Concept to Birth – the life cycle of a staircase!
People often wonder what is involved in the construction of our staircases. Without giving away any trade secrets, I thought I would share with you an overview of the process that British Spirals & Castings go through when creating these masterpieces. Before a client’s individual staircase is created we like to ensure that they understand the process. This gives the client the opportunity to be as involved as they wish.
Once an order has been placed with us for a metal staircase, whether it be our Victorian range of spiral or straight staircases, or one of the more contemporary Modern Art Deco or LCC staircases with balcony, the life of the staircase always starts with the castings process.
All our castings are cast and fettled in our own foundry based in Stoke-On-Trent, using a high quality, British standard of aluminium. Aluminium ingots are placed into a furnace and melted down. The melting process start at 12am with the furnace scheduled to activate during the night so that it is ready for our highly skilled team of moulders when they arrive on site bright and early the next morning.
The patterns are then prepared and laid in a box of red sand. Small core holes are made to accommodate the aluminium which is carefully poured into the moulds and left to set.
Once the moulds have set, the boxes are tipped out and the raw castings passed through to the fettling team. They have the responsibility of dressing the castings which means finishing the casting to get rid of any raw edges and individual filing any filigree design in the treads.
Once the fettlers have finished with the castings, then they are divided into the individual jobs and sent to the manufacturing arm of the business in Chapel-en-le-Frith.
Whilst our castings team are hard at work, the staff at British Spirals & Castings headquarters continue to work with the clients and their contractors to finalise designs and produce fabrication drawings which all parties agree. It is also the responsibility of the team at British Spirals & Castings to ensure that all the steels and strings etc. have been ordered. This close working relationship with profilers and steel suppliers ensures that all the raw materials are in place ready for when the castings arrive.
Building the Cast Staircases
The ‘brand spanking new’ workshop at British Spirals & Castings is where the real creation begins. As soon as the workshop manager, Josh, has received the job sheets during his production meeting, he allocates preparation work to the rest of his team.
Adam A, (or ‘little Adam’ as he is commonly known) specialises predominantly in making all the frames whether out of angle or channel steels. Although Adam A can do any of the jobs required in making our spiral or straight staircases, his attention to detail and his enthusiasm for fabrication has meant that has taken the lead in the creation for landing plates and balconies.
Our apprentice Joel, begins getting all the handrails for the staircases ready for when the staircases are cut down and put up so that the final twist and helix can be put onto the handrail.
Our newest member of the team, Adam C, preps all the other bits necessary to ensure that when the staircase starts to be constructed, all the component parts are ready. This includes cut and drilling and tapping of all the balusters, the welding and preparation of strings if they are on a staircase, making sure all the spacers are prepared and then once all the jobs are prepped.
Then Josh, Adam C and Joel start to build the staircases. This involves cutting down of the individual treads, using the balusters to bolt the treads together and making sure that the staircase stands straight and square. All the balusters are added to again make sure that each one fits perfectly. Next, the handrail is added and the final twists made.
Once the team are satisfied that the staircase fits together properly, work then starts on making any landing balustrade that is required. Balustrades are made to exact measurements and the landing balustrade is marked up on the landing plate to ensure a perfect fit.
When the staircase is complete it is forwarded to our powder coating specialist, Ben, to apply the paint. We are able to powder coat our staircase in almost any RAL colour. The process starts with the aluminium castings being individually degreased and primed in our Agiwash, whilst any steel work is sanded down and manually prepared for the process. Once the cycle has completed the castings are washed down with cold water and hung on special racking ready for spraying. The castings are rolled into the spray booth where layers of a fine powder is then applied to the castings.
Ben has to check every individual castings to make sure that the right amount of powder has been applied and that there are no areas that are either too thick or too thin. The staircase parts are then rolled into an oven where the magic takes place. As the powder warms up it melts and due to an electrical current that the primer generates the powder turns to paint and cures itself to the aluminium and steel sections giving a smooth and durable finish to the product. Once the process is finished, the doors are opened and the staircase parts left to cool. One final check is made to ensure that the staircase is ready to be delivered. Then the staircases are packaged ready for delivery with either our own drivers or our national courier partners, TNT.
When the stairs arrive at their new home, they are then unpacked and assembled by local tradesman or DIY enthusiasts. Once installed our staircases stand proud in their resting place where they not only become a practical staircase, but a stunning feature in any environment.