He’s building heavenly stairways
Post Independent Staff
SILT – Ed Puckett says building boats is a lot like building spiral staircases.
“Both of them have curves,” said Puckett, owner of Mountain Stair and Trim Manufacturing, based in a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Silt. “And I’m drawn to curves like a magnet.”
Puckett has carved a unique career path for himself. Based on his passion for all things curved, the former boat builder has parlayed his talents into creating some of the most beautiful, custom curved staircases in Colorado.
Puckett said most of his work is based in the Aspen and Vail area – though he has a unique approach to building his staircases, which come in all sorts of shapes, from spiral to octagonal.
The staircases are typically built of wood, and many have custom metalwork crafted by Puckett, like aspen leaves made out of steel and incorporated into the banisters.
“We make our staircases here,” he said, standing on a wood platform in one corner of his shop. “Here we have 100 percent control. We build the treads, risers, balusters and handrails. After we’re finished, we pick up the entire staircase, and transport it directly to the site. It’s a much more efficient way to build, plus it’s cost effective.”
Expenses are usually not the biggest concern for Puckett’s clients.
One staircase, an intricately handcarved, helix-shaped beauty that took a year and a half to build, cost $185,000 – so far the most elaborate and most expensive staircase he’s created.
“It’s my pride and joy,” Puckett said.
Puckett said without fail, it’s “the woman’s decision” to have his staircases put into a home.
“It’s Scarlet O’Hara coming down the staircase,” he said. “It’s Cinderella on the stairs. Stairways are romantic.”
Puckett, who grew up in Kansas racing sailboats and dabbling in woodworking, studied engineering at Oklahoma City College before moving to San Francisco to teach sailboat racing. There he met master boat builder, shipwright Don Frederickson, on the docks. He apprenticed with the master boat builder for six years.
Puckett moved to Newport Beach, Calif., during the early ’80s, but didn’t like the traffic and crowds of Southern California, and moved back to Kansas. There weren’t a lot of yachts to build in Wichita, so Puckett started building furniture: custom armoires, entertainment centers, beds and elaborately carved wood tables.
All the while, Puckett was spending a lot of time skiing in Colorado – up to 50 days a season – so he and his wife decided to move to Denver. It was a trip Puckett made to the Western Slope that sold him on this area.
“I drove over the mountains west of Vail, and when I hit New Castle, I felt like I was home,” he said. “It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.”
Puckett set up a woodworking shop in his New Castle garage at first, but soon needed more space when word started spreading about his one-of-a-kind staircases. Now, he has two full-time employees and hires two contractors to help with installations. He says he needs another 3,500 square feet of space to accommodate his job load.
And though Puckett lives with his wife and two daughters in a house without a grand staircase, at Riverbend, he’s quick to explain why he thinks highly of the wealthy people who hire him to create wooden works of art for their big homes.
“I worked for a man who built a monster house,” he said. “It was probably 16,000 square feet, and cost about $20 million and took three and a half years to build. Building a house of that size and quality is one of the most important things he could do for his fellow man.
“Think of the thousands of people – literally thousands – he employed building that house,” Puckett continued. “From the loggers in the forest to the guys in the quarry, from the guys who mixed the cement to those who poured the foundation. Thousands of families benefited from that house. If you have piles of gold sitting around, no one benefits, but if you build a house like this, it supports many, many people and holds its value.”
Puckett also said that large, elaborate homes help keep certain artforms, such as metalworking, masonry and woodworking, from fading.
“Without these homes, a lot of craftsmanship would die,” said Puckett. “These homes keep the artistry of these trades passed down through the generations.”
Mountain Stair and Trim Manufacturing is located at 502 Front St., Silt, 876-0685.
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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