Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stairs update

With very little left to do downstairs in the garage, I'm beginning to turn my attention to the wall lining upstairs in the unit. However, before I can do that I need to get the staircase finished - I'll be damned if I'm carrying the plywood around the building to get up there! I'm hoping to have the floor grinders in next week to grind back and polish the concrete floor, after which I can get stuck into the lining full speed ahead. So this weekend I really need to break the back of these stairs!

About half way there. Looking good, but that last step is a killer!
With seven treads in place, I've been looking at the slabs I have remaining and even my optimism isn't going to produce seven more treads from two slabs. At their narrowest these slabs are about 500mm wide, while the treads are 260mm each and so obviously I can't cut two side-by-side. Likewise, the slabs are just short of three treads long at 2.5m - each tread is just shy of 900mm, so it looks like I'm going to have to compromise and laminate a few treads to get them to size.

This is what I'm working with:

I don't know what species the timber is, but I'd love to know. If anyone can tell from the photos, drop me a note in the comments! The wood is quite hard but my rebuilt Triton saw cuts it easily with a 60 tooth blade, and the cut surfaces are absolutely beautiful and smooth. The corners are so crisp you could almost shave with them!

The slabs originally looked quite blonde off the chainsaw, but the sawdust is almost pink. I had originally thought it might be grey ironbark or box, but now I'm not so sure. The tree was slabbed over near Bendigo, but I don't know what species are indigenous that area...

I'm leaving the chainsaw finish on the treads, and just sealing them with linseed oil diluted 50:50 with mineral turps for penetration. This is giving them an absolutely gorgeous deep reddish-brown finish which is a fantastic contrast to the blonde of the plywood and rammed earth walls. I plan to fill in the risers with the ply as well, which should look a treat.

This is where the trouble begins, I think. This is my first laminated tread, made up of one piece 200mm wide and another off cut at 60mm. I've glued the pieces together with regular ol' PVA, and clamped them together and down to the workbench to (hopefully) create a flat surface on top. While they're clamped I've also bored about 40mm into the narrow (back) piece and screwed the two together using 100mm bugle-head batten screws to keep it all together when the clamps come off.

This is the final product. I attempted to match the two pieces for colour and chainsaw grain as closely as possible, but obviously there's a mismatch and so to minimise this, I'm distressing the joint with a chisel to mimic the chainsaw cuts, to give some continuity across the joint and mask it somewhat.

It's nowhere near perfect (not that I'm expecting that) but I'm happy enough with the end result.

Apparently there's more of this tree still over near Bendigo, so if I get dissatisfied with the laminated treads (or if they're not durable) then I can wrangle Steve and his Alaskan chainsaw mill and go cut a few more slabs.

The first laminated tread, oiled and in position.
So I have four more treads to go, two of which I can cut whole out of the remaining slab. At least now I can use a short step ladder to reach the first tread, so once they're dry we have a serviceable staircase :)


  1. G'day Simon, have a look at a species "red stringybark" for your treads.

    1. Hi Foster,

      Thanks for the tip! I'll take a look and see if its a match :)

      -- Simon