A while ago we heard from Tasos Vardopoulos in Athens, who told us about his wooden stair designs and construction process. We were incredibly impresses by the quality of his work and wanted to share it with everyone in the Wood Designer Community.
Here are Tasos’s remarks:
My family has been making wooden stairs since 1905. I was attracted to this craft since my childhood and I have always wanted to be a craftsman.
My wooden stairs can be found in private homes but also in the Benaki Art and Cultural Museum. The timber that I use for constructing the stairs are alway of excellent quality. This is a very important point for me.
All my stair parts are made using high quality hardwoods. This ensures that surface wear is minimal and the stair will last for many generations. Each and every one of my wooden stairs is completely built using traditional handtools.
I always use the tools I inherited from my ancestors but I am also always trying to discover any old handtool from decommissioned craftsmen in order to enrich my collection of old classic hand tools [about 1350 pieces].
Discovering new (old) tools allow me to remain faithful to tradition and enable me to feel the past generations that have worked and pasted on their lives to us. All applied Arts have their secrets which pass from generation to generation and the objects that have been pasted down to us are full of those secrets.
Modern Techniques can help with the construction of a stair, but I consider that the Art of hand made wooden stairs is closer to sculpting than mathematics. For this reason I am convinced that no technique can bring a staircase to perfection if the craftsman does not possess the feel of a sculptor . It is also certain that good taste cannot be taught but is rather a matter of culture and constant effort. That is why I consider myself to be a constant student who keeps trying day in day out to do my work in the best possible way.
The volume of a staircase makes moving it quite difficult so it must be constructed in such a way that it makes it easy to disassemble and assemble again. I made one type of stair that had never been built in Greece before. In this case I was asked not to put spindles between the helicoidal string and handrail. The helicoidal string, the handrail and the balustrade were replaced by one solid piece of wood 1.10 m tall which had to be carved and twisted parallel to the direction of the stair. This stair was very heavy and had to be built in smaller parts assembled on site. There might be other constructions that give the illusion of a piece of wood twisting around the steps to protect the staircase but there are not many made from a solid piece of wood.
I am fifty-six years old and I have been working and living since 1973 in a suburb of Athens in Helioupolis.
Unfortunately I am the last one of our family carving helicoidal wooden stairs at this time. The hand arts in Greece and also around the world as far as I know are declining and less and less people are interested in make a living out of this craft. One of my future goals is to teach my craft to future generations.
In Greece however there is no institution or school that proposes stair carving in its courses. For this reason I am now trying to find work in teaching outside of Greece…….
Click here to see more of Tasos’s work. Please let us know if you are aware of an avenue through which Tasos can pass on his teaching to a wider audience.