LumberJocks

The Bucket List Stair Rail

  • Advertise with us
Project by reedwood posted 08-26-2013 07:33 PM 1667 views 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One thing I can say for sure,

There are really good framing carpenters, there are fine cabinet makers and high end trim carpenters,

and then, ...... there are the custom Stair Makers.

As a trim carpenter, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few of them.
.

So, here’s my tribute to …......
.

The Stair Master
.

They are like Gods that walk amongst the nimble minded wood butchers that are we.

Oozing stoic confidence, an undeniable air of respect, a silent swagger,

hiding privileged secrets we dare not ask, for fear of exposing our tinder bellies. (ending up looking stupid)

Behold the Stair Master with his tool box of magical goodness!

Full of jigs and wtfit’s, shop worn Starrett squares and odd brad point bits,

scratch awls and modified countersinks, grandpa’s wooden torpedo level,

and a medley of clamps, widgets and rasps.

And then, you see his other tools, ... his miter saw and stand set up,

and you know …. this guy’s …. the One. – end sarc

.

HA! ..... well, I thought it was funny.
.

I’ve seen a few Journeyman carpenters step back when asked to install the stair railings.

I wondered if it’s because they never had a chance to try. They’re really not that hard to install after you’ve done it once or twice.

.... especially if you had the privilege of a stair pro breathing on your neck, like I did.
.
.
.

A carpenter friend, who now sells millwork called the other day,

He said he had a client who was looking for a stair man for a remodel.

Normally, I would sub it out to a stair man and help with the incidentals and paperwork but,

things have changed.

My favorite stair guy moved to Kentucky to open up a bait shop – lucky him.

I don’t know anyone else and I don’t recommend strangers. I learned that lesson long time ago.
.
.

At 56 years old, I’m at a point in my life where the jobs I take on have less to do with money

and more about doing things that I enjoy.

.... no, I don’t work for free, except for friends. I’m just slowing down and have different priorities.

.
.

It’s like completing a bucket list of final projects, ..... what would be on your list?
.

A big fancy walnut hutch? A roll top desk? Maybe a Sam Maloof rocking chair? A Roubo style work bench?

How about a 20 ft. mahogany canoe, or maybe, ...... a 40 ft. tri hull catamaran?

How about all of the above? Who knows, I can still dream big anyway.

.

It’s pretty cool, I guess …. except for that finality part.
.
.

So I went to the jobsite to take a look.

Question is …. Is this bucket list worthy?
and just as important, might this project be too big for one ol’ guy?

The homeowner, Scott was a nice guy with a good eye for detail. I could tell right away that we were a good fit.

And, I have to say, ..... the whole project had me smiling from the minute I walked in the door.
.

Yea, ..... I can do this.
.
.

The existing oak staircase was varnished natural and had a 90s traditional look to it.

.

Scott wanted to replace the spindles and paint them white, add new posts – stained darker with new white aprons and wider 4/1/2” base trim

.... more of a metropolitan look. Nice.

We would remove the old railings carefully to be recycled through Habitat for Humanity.
.
.

Now, .... from my nimble minded experience,

A stair guy would install the custom oak stair parts, install plugs to hide wall bolts and screws,
fill the nail holes and sand everything …. 99% ready for stain and finish.

The contractor would cover with plastic to prevent hand prints until the painter arrives.
The painter is responsible for missed glue spots or nail holes … he owns the final finish.

He would prep, stain and varnish the hand rails and posts. Once dry, he would blue tape the stained oak,
touch up primed spindles and spray or brush on two coats of white paint.
.
.

But, apparently, Scott’s painter has a better way.

He says it’s Waay too much work for him to blue tape and paint all those spindles. He wants to spray the white parts and stain and varnish the posts and handrails in his shop and have me install everything prefinished.

So, we put our heads together and talked about it.

I said I liked a sprayed finish verses hand painted. It also would be a cleaner joint to the stained cap. I point out that it would be more work on my end, but the painter assures Scott that it’s less work than blue taping all those spindles.

I explained there would be a few nail holes in the cap to be filled afterwards and, everyone seems OK with that.

It seemed like a reasonable request ….. never done it that way before.

Is this …..... a challenge? I install prefinished cabinetry and stuff all the time. Why not?

The only condition would be that I will cut and install everything as a dry fit, then disassemble.

That way I can sand all the cuts and railings so he can prime or stain the ends.
.
.

..... Let’s do it.

The Production

One challenge would be replacing the first step, making it 6” longer, 2” wider and stronger for the spiraling hand rail on the left.

The new oak flooring stopped half way through the step with a beveled edging for the carpet.

So, the new step will have to be notched to the floor and scribed to fit ….. great.

It’s like the original stair guy planned to install a spiral hand rail but changed his mind and ended it straight.

Why else would someone install this kind of step? ....... a plant stand? ..... hmmm, go figure.

.

we added another post so the step had to be lengthened to the end.

.

The existing first step was pretty flimsy and had to be replaced.

The step was dado’d into the side boards and the risers were nailed and glued from behind.

...... Lots of fun to remove.

.

The new oak step was 1” thick by 16” wide, and 5 ft. 6” long. I glued three 5/4×6s with Titebond and biscuits.

.

Trying to figure out the new spiraling radius was fun.

The premade spiral hand rail didn’t come with directions and I had to figure it out from scratch on rosin paper.

.

I made the base solid out of stacked, glued and screwed 3/4” plywood and wrapped it in 1/2” oak plywood.

It made it easy to deal with the 3/4” transition in the oak floor … ain’t going nowhere, neither.

It took a couple of try’s but I was finally able to bend the 1/2” oak ply around the tight corners without having any kerf lines showing.

.

Making sure the 1/4” kerf cuts were the same distance and depth with a jig is the answer … gotta slow down.

Here you can see the old base next to the new solid base.

.

The owner, Scott had a floor built to create space above for a library for his huge collection of books.

Originally, this room had a wide open two story ceiling.

.
.

Hey Scott! .... I thought you were going out to buy coffee and donuts! Ha!

.

.

The first floor ceiling is still nine ft. tall so it was a great idea.

A 12×18 library room for free? .... hell yea.


.
.

The Stair Rail Assembly
.

There are a few ways to install stair spindles, and I like to screw them whenever possible.

But the spindles came with a predrilled hole and I had to drill and plug all the angled spindles, cut to length, and predrill for a 2 1/2” screw … no biggy.

Then, I discovered some of the spindles were different thicknesses. They came pre primed so I had to sand down and widen the angled holes slightly with a sharp spade bit ….. Yippee.

When I demo’d the stair cap, I discovered the framing stuck up 1/2” higher than the skirt boards.
I had to scrape off the old glue, sink all the framing nails and plane it down … a two hour unexpected project.

The stair wall caps were replaced with wider 1×8 solid oak to cover the new 3/4” apron trim.
I routed the edge to give a little detail.
.
.

The spiral hand rail was fun to build.
.

It’s been a while since I’ve installed one. But, like riding a bike, it all came back to me.

The two cuts at the transition to straight is key to a good install.

The spiral chunk of oak looked like a tree root gone wild and somewhere in there was the perfect cut.

I had to make a wedge to hold it at just the right angle, clamp it to the miter box and pray my lines are right.

..... as if there was any doubt …... come on, it’s just a bicycle, right?

..... whew!


.
.
.

The railings, posts and spindles were prefinished as planned and I’d have to say,

..... it came out pretty good.


.
.

Although, I don’t know if I would recommend someone doing it this way.

I took a big chance of damaging the finish during the install and having it not go back together exactly the same way and ….. after all that,

...... you’re not going to believe this part.

The painter got a 2500.00 advance and Walked Off The Job..... won’t answer his phone.

Ain’t that something else? all that effort for him ….... huh.
.
.

Just the same, the job came out really nice.

Scott found a really good painter to come in and finish the paint job.

.

I haven’t gotten final pictures yet. Still waiting for the painter to finish and carpet to be installed.

I’ll update this post later.


.
.

The best part is I’ve made a new friend in Scott.

And now, he wants me to build his fireplace mantle and book cases.

.
.

I’m sure there’s room for that on my bucket list!

.
.

Edit: Hey guys! if you like, the story continues! .... be sure to see: Fireplace Mantle for a New Friend.

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/98038

.
.

-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.





8 comments so far

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12300 posts in 2820 days


#1 posted 08-26-2013 07:37 PM

This is really nice work. Sucks when people have no integrity. :(

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Tony_S's profile

Tony_S

440 posts in 1805 days


#2 posted 08-27-2013 01:38 AM

Nice work Mark….Looks like your one of ….....hush…....’us’....

”They are like Gods that walk amongst the nimble minded wood butchers that we are.
Oozing stoic confidence, they carry a certain amount of respect, a silent swagger, hiding privileged secrets we dare not ask, for fear of exposing our tinder bellies. (ending up looking stupid)”

Had to laugh when I read that!! I’ll have to ask a few of the guys tomorrow If I have a silent swagger!

Maybe a ‘John Travolta’ Strut LOL!!

View MarkTheFiddler's profile

MarkTheFiddler

1847 posts in 911 days


#3 posted 08-27-2013 02:24 AM

Mark, once again, you have produced some masterful work. It’s stunning. Congrats for earning Scott’s faith. There was really no doubt that you would. Thanks for sharing your work and the cool story.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View 489tad's profile (online now)

489tad

2448 posts in 1734 days


#4 posted 08-27-2013 03:37 AM

What a difference the new stair case makes. Well done.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View reedwood's profile

reedwood

889 posts in 1398 days


#5 posted 08-27-2013 02:11 PM

Thanks everyone,
Wayne – yea, there out there. Big believer in what goes around comes around….and it’s a coming.
Hopefully, he’ll have regrets and it haunts him for the rest of his life. Scott didn’t deserve that.

Tony….my man. How did you know I was talking about you? Ha!
This was supposed to be about how we admire certain talents that seem out of reach when in fact, it’s not that hard once you try it….. Like pretty much everything in life.
I hope it didn’t come off like I was a God or as good as you.
I was blessed to be mentored by a few stair men that obviously made a valuable impression.
This is about them…...and maybe it’s OK to show my work and brag a little.

yea, you do look a little like Travolta.

Hey Mark! glad you lied it. I was about 75% done writing this when it suddenly published! I had to quickly edit it numerous times, add the last pictures and changed the name 4 times. I hope the message came out right. Usually, I wait a day to rearrange everything ‘cause I talk backwards and trim it by 25%. Then, I let my wife read/edit my stuff. sorry it’s so long winded.

Thank you Dan in Naperville, hey…we’re almost neighbors. Ever go to Owl Hardwood? my favorite place.

-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.

View Puupaja's profile

Puupaja

310 posts in 1823 days


#6 posted 08-28-2013 02:10 AM

Great story… and the execution is very nice. It´s sure much more rewarding to work when you are in same “wavelength” with your client

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Puupaja/357028681017482

View MarkTheFiddler's profile

MarkTheFiddler

1847 posts in 911 days


#7 posted 08-30-2013 03:31 AM

Mark, always a good read my friend. What you call long winded, I call entertaining.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View reedwood's profile

reedwood

889 posts in 1398 days


#8 posted 08-31-2013 10:26 PM

mark, glad you liked it….l.i.k.e.

I thin there’s a toe nail clipping under my k.

-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

GardenTenders.com :: gardening showcase