From working on a custom staircase at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. to unique customer showroom displays, John Sandy has had many memorable moments in his 42-year career with L.J. Smith Stair Systems. The young man, who started working a rip saw at the company at the age of 20, now oversees the custom shop that handles high-end specialty work.
“On a daily basis I’m involved in creating displays, designing fixtures and building custom blanks,” says Sandy, a lifelong resident of Dover, Ohio. “Each day presents a new challenge, which is what has kept me here for so long. I enjoy how the industry keeps advancing. If you don’t change with it, you get left behind.”
An expert cutter, Sandy fills many roles at L.J. Smith. He recently served as the installation professional on a series of 12 new online videos for the company. He works on more than two dozen custom stairway systems each year. And, he creates unique showroom displays for the company’s customers.
“We recently finished a very large showroom display for a great customer that took four weeks to create due to all the intricacies,” says Sandy. “I’m also intimately involved in creating a variety of custom balusters, box newels, treads, handrails and risers for both residential and commercial projects. Sometimes this involves hand tooling because the routers can’t replicate what we can achieve by hand.”
A master stair builder and true craftsman, Sandy brings his hand-crafted touch to almost 4,000 orders every year. However, it’s not a solo effort. He works closely with the engineering team at L.J. Smith. His expertise allows him to quickly find any errors or points of concern when viewing a drawing. He then works with the team to finalize and bring the custom designs to life.
During his more than four decades with the company, one fact remains clear for Sandy. His favorite wood to work with is Ash. “There’s a sweet smell when Ash is cut,” says Sandy. “This is the wood baseball bats are made of … it cuts like Oak and is great to work with in the shop.
“Just give me a router, table saw and jointer, and I can build anything.”
While Sandy enjoys his work at L.J. Smith, he’s also involved in a variety of local activities during his off hours. He builds furniture in his garage at home, and donates pieces for local fundraisers, like Sole Purpose. The craftsman in him comes out when he volunteers at Habitat for Humanity, but he’s also just as comfortable filling in at the local food pantry.
“I’ll head into retirement sometime in the future,” says Sandy, who has been training his replacement for the past three years. “However, everyone fully expects me to head there kicking and screaming. Honestly, I’m really good at what I do here at the company, and I love doing my job!”
L.J. Smith products is owned by NOVO Building Products, the industry’s leading manufacturer and distributor of mouldings, stair parts, doors and specialty millwork,