|Project by PDK||posted 01-27-2013 11:46 PM||2076 views||1 time favorited||10 comments|
If the sliding-top box I built a few weeks ago was my “freshman effort,” these pet steps qualify as my “sophomore effort” here on LJs. Being very new to woodworking, I decided to get some practice with dovetail and half-blind joinery. The opportunity was afforded by virtue of our nearly 15 year-old Red Maine Coon cat, Cecil, who loves to watch the wildlife from the lookout windows in our lower level. Although he occasionally gets up to the 6-inch wide ledge that runs around the perimeter of the room by other means, these steps provide a much easier and more direct route.
The stair system was constructed entirely out of 3/4-inch red oak stock, so it’s plenty strong to support the big guy. In fact, given the tight tolerance of the dovetails, I’m willing to bet that a person could probably walk up the stairs without any issues – certainly not going to try though.
The stringers were created by 14 dovetail “squares.” One side of each “square” had the rabbet cut on the backside to allow for the pin board (I called this side “Side A” just to keep them straight). “Side B” was just a normal tail that would partially interlink with the “A Tails” of the adjoining board (see layout photo).
The most challenging aspect of this project was keeping all the pieces straight as the stringers required creating one set with the rabbet cut on the left, while the other warranted it be on the right. The dimensions of these “squares” were 7 1/2-inches wide by 6 7/8-inches tall. The pin boards were roughly 4 1/4-inches tall. The net of these measurements gave the proper slope for the stairs (for a cat or small dog, that is), which I based partly from a much smaller commercial set of pet stairs purchased awhile back.
The treads were back-cut 1/2-inch with a scroll saw to allow them to recess around the following riser by 1/2-inch. In addition, they were cut to overhang the front of the step by 1/2-inch. All treads, as well as the bottom of the stringers, were finished with a 3/8-inch round over bit. A 1/8-inch deep dado was cut on the underside of all the treads. This allowed the board to recess over the stringers and pin boards and really lock it into position (I believe this dado cut can be partially seen in the glue-up photo I posted).
The top step of the stairs is roughly 2-inches longer than the other treads and serves as a landing of sorts for the cats. Finally, the pin board on the back of this step sits on top of an L-joint that is affixed to a wall stud. This 4 1/2-inch wide block or support board has a 3/4-inch dado that runs through it and allows the steps to just hang off the wall. They can be taken off to clean or vacuum the carpet underneath if need be.
For consistency with our home’s décor, I decided to paint the stringers white. Unfortunately, this covered up the dovetails on the stringers. The risers and treads were finished using a dark Danish oil (roughly consistent with the other furniture in the room) and a layer of paste wax. I didn’t want the stairs to be too slippery, so I opted for one coat of each.
I promised my wife that the next project to be completed is the family room shelves to house our entertainment system and other assorted knickknacks. What she doesn’t know is that I already started on a mobile base and tool shelf for the recently acquired and aforementioned scroll saw. Thanks for reading.
-- - The day I stop learning is the day I stop living.