Saturday, March 24, 2007

stairs - 43 steps to the top floor

Each of the previous two flights of stairs presented unique challenges to solve... and the final flight (shown here) was no exception. The challenge presented by this flight of stairs, was "how to support the landing?" Three of the four corners of the landing could be tied into the stud walls, but how to support the fourth corner? The answer, it turned out, was to "add another timber to the house."

A 6x6 would have been more than sufficient, but I had an 8x8 handy and did not want to fire up my sawmill to cut only one timber. I slid the 12 foot oak timber from a farm wagon, into my truck and drove up the hill to the house site backwards so it would not slide out the back of the truck bed. The white oak timber had sat, uncovered, in the weather for a year, but all it needed was about 1/32" planed from the surfaces and it looked brand new.

Timber addition begins with subtraction, so my brother-in-law began subtracting wood chips from the timber itself, and I began subtracting chips from the two house timbers that would be receiving the new timber. About 15 minutes into cutting, quite irreversibly, on my house frame with a power saw, I laughed to myself. It wasn't just the fact that I was hacking away on my house frame that caused my mad laughing - it was that I was completely comfortable, and somewhat satisfied, committing said act.

It was not possible to use mortise and tenon joinery to add the timber to the house this late in the game. What I came up with was to "let-in" the timber into the sides of two existing timbers. I cut housings (or "recesses") into the existing house timbers while my brother-in-law created matching lap joints on the new timber.

Cutting and chiselling green wood on saw horses is a lot easier than working partially dried timbers within an existing frame. It gets especially difficult working from a ladder, on a timber above you, with nothing but an empty stairwell beneath you. Occasionally, I would turn my head sideways and literally dump the saw dust from my ears.

After we finished the joinery, three of us lifted the new timber into place. That was no easy task - there was no way to use the crane to help us, now that the house was dried in! It fit much better than expected. In fact, the new timber has been in place for a couple of days now and we haven't added so much as single bolt or peg to hold it within the frame.

This final picture shows the newly added timber before we built the stair landing and stairs around it. I was hoping to save the doors in the background for another blog entry, but here, in full view, you can see the beautiful cherry and quarter-sawn white oak doors that our friend built for us. He has been installing them, next to us, while we've been building the stairs. They make the "house project" look more like a finished home already.


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