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Funeral home buys new tool, passes down savings to clients

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Kline Funeral Home of Pine River and Pequot Lakes recently purchased a computer controlled laser etching machine for etching monuments. Having the device on site could save clients as much as 25 percent of what they would pay otherwise.

Jay Kline, funeral home owner, bought the machine for roughly $30,000 about six weeks ago. Kline’s is one of few funeral homes in the state to own a laser etching machine for etching monuments. Most other funeral homes have their black granite monuments etched by outside monument companies.

“There may be one or two in the state that make monuments in-house, but most of the funeral homes in the state of Minnesota have that work done elsewhere by a monument company where we now have the ability to do it in-house,” Kline said.

By etching monuments in-house, Kline cuts out the middle man, saving money, but also producing headstones at a rate much faster than businesses that only make monuments.

“We can have it in the cemetery probably within two to three weeks compared to two to three months with a monument company, and since we do it here the cost is less than us working with a monument company with everybody taking a little piece of the pie. We can buy the granite wholesale, make it, put it in the cemetery, and save families quite a bit of money,” he said.

Kline and his wife, Jacki, begin by consulting with the family. They then process an image for the monument, which can be as simple as names and hearts or as complex as a landscape or photo. Next, they seek the family’s approval.

“Once it’s written in stone, that’s the way it is. That’s why we work on paper first,” Jay Kline said. “Some families decide right away that it is what they like. Other times they might change and it goes on and on and you might have eight to 10 hours in instead of two to three.”

If the family approves the design, the black granite monument is etched. The etching can take as little as 10 minutes. Creating the design can take two to eight hours depending on the complexity and whether the family approves it the first time.

Even if a family does not approve of a design the first time, granite slabs take a week to deliver. By the time it arrives, the design is ready.

The machine Kline bought is labeled as an all-purpose laser, though for the time being the company will likely only etch granite monuments, granite memorial picture frames and urns.

Business might expand in the future to include other items, such as memorial Christmas ornaments.

If clients ask for a memorial that is bigger than 40 inches by 24 inches, Kline will still have to hire an outside service to complete the job.

“Most standard double monuments are 36 by 18 to 20 inches,” Kline said. “I don’t think in 25 years I’ve ever sold a monument that wouldn’t fit in here.”

Furthermore, monuments made of materials other than black granite require a different method of production and, therefore, would also be processed outside of the company using processes such as sand blasting.

“This is so clean and so safe. It doesn’t produce any dust. It doesn’t make as much noise,” Kline said.

Kline said laser etching allows more detail to be visible than sand blasting, such as fur, leaves or feathers. Certain parts on the laser etching machine have an estimated 10,000 operating hours before needing replacement, at which time replacement parts can cost about $1,500.

“If you run this for 10,000 hours you probably don’t mind,” Kline said.

The etching machine can also be used for small monuments for family pets, while photos can also be added to existing monuments as well.