You can read Stairs Part I: Stringers here.
With the stringers in place, I turned my attention to making stair treads. Back in May 2021, a friend I played in a band with years ago cut down a dying oak tree in his yard and asked if I wanted any of the wood. “Wood, I?” I asked. “Heck yeah!” I came over with my pulleys and chainsaw and a trailer. I made two trips. I had to cut the base into 4 pieces since the monster was too heavy to take in one piece, and then I milled each piece into 1.5″ thick “treads”, lined them up in the sun for a day or two, then stickered them and stacked them behind the house to dry for 8 months.
I debated just milling the treads out of a solid piece, but I think they could warp easier that way – for one thing, I don’t have a kiln, so I can’t control how they dry. For another, I didn’t have thick enough pieces to make all 16 of them the right width. I DO want some things in this house to be square….ish.
The ones at the store are also made of thin – maybe 1″-2″ wide pieces that are then butt-glued together, then finished with a router and planed. I decided to do the same thing – alternating the end of the grain this way controls warping, and actually gives you stronger treads.
My neighbor offered me the use of his planer. I need to get one of these. I have a jointer / table saw combo, but I’m scared of the jointer part of the saw – for good reason: when I first got the saw, I cleaned it up. The knives in the jointer head were all askew, so I took them out and cleaned them and then re-installed them. I tightened the screws down as hard as I could, but still wasn’t sure about a 100 year old saw, so I laid an extension cord outside my garage and stood out there to plug it in and turn it on – I could imagine one of the knives getting thrown out of the head at high speed and slicing my throat. It was an excellent decision – as soon as I turned it on, knives went flying everywhere – stuck in the roof and walls. I disengaged the belt, and have never used it since. I might try again someday – but I think I will use some thread lock or glue or something to hold the knives in place.
I made a series of videos on this process as well:
- ripping the slabs into strips with a table saw
- planing the edges
- edge gluing the strips and clamping them
- planing the tread once the glue is dry
Making brackets for the treads
They sell stair brackets at the big box stores, but they are expensive – $3.49 each, and they are thin. I need 32, so that’s over $111. I made my own out of 2″x2″x1/8″ angle iron that I got from my friends at C&J Welding for about $62. You could probably drive a truck up my stairs with these brackets.
In a future post, I’ll show what everything looks like together, except for the risers. Before you gasp, I had to level my sawmill track yet again – but this time, I got a small load of gravel from the county work shed (free for residents!), and carefully spread it out and leveled the whole thing. Once it was level, I made a few cuts and found they were perfect, so I cut enough oak into 1″ slabs to make risers and a future coffee table. Now back to the gasp – due to the way the treads are installed with brackets instead of joinery, I can add the risers in behind them later from the back side, since it may take months for the risers to dry enough to use.