You love carbon fiber. In fact, you love it so much that you have been holding out for carbon fiber counter tops in your new kitchen. Your significant other will have no part of it. Only marble counter tops will do. Will the two of you ever agree? Perhaps. But you might have to convince your significant other to go with carbon fiber manufactured to look like marble.
Marble offers a very unique look and feel. It is a particularly good material for kitchen counters because it is so tough. Unfortunately, genuine marble is also very expensive. Planning to add marble to a kitchen remodel means planning to spend a lot more. Carbon fiber is not cheap either, but a forged carbon fiber material designed to look like marble costs less than the real thing.
Woven vs. Forged Carbon Fiber
To understand how manufacturers make carbon fiber that looks like marble, you must first understand how carbon fiber materials are produced. The place to start is the more traditional carbon fiber material most people are familiar with. You recognize it by its signature woven pattern.
Creating a standard carbon fiber countertop would mean starting with layers of carbon fiber fabric placed into a mold and impregnated with epoxy resin. The fabric is a woven fabric, thus the pattern embedded in the finished product. What you are seeing is the fabric through the epoxy resin it was combined with.
Forged carbon fiber is made with a different process. In fact, you do not start with woven fabrics; you start with individual carbon fibers. These are combined with epoxy resin and placed in a mold. The mold is closed and compressed at high pressure to form the finished piece.
More often than not, forged carbon fiber is made with recycled material. Manufacturers take carbon fiber waste, shred and grind it into small pieces, and then combine it with epoxy resin before sending it to be molded. However, there are forged materials that are made with virgin fibers rather than recycled material.
Buffing Before Finishing
Now it is time to learn how manufacturers transform a forged carbon fiber material into something that looks like marble. It is actually not as hard as it sounds. Manufacturers take the finished part and buff it slightly. But here’s the thing: they don’t buff it uniformly. They buff it in random spots of different sizes.
Unfinished, the buffed material looks like a piece of plastic that has been scuffed by sandpaper. But cover the entire thing with a thick layer of shiny clear coat and you change everything. Now it looks like a genuine piece of marble – complete with all its imperfections.
Lift It with Your Bare Hands
A forged carbon fiber countertop made to look like marble is intentionally deceiving. So much so that it can be disconcerting to bend over and pick up one of these countertops. You would expect something so heavy that you couldn’t pick it up by yourself. And yet, you end up lifting it quite easily.
The engineers at Rock West Composites, a composite specialist in Salt Lake City, Utah, explain that this is the beauty of carbon fiber as a manufacturing material. It is incredibly strong but lightweight. It is more than tough enough to make everything from countertops to airplane wings.
You can get the look of real marble by applying a veneer over the top of wood counters. If that is too cheap for you, a forged carbon fiber material manufactured to look like marble is another option. It is strong, durable, lightweight, and beautiful.