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  • Maple Stairs in New Construction

    a friend of mine is building a new house and has asked me build the stairs, finished maple.

    ive finished plenty of stairs, capping stringers, scribe trim to the the walls etc etc, but ive never built closed stringer stairs from scratch, plenty of open stringer stairs though

    the framing carpenter is the same, plenty of open stringers, deck stairs, temporary stairs and so on

    our treads will be 1 1/8 hard maple, im gluing them up now. we intend to use 2 by spruce stringer material covered with 1/4 inch maple ply. 1/2 maple ply for the risers

    hints, tips are welcome, framer is well informed about the codes and the geometry and im a very picky finish carpenter

    stair well is actually very straight, tapers less than 1/4 inch over 12 ft, wall on one side ends at the third step going up, so 3 steps will be open on that side
    my shop is a beaver lodge
    steve, sarnia, ont




    1940's Craftmaster Lathe

    https://www.facebook.com/artistryinwoodca/
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  • #2

    Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

    As far as I'm concerned building a set of housed stringer stairs is the most satisfying job you can do in carpentry.

    There are a few tricks and 3 simple jigs that make the job easy. First is the router jig to plough out stringers, second is a glue block jig to make 45 degree glue blocks to reinforce the joint between the tread and riser. and a wedge jig to cut a full bearing hardwood wedge for securing the tread. I have all these jigs in my shop ...... somewhere. I'll make an effort to dig them out and post tomorrow.

    A few years back when I was training at the carpenters union I developed a single day stair building workshop with a fellow carpenter who apprenticed as a stair builder. I was a decent stairbuilder for a carpenter but his input really upped my game. It's all about getting a system .... I thought I had a good system before but apparently not so much. this information is hard to convey through the written work. It really is easy to show in a workshop but difficult to explain but I'll give it a try and hopefully it doesn't come out as gibberish.

    Just a few tips: Forget about the stairwell taper. One dimension across the width and give yourself lots of room to fit that stair in the stair well. You can deal with any gaps between the wall and stringer in the finishing. Even finished walls spread easily with a 2x4. A properly built housed stringer stair is like a torsion box .... stiff as hell. All you need is bearing top and bottom so if you're half an inch away from the wall it's not an issue, I like to put a couple of screws in mid span but it shouldn't be necessary

    When you're making your jigs make your wedge jig first then make the router jig for the stringer to fit the tread + wedge. It's easier than making a stringer jig then trying to make a wedge jig to fit. The wedge should be full bearing but stop before it interferes with the riser.

    Plough a dado into the tread one inch from the front to accept the riser and make it a loose fit. Figure out your tread width so the back of the tread lines up exactly flush with the front edge of the riser dado on the stringer. You can then glue and screw the bottom of the riser to the back of the tread and using glue blocks push the riser tight to the outside of the dado and staple through the tread so you get a nice tight fit. It's all on the underside so use lots of glue.
    Last edited by dave_k; 12-13-2018, 07:24 PM.

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    • #3

      Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

      IMG_0359.jpgIMG_0358.jpgIMG_0362.jpgIMG_0364.jpgIMG_0363.jpg
      This is my stringer jig. This one is made for 6/4 tread stock and 1/2" ply risers. Both are wedged with the same size wedge for both. Unfortunately I can't find the wedge jig to go with this but it's a simple wedge jig for a table saw.

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      • #4

        Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

        IMG_0360.jpgIMG_0361.jpg This is my glue block jig. Bacically a cant strip jig on a band saw. I use a strip of maple in the mitre slot and a clamp to hold it in place.

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        • #5

          Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

          thanks for all that dave, excellent information!!
          yes im sure that building a good staircase would be as satisfying as building a comfortable chair, done a few of those.

          the builder and his general contractor are planning several houses for next year, higher end homes and the best part is that the gc/framer also wants to learn the process

          he and i are going through all the math/geometry very carefully so we get it right

          im in the process of glueing up 14 hard maple treads, oversized in width and length right now.

          i will keep this thread going during the process

          today i will be making the jig(s), wedge stock and glue blocks

          the stringers will be clad with 1/8 maple ply and a cap will be made and scribed to fit during installation
          my shop is a beaver lodge
          steve, sarnia, ont




          1940's Craftmaster Lathe

          https://www.facebook.com/artistryinwoodca/

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          • #6

            Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

            Originally posted by stevem View Post
            yes im sure that building a good staircase would be as satisfying as building a comfortable chair, done a few of those.
            I would say stair building is to carpentry as chair building is to cabinetmaking.

            Great topic ..... this should generate some good discussion.

            I've always like to build my own stairs whenever possible even if it was cheaper to have a stair shop build them. It's not practical to do it all the time simply because of the time involved and I'm not really equipped to high end finished stairs but for me it's always been a guilty pleasure.

            When I was active as a contractor back in 2002 I had the privilege of being the finishing contractor on Roe's stairs facility in Mt. Brydges. They did amazing work in that shop. I could watch the guys building curved handrails all day. They worked at a station with three shapers and they were telling me that it wasn't uncommon to have a shaper up on a fork lift with a pair of chain falls holding it in two axis to get the right cutting angle. Even on a simple curved rail they would have the material 14' in the air to get the right cutting angle feeding it through the shaper.

            When I was with the carpenters union we used to build all the stairs for habitat. It was really good because we could teach guys who were interested how to build stairs in a production environment. Field carpenters get lots of experience installing stairs and building a few on site but few get to build them in a shop environment. I used to do the drawings and layout and I found there were a few rules of thumb pertaining to stairwell openings and headroom ..... unfortunately I haven't even though about it for years so those numbers escape me at the moment. I'm going to go through my files and see if I can 'rediscover' them. I was always impressed by the estimators for stair shops could tell me the RO for any stair with any ceiling height off the top of their head and I managed to derive that with a little experience drawing stairs .... but I've forgotten. ;-(

            I strongly recommend drawing out a section and getting it 100% on paper before building anything. Even though I do this every time I build a set of stairs I've still managed to get it wrong and have to go back and carve up the framing to get the right head room.
            Last edited by dave_k; 12-14-2018, 09:05 AM.
            Tim W C likes this.

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            • #7

              Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

              mt bridges? just a round the corner from me!!
              and now you're in fredericton?
              i grew up in f'ton and visit family there every summer for 6 weeks, mom and dad live in the shannex complex on the old trans canada highway(now prospect st) and e always stay at the campground on woodstock road(hartt island)
              lots of ols high school friends in and around f'ton, i graduated fhs in 1974, unb in 79
              my shop is a beaver lodge
              steve, sarnia, ont




              1940's Craftmaster Lathe

              https://www.facebook.com/artistryinwoodca/

              Comment


              • #8

                Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                i'm originally from Saint John, left in '77. Spent most of my career in London but escaped the rat race and moved to Freddy (actually Douglas with a view of the Grand Pass at Sugar Island) a couple of years ago for the run in to retirement. I can see the palm trees of Hartt island campground through my binocs so next time you're there give me a wave.;)

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                • #9

                  Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                  I love wood and I love hardwood stairs too but as we get older they sure are dangerous. Good luck!
                  "Do it Right!"

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                  • #10

                    Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                    Originally posted by dave_k View Post
                    i'm originally from Saint John, left in '77. Spent most of my career in London but escaped the rat race and moved to Freddy (actually Douglas with a view of the Grand Pass at Sugar Island) a couple of years ago for the run in to retirement. I can see the palm trees of Hartt island campground through my binocs so next time you're there give me a wave.;)
                    funny to hear someone say they can see palm trees in freddy!! fake of course.

                    we've stayed there many times. we'll connect and meet up next summer
                    my shop is a beaver lodge
                    steve, sarnia, ont




                    1940's Craftmaster Lathe

                    https://www.facebook.com/artistryinwoodca/

                    Comment


                    • #11

                      Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                      This is the view out my window looking down the Saint John river taken with my phone at max zoom. You can't make out the palm trees without binocs but that's Harrt's Island campground on the far bank.

                      IMG_0365.jpg
                      Hope to hear from you next summer

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                      • Thread Continues Below...

                      • #12

                        Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                        If it was me, I would build notched stringers and then attach a maple 1x to the outside edge - giving it the look of closed stringers.

                        Notched stringer stairs are still plenty strong, especially when you tie the risers into the tread above with a few pocket screws.

                        The veneer on 1/4” maple is not thick and stairs take a lot of abuse.
                        I would be concerned about longevity with the method you’ve described.

                        Or find maple to make the closed stringers out of.

                        Nathan

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                        • #13

                          Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                          i know where you are!! i worked in a lot oif new houses up in that area in mid/late 70's, summer jobs with concrete and drywall contractors
                          poured truck loads of concrete basement and garage floors and sanded acres of drywall compound!

                          a lot up the hill west of the "little volcano" on sunset drive.

                          back to the stair case!

                          its a straight run between two walls except the last three treads are open ie wall ends on the right side, so there we are switching to an open stringer and the treads will be 4 inches longer to accomadate a short handrail with newel post and spindles

                          last tread just got glued up, 13 in all, 3 are longer for the mentioned open section. we want to add a breadboard end nosing to those last three treads, we dont like end grain bull nosing. we may add a glued on nosing with a mitred corner for those last three treads
                          my shop is a beaver lodge
                          steve, sarnia, ont




                          1940's Craftmaster Lathe

                          https://www.facebook.com/artistryinwoodca/

                          Comment


                          • #14

                            Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                            so quick question, what are the dimensions for the tread wedge that you like to use?
                            my shop is a beaver lodge
                            steve, sarnia, ont




                            1940's Craftmaster Lathe

                            https://www.facebook.com/artistryinwoodca/

                            Comment


                            • #15

                              Re: Maple Stairs in New Construction

                              Pitch I use is about 3/8 in 10. You nailed it ..... we're just west of Curries mountain on the hill overlooking the channel between Sugar Island and Eqpahak Island.

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