Brief in counters: David Coster talks to Steve Vanhinsbergh of stoneCIRCLE
David Coster, Director of Advanced Stone & Masonry Supplies, which sells Stain Proof and Tenax products, talks to Steve Vanhinsbergh, who, with his brother Jeff, heads stoneCIRCLE, a leading stone company in the South of England.
Dave: Natural stone, quartz, porcelain/sintered stone?
Steve: Natural stone every time. Because it’s unique and because I’m a stonemason. At least, I identify as a stonemason in these modern times, so, yes, for me it is stone all the time.
Dave: Do you accept work straight from the CNC or do you prefer hand finishing?
Steve: It has to be hand finished. We are craftsmen. Hand finishing is the way we have always done it and always will because that’s the quality of the product we like to put out.
Does that extend to templating or do you prefer digital templating?
We are completely digital. We much prefer digital templating purely because that’s what you need to drive the machines. We’re good at it, it’s quick and I have still got templates for jobs we did nearly 10 years ago on the system, which you don’t have with a physical template.
It makes it easier to get templates to the factory if you are working away as well?
We work mostly in the Thames Valley / South East, but we go up to Sheffield. We have jobs in Birmingham. We have got one in the Isle of Man. We will go anywhere if the job is right. But mostly we work in the Thames Valley and the South.
Have you made any investments in the business lately?
We put a GMM Litox saw in last year and I’m throwing up an old Alpi block saw, just because it was offered to me and I thought: yes, that might add a little bit of extra to us. If something comes along we will give it a go.
Are you making moves towards improving sustainability and reducing carbon to help reach Net Zero by 2050?
We have solar panels on the roof, which produce about 40kW. We recycle our water all the time. All our waste goes for crushing to be recycled. So we are doing as much as we think we can, but there’s obviously always more we could do.
You predominantly work stone, so you don’t have problems disposing of quartz, I suppose?
Yes, we use mostly stone. We separate out other materials, but its mostly stone – it goes into foundations. When we built our new 2,500m2 workshop here in 2015 some of our recycled stone went into its foundations.
We hear on the news issues about inflation and the cost of living. Has that impacted you?
Most of the cost of living crisis is being driven by the staff, to be honest, because everyone is struggling.
Have you seen many price increases from suppliers?
Yes. They have been regular for the past two years. We have just tried to absorb some of them and some we’ve had to pass on. It makes life a little bit more difficult than it was.
You will have seen that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Respiratory Health has published an up-date of its 2020 report on silicosis this year. Is silicosis something you are addressing?
Our guys have their hoods, dust booths and everything. We do our best to keep it down.
Because you are working mostly stone you probably don’t have the same problem as working engineered quartz?
We work everything wet. It gives you a better finish anyway, but it suppresses most of the dust.
Are you a member of the Worktop Fabricators Federation (WFF) or are you planning on joining it?
We’re not members at the minute, but it’s always a consideration. When I have more time in my life perhaps I’ll join.
Have you noticed any trends in the materials you are using?
Marble worktops are definitely making a come-back. More and more people want natural marble, which is great because that’s what I like and where we excel. That’s at the upper end of the market. The bottom end is still full of cheap quartz, sadly.
Are you optimistic about the future?
I think it’s OK, you know. With the mix of products we do the future seems to be fairly rosy. We probably get more enquiries than we can price, so it’s a question of choosing the right projects for us.
StoneCIRCLE has done some spectacular work. Can you tell us about any of the projects you are currently working on?
No, they’re all a little bit under the table. But we have a lot in the pipeline and new stuff coming through all the time, including cantilevered stairs. There’s some interesting projects coming through, so watch our socials and our advertisements.