Surrey Carpentry

Professional Carpentry & Joinery Service

Softwood & MDF staircase with Oak & Chrome handrail - West Sussex

Softwood & MDF staircase with Oak & Chrome handrail - West Sussex

Softwood & MDF staircase with Oak & Chrome handrail – West Sussex

This was the second of two staircases I worked on in West Sussex, the main staircase can be seen here.

This staircase was built in the newly constructed section that connected two originally separate buildings together to form a large single residence. As you can see in the image to the left, the staircase is actually 3 staircases connecting 4 different levels. This is because one of the original two buildings was higher than the other.

The stairs themselves were made from softwood strings and newel stubs, with MDF treads and risers, while the handrail was from B&Q’s range of Oak and Chrome.

Routing the softwood strings

Routing the softwood strings

The staircase having been assembled

The staircase having been assembled

A single bullnose at the bottom of the middle flight of stairs

A single bullnose at the bottom of the middle flight

It was a fairly straight-forward process, as although the staircase had to connect four floors, it was only three straight flights, with no winding sections. There had to be some careful measuring before construction began, as the tread rise and going for each flight was slightly different, and a landing had to be constructed at the top of the top flight to meet regulations as there was a doorway there.

The middle flight was fitted first

The middle flight was fitted first

The bottom flight was fitted second

The bottom flight was fitted second

The top flight and landing was fitted last, before the handrail was started

The top flight and landing was fitted last, before the handrail was started

The oak and chrome handrail, newels and spindles are fitted

The oak and chrome handrail, newels and spindles are fitted

The softwood stub newels were rounded over for decorational purposes before the chrome newel bases were fitted.

Once they were on, the oak newel posts were slotted in and the chrome handrail connectors were slotted onto them once the newels were cut to the correct height ( the oak newels and the oak handrail are the same and are supplied in lengths of around 3 metres).

The oak handrail could then be fitted and the chrome spindles then followed once the oak base-rail was fixed onto the softwood strings.

I must admit that i was dubious about the appearance of the B&Q Oak and Chrome handrail system, but once it was installed, it felt fresh, clean and modern, and really did look great :)

On the other hand, B&Q sell it as something for the DIYer, but i could imagine the average non-skilled DIYer having quite a bit of trouble getting their head around some of the initial measuring and positioning of components. And this is not helped by the slight irregularities of the chrome fittings which make some easier to fit than others.

But that said, this was another job that went really well, and as always, the best part was that my customer was very pleased with it.

:)

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Continuous Spiral Handrail in Maple

Continuous Spiral Handrail in Maple

Continuous Carved Spiral Handrail in Maple – West Sussex

This is a job i was very pleased with. It took a lot of patience and frequent checks to make sure it was shaping up correctly, but the end result was extremely satisfying.

It was for a customer in West Sussex, who had bought a plot which had two separate buildings, the main house, and an annex a short distance away from the house. What he did was pretty fantastic, because he joined the two together to make one big house!

In fact, the Maple Handrail i’m describing here was for one of two staircases that would eventually be in the house, the other staircase I built from scratch, and can be seen HERE.

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Above are some photos of the original iron banisters and hardwood handrail, and in my opinion, are extremely outdated and quite ugly. You might notice in the third photo that the spiral string (side of the staircase) has some awkward looking angles on it where the straight sections meet the spiral section.

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Smoothed out curves ready to take baserail and handrail

Smoothed out curves ready to take baserail and handrail

After smoothing out the awkward-looking angles by sanding the convex edges and filling the concave edges, the spiral string was ready to use as a template for the new maple baserail and handrail.

Many people don’t realise that spiral baserail and handrail, although only about 30mm/60mm x 80mm in profile once finished, must be constructed from much larger lumps of timber to account for the curving. In this case, the lumps were around 120mm thick x 200mm wide x 650mm long, and the new spiral maple baserail and handrail each required 4 pieces of timber this size to be carved by hand and joined end-to-end.

Oversize lumps of timber being carved spiral, but squared profile.

Oversize lumps of timber being carved spiral, but squared profile.

Spiral carved sections being joined in square profile stage.

Spiral carved sections being joined in square profile stage.

Square profile carving now complete for baserail

Square profile carving now complete for baserail

I began with the baserail, and each section of this had to be carved into its spiral shape, but square in profile. That is to say that no moulding or grooves were yet to be applied to the timber.

This was because once i had the whole baserail carved into a square profile, it would be much easier to uniform the finished profile using a router and other power tools.

The actual carving of each section meant that i continuously had to carve away some timber from the underside of the section, try it onto the section of the string that it would eventually be fixed to, carve some away, try it on again, and repeat until the underside of the section was exactly the same shape as the string. (To ensure i had exactly the right shapes for both the baserail and the handrail, i used the string as the template for the baserail, and the baserail as the template for the handrail) Once the underside was perfect, the sides and top of the section could be carved square to the underside. I don’t mind admitting that this was a laborious process that took a lot of patience, and I lost count of the times that I had electricians, plumbers and other tradesmen all staring at what i was doing in disbelief! :)

Carving the groove for the spindles into the baserail

Carving the groove for the spindles into the baserail

Fine chiseling the groove for the spindles into the baserail after routing

Fine chiseling the groove for the spindles into the baserail after routing

Finished baserail with moulding and grooves

Finished baserail with moulding and grooves

Once I had all the sections of both the baserail and handrail carved spiral and in square profile, I was able to begin routing out the grooves for the spindles to be located into, as well as the moulded profiles.

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing the spindle groove onto the underside of the handrail

Routing the spindle groove onto the underside of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I used an angle-grinder to shape the top of the handrail

I used an angle-grinder to shape the top of the handrail free-handedly using diminishing grits

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Handrail fits perfectly onto the baserail :)

Handrail fits perfectly onto the baserail

Routing the mortice holes into the newels

Routing the mortice holes into the newels

With the spiral sections of both the baserail and handrail complete, the next thing to do was to mortice the newel posts for them to be fitted to.

These newels had a ‘spigot’, or peg on the end of them, which was to be inserted into the stub of the old newels that had been chopped down to a specific height.

These stubs had to have 50mm diameter holes drilled into the top of them to take the spigot of the new maple newel posts, and i can tell you that those old western red cedar newels were hard as rock, my poor drill could barely cope! :-D

With the newels fitted, i was able to fit the spiral handrail, as well as the straight sections upstairs

With the newels fitted, i was able to fit the spiral handrail, as well as the straight sections upstairs

Spindles can now be fitted and it really starts to take shape!

Spindles can now be fitted and it really starts to take shape!

As the spindles were fitted into the spiral section, each spacer between the spindles had to be carved to suit the spiral!

As the spindles were fitted into the spiral section, each spacer between the spindles had to be carved to suit the spiral!

The spindles really make it look special :)

The spindles really make it look special

A huge improvement on the old iron banisters

A huge improvement on the old iron banisters

Quite an impressive sight to see as you enter the house, I think!

Quite an impressive sight to see as you enter the house, I think!

Although this job was hugely time consuming and very fiddly at times, i thoroughly enjoyed it. The customer was a really nice guy, and always doing what he could to help out, and that makes a big difference on a job like this. (There was also always a lot of tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits to be had! ;) )

It’s a job that i’m extremely proud of, and i’m sure that my customer was as pleased as i was with it, and that is what it’s all about!!

Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like something similar done for you, or even if you’d like a bit of advice. I’m always happy to help :)

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