Monday, July 29, 2013

A Staircase Saga, Part 5: The Winders.

With the Big Flight and the Short Flight in place, it was time to make and fit the two sets of Winding treads which take the staircase around the two corners.
The positions of the lower winders, as marked on the full scale drawing.
The positions of the upper winders, as marked on the full scale drawing.
Chopping the housings for the treads and riser boards on the appropriate angles and positions was a tricky job, which I had done before assembling the posts in the Short Flight.
The nosings and riser board behind were fitted, then the next pair below.
Nosings with floorboards behind were to be used rather than full solid treads, as the widest tread would be 550mm (22") at the widest point - much too wide due to potential movement. So nosings were made with a rebate at the back to take the floorboards to be used to complete the triangular treads. This would be a more stable construction methodology.
Using my trusty No. 5 1/2 jack plane to clean up and fit the angled rear faces of the nosings where they meet the riser boards behind. 
The support structure goes in for the lower winders. I did a lot of time under there! Ow, my back!
The angled props taking shape under the lower winders.
The lower winders emerging from the lower newel post. Lookin' good!
The top Winders being fitted. They'll link the Big Flight to the Short Flight.
The bottom winders, with floorboards behind the nosings fitted and fixed.
It was great to get the two sets of Winders installed. They still need the trim fitted around the wall... and the handrail... and Treads 1 & 2.
At last, the staircase is usable - even though Treads 1&2 are yet to be made. That's the next challenge!

While a lot of work, I find building staircases is very satisfying indeed...

OK, time to contemplate the bottom two treads...

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Staircase Saga, Part 4. The Short Flight.

Some months after the Big Flight was installed, the time had come for the Short Flight to be added. Much had happened in that period, including the installation of the underfloor heating, the laying of the jarrah floor over the top, the building and defining of the new wall and the opening in the upper floor, the plastering and gyprocking of walls and ceilings, and more. With the plastering of the walls completed and now dry enough, I was looking forward to working on the stairs again.

This staircase will have two sets of winding treads, separated by a pair of normal straight treads - which I shall refer to here as the Short Flight.  Above the second set of winders will be the Big Flight. Below the first set of winders will be a couple of straight treads which will give a sense of "spilling out" into the hallway, wrapping around to meet the wall on either side of the staircase. Of course, then there's the handrail and the ballustrading upstairs! There's a way to go yet before this staircase saga is completed...

Back to the drawing board.
What a surprise! The actual measurements were checked against the original drawing, including the position of the tenon on the bottom of the Big Flight's inner stringer. This tenon would be fitted into the newel post which would be fitted around the wall in the opening of the wall.
The original full scale drawing.
Essential to the short flight is the three newel posts which are part of this component of the staircase. The drawing above shows the relationship between these posts, the wall through which the stairs pass, the two sets of winders, the big flight, and of course the short flight of two straight treads.

Making the newel posts.
The only way to get 90 x 90 mm jarrah is to recycle old verandah posts, obtained from Salvage yards.
Buried under layers of old paint, it is a lucky dip until the material is machined up.
Amazing how many nails and screws are lurking under the layers of paint on the verandah posts.
Two of the three newel posts required for this section will have a 30x30mm rebate out of them to fit around the wall snugly, through which the staircase will pass.
One part of the full scale drawing of the three newel posts and how they relate to the short stringer and the wall.
The Handrail.
A short section of handrail/balustrading will extend between the two lower newel posts. My customer found a profile she liked on a US website, so I did some experimentation to see if I could get close. I found I could get close starting with 60x60mm material, the table saw, and three different router cutters! This profile will be used for all of the handrails to be added later. I made the short section I would need for this short flight section.
The handrail profile... and how to make something close!
The balustrade panel.
Between the hand rail, the stringer and the posts either side, would be some balustrading. While discussing  the design possibilities, we hit on the idea of matching the original entry hallway woodwork adjacent to the staircase. Brilliant! I grabbed a piece of drawing paper and a ladder, and did a tracing of the original tulip panel.
The original decorative woodwork above the hallway.

Tracing the tulip panel
The tulip design was cut out and then used to draw around on the jarrah panel.
I don't use my scroll saw often, but it's great for jobs like this.
The panel was made! What a good idea. Time to put it all together.

Putting it all together.
Using the full scale drawing, all the components were cut to size and angle, the mortises chopped, the tenons cut, and every joint test fitted. Time consuming, but essential before doing a dry run cramping it all together. If it is all sweet, it will be disassembled and then glued up in situ.
All these angles are very tricky to cut and fit. I'd be lost without the full scale drawing to take measurements off.
These two posts straddle the wall. The narrow panel will hide the wall end between the posts. 
Looking good for the test fit.
With all the components and joints fitted, it was time to bite the bullet. Glue-up time, on situ.

The glue-up begins, That's the hole in the wall we are going through.
The short flight starting to take shape.
The short flight develops further.
Another view. That's the big flight up around the corner.
Another look. Yep, the tulip panel was a nice idea!
Gluing all this up was a huge job. The upper post had the big flight's tenon housed into it as well as the nose of Tread#11. It had to be fitted around the wall, and the treads and  a couple of risers put in place - as well as the balustrading/handrail, etc. All in all, I was very pleased the way it all came together.

The short flight was now in place. The next step would be to build the two sets of winding treads, which go either side of the short flight.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Staircase Saga, Part 3. The big flight.

The staircase I am building completes it's ascent with a big straight flight, with Tread Nos 11 - 20. The whole staircase will be a very functional and beautiful feature in an 1930's Art Deco home which is being renovated. Lucky me ...  I am blessed with the task of providing a significant amount of the carpentry, joinery, and cabinetwork within the building. It's such a privilege!

The planning process is outlined in an earlier post: A Staircase Saga, Part 2. Getting Started. Having done the planning, then bought and dimensioned the stringers, it was time to get stuck into building the big flight. This would be the first part of the staircase build, as it would determine the position of the opening on the top floor. It would need to be in place before the plasterers and gyprockers could do their thing and would become part of the structure of the building once everything had been built around it. It would be in place for some months before the rest of the staircase could be completed.  It was also going to be very heavy!

I started setting out the treads and riser-board positions on the stringers. With these drawn in place, I then made up a couple of jigs for the router to enable accurate housings to be consistently cut.
The tread housings were cut by the router using a purpose made jig.
The pair of stringers with tread housings completed.
A different purpose made jig was used for cutting the riser board  housings.
With all the housings cut, it was time to fit the treads and riser boards. 
Making the treads. The intention was always to recycle the old jarrah rafters from the original roof into the treads. The rafters were docked oversize, scrubbed with a wire brush, scanned with a metal detector and de-nailed as required. I then machined the material, flattened and dimensioned the sticks to 47mm thick and as wide as possible for each individual stick. Suitable wider boards from the roof timbers would be machined to create the riser boards, finishing at 18mm thick.
Rafter sections (right) cleaned up ready to be machined, and potential riser boards (left). 
Three treads simultaneously glued and cramped.
A 1/4" plywood spline, 25mm (1") wide, was inserted full length in each join in the treads, and epoxy glue was used for the joints. It worked out mostly at 3 rafter pieces per tread. When the glue was dry, these treads were machined to the required 45mm thickness.A finished tread depth (width) of 282mm was required for each tread. The riser board face sits 16mm (5/8") behind the  nosing of the tread, so I machined the required groove on the underside of the treads, ready to take the tongue (a barefaced tenon) on the top of the riser boards. The noses of  the treads were rounded over with a 1/4" radius rounding-over router bit.
With the treads, risers and stringers prepared, it was time to put it all together. Well, it was going to be too heavy to put together in my workshop and deliver to the site - so it was going to have to be assembled on site. Each of the joints was individually test fitted at my workshop, then all the components taken to the building site ready for assembly.
The test fitting of the treads and risers in full swing.
View of some tread ends, showing construction with plywood tongues in the joints.
Lookin' good... from the back of the stairs.
The big flight was glued and assembled on site, on a pair of sawhorses right below the opening in the floor above, and then two chain blocks I had rigged were used to lift the big beastie into place.
Much careful planning by way of a scale drawing of the wall.and floor joist structure at the top end, and the preparation of the top of the stringers had been undertaken during the construction of the stringers, which enabled the stringers to be parked on the top of the wall plate when the top flight was lifted into position. While getting it all up there was a challenge, it finally went beautifully into place. It was a winner! Props were placed and secured, to hold the lower end in position, and several fixings put into the wall through the underside of the stringer against the wall. A couple of bolts through the top of the stringers into the floor joists, and the big flight was in place.

The next step was to build the wall on the kitchen side of the big flight, joining the outer stringer to the floor joists and ceiling above. Below this stringer and the big flight will in be the mini-laundry behind doors. The big Blackbutt posts framing the laundry area would also serve as the props for the outer stringer.
The upper wall frame being built around the top flight.
The big flight was in place. Nothing else would happen on the stairs for a few months, until the other trades had completed all their work around the big flight and the openings top and bottom and through the wall.

Great to see once again how careful planning and preparation has once again paid off.
While I had plenty of other tasks to get on with around the building site, I would be looking forward to getting back onto the stairs again downs the track...