Stair Building: Advanced Techniques

Case studies of real stair projects, showing you how to make everything from traditional laminating of strings to wreathed handrails.

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Laminated Stair Stringer in Oak

A closer look at a traditional laminating technique where you clamp the laminates to a form.

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Laminated String for Farmhouse Stair

A closer look at a traditional laminating technique where you clamp the laminates to a form.

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Curved Central Cut String with Horizontal Laminates

An overview of Ness's own horizontal laminates method for creating curved strings.

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Steps and Risers on a Cut String of Horizontal Laminates

Horizontal laminates make assembling the steps and risers on a cut string much easier. It eliminates the need to cut the step risers in the string, the final shape with the step and riser notches being made when gluing up the laminates.

Another advantage is that the end grain of the risers can be covered up by extending the outer face veneers over the end of the risers. This eliminates the need to mitre the string and riser and enables the riser to be assembled easily against the nice flat surface of the string.

Gluing Face Veneers on a Curved String

A specialist method for gluing the veneers on to string made using the horizontal laminates technique.

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Smoothing and veneering wreathed and curved string edges

Smoothing and veneering the helicoidal edges of a wreathed string.

Wreathed Handrails Overview

Stair building is certainly one of the more complex and diverse branches of woodworking. Like most professionals, to make life easier, I have developed over the years my own methods of tackling different problems.

One of the more complex and challenging aspects of stairs has always been how to make curved parts and especially handrails. I have several techniques for making a curved rail. Each is more or less adapted to a given situation. This video outlines three techniques. The next few videos cover these methods in more depth.

I hope you enjoy them, Ness

Wooden Handrail on Metal Rail [Part 1]

Building the handrail forms, getting the shape of the metal rails and so the footprints of the handrail shapes. Preparing a template for the exact shape of the face laminates.

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Wooden Handrail on Metal Rail [Part 2]

The second video on building irregularly curved handrails on metal rails. Adjusting the forms to fit the metal rails, and gluing, clamping and trimming the walnut veneers.

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Wooden Handrail on Metal Rail [Part 3]

Completing the process for building and fixing this kind of wooden handrail to a pre-existing metal rail. The video looks at how to make the customised mortise and false tenon joints to ensure a tight fit.

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Wooden Handrail on Metal Rail [Part 4]

A look at some finished wreathed handrails ready to be fitted on a metal stair. Although a different stair for another client, these have been manufactured using the techniques shown in the previous videos.

Wreathed Handrails using Twisted Laminates

How to use the twisted laminates technique to make handrails. This is particularly suitable for stairs that have a regular smooth curve. If you are making the rail as a sub contractor for another company that builds metal stairs, this technique allows you to make the rail without ever seeing the actual stair.

The customer sends in either the drawings or even just the rise and run of the stair. Mark up the rail by applying the tangent system to the drawing and build the rail with twisted laminates.

Wreathed Handrail on a CNC Machine with Rotary Axis

Sculpting a double twist wreathed handrail on a 3 axis CNC machine with a 4th rotary axis.

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Stair with 3 Part String between Plaster Board Walls

Installation of a stair highlighting a great way to assemble strings in situ, plus more specialised techniques for fixing the strings to plaster boards. Click below for more details and to watch 3 videos of the project.

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Curved Stair Installation

I know for myself that installation is the most stressful part of stair building. Any minor error in measurement or design will show and at the very least give problems when the stair is being installed...

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