Mauchline (Uk) (AFP) –
In a manufactory outside Ayr in southwest Scotland, James Wyllie carefully lifts and caresses a curling stone, too-used drilling and polishing machines grind in the background.

The 40-pound (18 kilogram) stone is fabricated from unique granite rock harvested on Ailsa Craig, about 16 kilometres (10 miles) over a wild stretch of ocean to the west of the mainland.

Wyllie, 72, is the retired possessor of Kays Curling, which has been making curling stones since 1851 and has the exclusive right to harvest granite from the remote volcanic island.

The stones from his mill will exist used at the Beijing Winter Olympics, which first with a mixed doubles outcome between Great Great britain and Sweden on Wednesday.

“Ailsa Craig for probably almost 200 years now has been a unique source of granite for curling stones,” Wyllie told AFP at the mill in Mauchline, 12 miles from Ayr.

“At that place has been no equivalent type of granite plant anywhere else in the globe so far which is suitable for the purpose of a crimper stone.

Production supervisor John Brown works on a stone in the workshop at Kays Curling in Mauchline - they are made of granite from a volcanic island that lies off Scotland's west coast
Product supervisor John Brown works on a stone in the workshop at Kays Crimper in Mauchline – they are made of granite from a volcanic island that lies off Scotland’s westward coast

“There have been ane or 2 other sources tried with varying degrees of success only none of them has proved to be about as good as the Ailsa Craig rock.”

‘Paddy’s Milestone’

Ailsa Craig is known to locals as “Paddy’s Milestone” for being a resting spot across the body of water between Glasgow and Belfast.

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It was a haven for Catholics fleeing persecution by Protestants during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century.

Today it is uninhabited, serving as a nature reserve for colonies of gannets, puffins and seals, which watch over the granite quarries.

Kays Curling, which harvests the rock intermittently, has been involved in providing curling stones for the Wintertime Olympics since the Chamonix Games in 1924.

The quarries hold two types of granite ideal for the sport, which is believed to have first been played on iced-over ponds and lochs in Scotland effectually 500 years ago.

Blueish Hone not-porous micro-granite, formed by volcanic eruptions 60 meg years ago, has depression water absorption, which prevents repeatedly freezing water from eroding the rock.

Ailsa Craig Common Light-green is more than resistant to estrus transfer, helping information technology to cope ameliorate with condensation and it does not splinter after contact with another stone in play.

The Blue Strop insert — which is the part of the curling rock that makes contact with the ice — is fitted to the Ailsa Craig Common Green rock body, in a technique called “Ailserts”.

The bottom surface of the stone has to be extremely hard equally ice can be very annoying, says Wyllie.

Durability is vital in a sport in which players slide stones beyond sheets of water ice about 150 anxiety (46 metres) long towards a target area of iv concentric circles.

Curlers sweep the ice in front of the travelling stones with brooms to assistance them reach the intended target.

Precision and harmony

Precision and the granite’s harmony with the water ice are everything.

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Even the slightest of bumps could hateful the rock slipping off course and the difference between a gold medal and bitter thwarting.

“The running surface of the stone can wearable out, believe it or not,” Wyllie says.

“And in addition to that it has to be impervious to absorbing moisture.

“If moisture from the ice gets into the surface of the stone, then eventually that can freeze and aggrandize and causes damage to the running surface.”

Kays Curling managing manager Jim English says the crimper stones are exported to 70 countries.

Need for stones, which each take five hours to produce, is growing, he says.

“Canada, America, certainly the Swiss, Austria and Europe itself,” he says of the market.

“But we sell every bit far as S America, all the way downward to South korea, Transitional islamic state of afghanistan and Nigeria.”

In the thousand outside the manufacturing plant, a brusk distance from the dwelling house once owned by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns, Wyllie inspects a row of rejected curling stones that are destined to be used as garden planters.

“I have no uncertainty crimper will grow in popularity afterwards the Beijing Olympics,” he says. “Demand for the stones is sure to be loftier in the months alee.”

As e’er, Wyllie will exist watching the curling events at the Winter Olympics closely.

“Curling is only as well much fun to miss,” he says with a grinning.