In Westchester, Zinc Custom Counters

Richard Brooks got his start in custom millwork 30 years ago, restoring antiques and making cabinets.

He would eventually expand to create Brooks Custom in Mount Kisco, and to work in metal, glass, concrete and wood.  The business grew to 35 employees in 25,000 square feet, but the Great Recession took its toll.

“The blush came off the rose, the foam came off the beer, and the olive came out of the martini,” Brooks deadpans.

In other words, his employee count dropped to 28.

Still, the firm stays busy, working with zinc, zebra wood, walnut and glass for custom kitchens.  Though the walnut is by far the most popular material at the moment, zinc is on the upswing.

“It lends itself to countrified and rustic work,” he says.  “It’s friendlier to the touch than stainless steel, and it can be given rounded edges and a distressed look.  We make it high-gloss and then ding it up.”

The company purchases sheets of the metal from Germany, then cuts it, bends it, welds it and solders it, all in-house.  It’s then bonded to a waterproof core for countertops.

The material has been used for years in the raw bars of Cape Cod and the whaling towns of New England.  “It was thought to be bacteriostatic,” he says.  “It’s been proven to be anti-microbial – the staphylococcus bacteria die first there, before copper or stainless steel.”

Walnut is the material of choice for about 80 percent of the countertops he creates, applying a marine oil finish with spar varnish.  It’s a flexible finish that expands and contracts with the wood.  “It’ll go for decades,” he says.

He uses glass of varying thicknesses in a number of ways, including fusing a series of half-inch sheets cut to identical sizes, like a sandwich.  They’re then laid on a bed in a kiln and fired.  Six pieces will fuse to a one-and-a-half inch slab of solid glass, which then can be re-cut, polished and drilled for glass countertops.

“It’s a higher budget item – it’s not inexpensive,” he says.  “Of the three, walnut is the most popular.  We probably do thousands a year.”

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