A blog dedicated towards architectural refinement of buildings and environments in which we live, work, and play. Chiefly this is brought about by the author with finish carpentry at heart, and many other disciplines radiating or spinning off from it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Stairway - Plain to Fancy (Part Three)

It shows how the spiral patterns in the wallpaper rhythmically recur in the wooden brackets. The last few cove pieces will go underneath the stair tread and end at the carpet on both sides.

After a little assessment it was decided that the same width for the top stringer would not work. Not only would it be unstable during the notch cutting operation, it would not give a visually proportionate buffer between the wall and stairs. We went with a 1" x 10" Hemlock Fir board special ordered. (Most of our materials have been acquired from Lowe's or Home Depot, large retail home improvement stores in the USA).

Instead of measuring and marking these out individually, laboriously I made a thin plywood template by hot gluing pieces together into one piece, reinforced by a piece of molding so it would not distort. I transferred this contour onto the board (see picture below). I used a Forstner bit to cut clean holes where the stair tread's bullnose starts superimposed on the pattern.

I give the Forstner a little help in starting accurately making a divot with an awl right on my mark. Reducing the error in locating these centers will make a great bit of difference later. The stair treads are 1-1/32" in diameter. The Forstner is 1". I will have to clean up the rest with a router and a template after a test fit.Then I took the board outside to cut the notches out up to the holes.
It's a big break to have a huge patio under an awning and really nice weather in southern Colorado to work outside in. This looks like it was August, but it was really late October.

I use a Japanese style pull saw to cut the rest of the way through. This one is about worn out, not from use, but from not having an appropriate cover or scabbard.The test fit causes much anticipation because of all the things that can go wrong either in not measuring correctly, and the degree of errors that can compound. This took me four hours, going from setting up everything, marking, drilling and sawing.
It's pretty close. Just some tune up with a router and a template. Then it's just a matter of sanding, staining and varnish.

The Stairway - Plain to Fancy (Part Two)




Below details the method of treating the end of the stair treads along the lines of traditional approach. First the end board was removed, exposing the treads. It's at this point one can see what sort of problems will be encountered in contouring to these. Done a couple decades ago in solid wood, glued into planks there has been some movement. New manufactured stairways have made improvements in both laminated supports, risers and treads that practically eliminate warpage, shrinkage and squeaking. Since a decorative application is going over the stringer there is somewhat of an allowance for a gap. Some of these treads deviated from level several degrees one stair to the next.



There was some discussion over whether the decorative scroll work would be set flat against the stringer. The owner opted to avoid any further cutting into either the treads or the risers. It then leaves a small space open in between them and the stair, creating a shadow. This only meant an adaptation to the returns of the store-bought tread returns. I would mitre the front side and leave the back side alone, butting a small trim piece onto it underneath.




The picture below perhaps best illustrates how this would be accomplished. The warpage out of squareness was compensated for by marking and chiseling off the deviation. The risers were capped off with stained oak cove molding, square cut on top of the tread returns, and mitred at the top to cover a spacer which turned the tread return into a classical profile underneath. It then made a short return and butted into the stringer.


This gives an impression of what it will look like to whomever buys the house when just coming in the front door. I can additionally imagine maybe a side board with some kind of vase and flowers or sculpture on a small pedestal.

The Stairway - Plain to Fancy (Part One)

When I first arrived on the jobsite and came in the front door the first thing I noticed was the notched board covering the stairways. The balusters and rail seem done well enough, but here it seemed like the carpenter had given up, or was forced to merely cap it off. It was asked if there was anything that I could do with it. My answer must have been an understated, "Yes." Over the weeks of taking care of all the trimwork all the traditional approaches were discussed. Nearing the end of the project and almost as if I were heading backwards out the same door that I came in, here are the results:

Before. Carpet ran up to the wall which had a wallpaper. One can just notice the plank covering the end of the treads. I mistakenly forgot to take pictures of the front.

Here it is mid-way. The inside end has been stained and varnish and was ready for the new wallcovering. As it turns out carpeting was done before that. It was probably a wise decision not to install wallcovering at that stage, when a lot of traffic was still occuring up and down these steps.
Below with wallcovering that the owner did quite capably by himself with assistance from his wife.

Fireplace Surround, Staining and Re-sizing

I had two fireplace surrounds to work on. One just needed a little trimming tune up on the bottom of the sides, again only to accomodate the house's settling and the desire of the owner to make the focal point seem more level. Both have an angled ledger to draw them towards the wall tightly when they are set onto them. All I had to do was find wall frame and achor these into it level and very close to where the heights matched. First I stained these inside the garage (along with the carefully notched stringer that was to go under the stairs). One was a three-piece assembly. Broken down, here are the sides.
The one-piece surround was also stained to enrich the color and make the mahogany more uniform and deeper in tone.
Illustration below of the one that had to be re-sized. I had to take it to a cabinetry shop to get a more accurate table saw cut. It was installed on an octagonal angled wall in the master bedroom.

In the above picture one can see the angled ledger strip in between the halves before I put dowel pins in and clamped them together with glue.

Almost done. Taken before clamping and interior valances nailed on.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wood Panel Jacuzzi-bath Access Cover






A simple access cover for the Jacuzzi-bath in the upstairs hall was called for in the same stain match. I used marine-grade plywood, 1/2' thick made of Douglas Fir and pine cabinet facing.









A continuity of decorative application was called for there, adapting to the retro-fit of bathtubs in two hall bathrooms, and the accompanying new diagonally patterned tile and bordering. (It seemed to make an odd framing appendage seem like it was done on purpose.)

Some scraping over the heavy impasto texture had to be done in order to lay the moldings flat it the front and back sides, hence the plastic masking to keep stuff out of the tub. The top board, once contoured to the tubs rounded ends, was screwed down from underneath preventing water entry from the top.



Decorative Casings



In the bathrooms decorative casing was called for on a peninsula wall between the Master Bathroom's double shower and the toilet. This was done at first by butting the back and sides of stained to-match existing Anderson-style window/door casing.




The owner then decided to accent the middle in between these moldings and was re-done accordingly with a trim molding of his choice. (This required re-sizing the plinth block below it, hence the baseboards were left for the last until final size was determined.)





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Budding Sculptor at 56, chiefly interested in mold-making and casting, with particular interest in geometric abstraction, industrial technology, vis a vis solar power and re-chargable batteries that could power kinetic sculpture and illuminate LCD screens.

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