Friday, March 11, 2011

The Stairmaster.

I started referring to the staircase as the 'stairmaster' because of the mental workout I get trying to build this thing. My last project was the railing, and I thought I could bend some wood strips around a curved plywood form to create the curve that was needed- however, after making the form I realized the railing must twist and curve 3-dimensionally, like a helix...and so my simple 2-dimensional form idea was useless. Rats. After a long period of head-scratching, googling (is that officially a word now?) and burning mental calories on the stairmaster, it seemed the best way to do it was to form the railing in place. So, the riser boards were removed and studs were lag-screwed to the framing to create an appropriate form for the railing path. Then, using every clamp in the arsenal, I glue-laminated maple strips like this:
Since there are two distinct curves to the staircase, I had to build two railing sections, separated where the pitch changes. Here is the upper section being clamped to the forms:
After removing them from the forms, I realized that I hadn't placed my uprights as accurately as I should've and the railing was pretty 'wavy'...another lesson learned on the stairmaster of life. Considerable reworking ensued, and I was able to get it trued up reasonably well, or at least good enough for a barn. I epoxied the two sections together, then painted the railing white to cover all my mistakes. I installed it with wrought iron balusters, tightly spaced to meet the latest code requirements (either babies are getting smaller, or their parents are becoming less attentive...). Voila!