Custom stair building is something of a dying art. It’s a true craftsman’s pursuit, a highly technical yet creative job, building the finely detailed centerpieces of high-end homes. Chase Bivona is a civil engineering student at the Northeastern University, who is doing a six months co-op programme in Melbourne, Australia. He smooths out the rough edges of a stringer, which is the foundation component of a staircase as a part of this programme. Twenty two year-old Bivona is from Exeter, Rhode Island and has traveled to the other side of the world to learn production and management techniques. He wants take his father’s 35-year-old custom stair building business, Hardwood Design Inc., to the next level.
According to Bivona, a stringer is one of the three major parts of a staircase. Stringers are like the beam underneath the stair, the treads are what we step on and the risers are the vertical pieces. The CNC machines cut this stuff. However, it ends up not being perfect. Thus, he works on smoothing out the rough edges in the corner of the triangles with a chisel to make it a perfect 90 degree. Building a stairway can take anywhere from a few days to six months, depending on the type of stairs required. It requires extreme precision, from transforming the architect’s plans into something practical and achievable, to measuring everything on site down to a fraction of an inch, then building the components in the workshop to transport and assemble on site.
“I’ve also been having a lot of business development conversations with the managing director and senior management staff,” he says. These conversations can prove the most valuable in taking forward his father’s business.
Bivona has spent the first two months in the workshop, but now is working in the front office and learning how to plan jobs using a 2D drafting software package called Autocad. For the final two months, he will learn to work on the computer numerical control machines.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman