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, November 18, 2007

Stained Stringers & The Application of Moldmaker's Secrets

Below is the template-cut stringer after stain and one coat of urethane varnish. We decided to rip a baseboard in half, putting the top part of it on top of the upper stringer, and the bottom part underneath the stringer that runs underneath the stairs. (It being a WM-811, in common lumbermill pattern reference, has a recurring ovallo, or "ogee" separated by a half-round bead. These are also referred to as "Victorian" baseboards.)
Here is where breaking the mill glaze on a wide board really pays off. The character of the wood really comes across without any interference. As per the owner's request the tighter grain is above and the more open below toward the treads and risers.


In working around older manufactured stairs which are subject to shrinkage, warping or twisting trying to match their contour is extremely complicated if one assumes the course of measuring each tread and riser individually. It is better to not measure them at all! How does one do this? It's easy, hot-glued plywood strips. I cut 1/4" plywood into strips. In this case I make three types: one for the tread that starts inside at the riser and goes past the nose a couple inches, another that fits inside the riser space average by a fraction, and another that rises further than the tread piece, tread to tread and places the nose's exact location. These are all hot-glued together rather simply and braced with a rigid board so the whole assembly will not distort when it is pulled off. The short version of this method (the right side of the stairway as one goes up) of patterning the upper stringer I've show below.



Trim applied to top stringer.


Side view.


Nearing completion.

The Challenge of Staining Fiberglass

Okay, the subject of Fiberglass doors and the refurbishing of their stain and exterior finish.

They are really nice for some reasons. One, they won't warp. Two, they are insulated. Three, they are not cold, hard steel.But...and this is a big "but", they so far have only faked, plainly, at being wood in texture, and are a challenge when it comes to trying to breathe soul or "life" into them that wood naturally inherits. How does one go about this, especially with one that's about twenty years old now, the finish and varnish of which is faded and questionable? First, it has to be stripped down to the fiberglass.

If you read the side of the cans of the "hard core" Ez-Strip, or Strip-eaze products it specifies that it can damage fiberglass. So, you have to make the advancement to the relatively non-toxic citrus stripper. They do work. I find that with a little stainless brush you can work the stain out all the way from the fake grains (winter annual rings). It's just brush on, let sit a while, Scotch-brite and rinse, re-apply, wire brush and rinse again. To stain these to match an existing the base color of the fiberglass has to be taken into account. Where one coat might be too light, a second coat may be too dark. It's the non-porosity of fiberglass that makes it more akin to painting than staining. One almost needs a second, lighter stain to dial it in. The joints on a door have to be broken correctly with the brush. The best stain is almost a shoe-polish consistency, and the technique is exclusively dry-brush (a balance maintained of near-exhausted content of stain on the brush). I use one of those short, thick brushes made in Turkey of late. (They have a handle that unscrews and a piece of metal that allows one to hang it over the pail the material sits in...if that pail is a paint bucket with the rim removed.)

("After" pictures to be added later. -AK Nov.18, 2007)

[Added April 6, 2008:]

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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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