for a fascinating tour.
There is fantastic limestone available from quarries all over France and this Vassens quarry is a great example of top quality stone that is perfectly suited for ashlar, cladding and carved stone.
The stone is similar to the world-renowned St Maximin stone and, like St Maximin, has been used on prestige projects in Paris and around the world.
One of the major benefits of this stone is that it has a very deep bed height, up to 10 metres. The benches (or layers) are very uniform and produce a very high quality stone.
The image above shows blocks of “6 sides sawn” Vassens ready for shipping to an international customer. Incidentally, the traditional method of packing Vassens (and St Maximin) was to pack it in straw. It is still used occasionally today.
There are three different stones produced from this quarry. The image here shows how the three seams differ slightly from each other. All are a pale creamy beige colour, quite similar to its near neighbour, St Maximin limestone.
The top piece in the image, Vassens Gris, has a coarser structure and some small voids in the stone. Second down, the Vassens Franc, has fewer holes and a denser grain. The bottom piece in this photo is Vassens Royal. This has a fine grain and uniformly dense and even structure. This can be vein cut or cross cut. The vein cut (with the bed) displays faint sandy bands running along its length.
As I mentioned above, one of the main advantages of this stone is that the bed height is very high – around 10 metres. In some projects, it is important that the compressive strength of the stone is maintained and therefore the stone has to be “bedded” as it was excavated from the quarry. The tall bed height means that the stone can be used in large pieces – for tall columns, for example.
The quarry’s own factory has a range of large block cutting saws and several CNC saws plus a tile line machine and stone lathes (useful for cutting balustrades and stone columns etc.) Their latest machine is the Fantini mobile block cutter (seen below) which cuts the raw blocks very efficiently and cleanly directly from the quarry face.
If you would like to see samples of the Vassens (or any other French limestone), please get in touch either by email or phone and I will be pleased to help.