Stepnell is a £79m turnover building and civil engineering business headquartered in Rugby which undertakes construction projects from £10,000 to £30 million in value. Established in the 1870s, the company is still a family-owned business which operates through a network of regional offices throughout central and southern England.
The company works across the private and public sector where it has developed a strong design and build culture. Project activities range from the delivery of schools, colleges and nurseries to commercial, industrial and solar park developments. Within the healthcare sector, Stepnell projects include hospitals, medical centres, care homes and doctors’ surgeries.
One of Stepnell’s key strengths is its ability to provide a complete construction and engineering service from within the company. This includes having its own dedicated joinery which is staffed by a team of eight highly experienced joiners and wood machinists and is equipped with a wide range of classical machinery.
The newest piece of equipment to arrive is a Viet twin-belt sander which has brought improved accuracy, a better finish and increased versatility to sanding operations.
Joinery manager Lee Grant, who has been with Stepnell since leaving school more than 30 years ago, says: “The Viet replaced an elderly sander with a single 900mm wide belt that needed too much spending on it to bring it up to scratch. The engineer from TM Machinery, who service all of our machinery, mentioned that they supplied Viet sanders, so I decided to take a look at them. I also checked out another make before concluding that the Viet was the far better choice.
“The new sander had to fit into a restricted footprint, which the Viet did easily due to its construction, and it was available at a better price which was an added bonus.”
The S211 model he bought is the smallest in the Viet artisan range, offering top sanding quality at an affordable price. It has a powerful 15kW main motor and comes with a range of options to make it suitable for a wide range of applications. Precise and functional, it can be equipped with a range of rollers and pads for calibrating and fine sanding timber, preparing the material for further processes.
All of the joinery’s considerable output is bespoke work and can range from door linings and door components to window frames, staircases, or any other items specified by the Stepnell Group. For example, a recent contract for a care home calls for the production of 66 hardwood box sash windows and nearly 400 door linings, all of which will go through the sander, which has twin 1100mm-wide belts.
The materials used include both softwoods and hardwoods as well as the occasional piece of MDF. Door linings and loose components are sanded after being planed down, while assembled components such as doors and window casements are given their final sanding.
“It’s a versatile machine which is delivering greater accuracy and giving a much better finish than we got before,” says Lee Grant. “Because the sander has wider belts we can now put through standard 926mm-wide doors, which are required for use in commercial areas. We could not do this with the old sander so the joiners had to use a belt sander on the bench, which was quite time-consuming.”
He adds that the twin belts lasted much longer than the single belt on the previous machine, giving a saving in replacement costs. “Another advantage is the way the compressed air functions. With the old sander it was constantly running so as to keep the belt in line, but the Viet is engineered so that this is not necessary, making it more efficient as well as being quieter.”
Joiner and wood machinist Tim Davenport is delighted with latest piece of kit. “It’s much easier to set up than the old sander, is a lot more accurate and nowhere near as noisy. All in all, it’s a pleasure to use.”
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