Spiral staircase.

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Blog entry by toolchap posted 05-20-2015 04:00 AM 954 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I remember living out on my smallholding and dreaming a little house for myself. Back in those days, the dream was to build a small cottage with a classic staircase. The idea was to build the house so that I could build a staircase. Not put the staircase in the house….you get my drift. This idea remained with me and when I moved to our small property in the village, that was my first thought. Staircase.


Bloody thing had twisted in my mind. Spiral staircase. The lines on these things please me no end. I had no help, except for the inherent thin-lipped stubborness and the belief that one’s only limitation lies between the ears. I did some research in books…...oh wait….one little detail I forgot to add. Double spiral. The inner had to be a spiral as well.

This story started about 8 years ago if the mists of time serve me correctly. Nothing wrong with the layout, I did that and then the formwork. Then started the killer for me. Endless laminations. Long story short here. My mind wandered onto other dreams and my body followed. Friends would pop in and look at this lot and at first there were the exclamations of how great this would be when finished. Then came the jokes. The stair itself was not accusatory at all….unlike the friends and aquaintances. Now, having mentioned that I am stubborn, all this cajoling did not even piss me off. I get this blanket-ignore going on in my head and stare at clouds and stuff. My wife, this most amazing woman, said nothing negative at all. Ever. At one stage she even suggested that she would be happy if I just built us a normal staircase. Bless your soul woman.

Life carried on.

About two weeks ago my head twisted. Like a bloody demon I got going again. I have no idea what set me off beyond the vision refreshed. That decision was one of the happiest of my life. Yesterday I put the second last tread in and today the top one goes in. Nothing on the staircase is perfect but the lines please me no end. Throughout this exercise, I looked at the floppy outer stringer and was planning how I was going to support it once the treads and risers were in. I knew this would be a compromise I would hate, but had made peace with it over time. Well, during the tread-laying and such, I had left one support halfway along the outer stringer and gingerly walked up and down while I worked. She rocked till about halfway, then started settling to a creak. At second tread from last, my curiousity overcame me. Taking another post, I marked the height of the centre of the stringer and removed the support. Damn. Damn. That lady did not drop 1mm. Pushing my luck, I walked up the stair again….gingerly…I had a friend watch the mark for me. Little bit of creaking and about a 1mm drop as I went past the so-called weakest point. I can only shake my head at nature’s beautiful principle here….the twist. The centre spiral acts as a rigid post and the risers act as an extension of the beam.

I have much to do yet…veneering and handrails and balusters and…..etc. But, I feel joyous and motivated and that sweep still takes my breath away.

A good day to you readers till next time.

5 comments so far

View mafe's profile


11061 posts in 2509 days

#1 posted 05-20-2015 08:50 AM

Lovely story, never give up.
Respect that you just laugh with them and hang in.
What a wonderful wife.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View toolchap's profile


150 posts in 2340 days

#2 posted 05-20-2015 02:01 PM

Helllo and thank you Mads. I will be posting pics when she is done.

View HerbC's profile


1567 posts in 2279 days

#3 posted 05-20-2015 02:28 PM

Ya know what they say, no pictures, it didn’t happen…

Sounds like quite a project, look forward to seeing more.


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Jim Baldwin's profile

Jim Baldwin

55 posts in 1778 days

#4 posted 05-20-2015 03:53 PM

The fact that you seem genuinely surprised by the apparent success of your on-going, 8yr project, sounds a bit disturbing to me. Remember your stair must support at least 100 lbs per square foot with no more than 3/8” deflection (check local code requirements). There are lots of rules governing every aspect of stairs and railings and it takes more than an artistic eye to get this done properly. Good Luck is not good enough either.

Nice tale though.

-- Jim Baldwin/

View toolchap's profile


150 posts in 2340 days

#5 posted 05-21-2015 03:59 AM

Herb….absolutely correct. No pics it did not happen. Please keep in mind that these are my mental journeys. The projects with pics go to projects. Just my way of thinking.

Jim. The bridge between the bedroom and the study would not meet local requirements either. (South Africa). Reason being that it is a pair of Japanese Toothed beams. They have no specs on this. Regarding (apparent success), well. The only “apparent” is that with 14 leg-lifts, my body successfully elevates to the second floor of my building. And…....1mm in your terms is just over 1/32”. I weigh 205 pounds at last tally. My bush engineering tells me I am way within those specs.

Oh….a last thought. This is to please me, not local authorities and some stiff-necked unimaginative inspector who could not build a matchstick-man 30 mm high. I don’t have insurance because I believe life is not an insured matter.

Have a lekker day.

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