Category Archives: Stair Work

Cutting treads between housed stringers

How to cut treads between housed stringers

There is no room for error when installing treads between housed stringers. A little gap looks horrible and is a reflection of your abilities. Bad work won’t pay the bills down the road.

You can use a tread wizard. But for those who do not own one. The solution is still easy to do IF you are careful. I use a couple methods.

1 lattice strips and a hot melt glue gun- works well and doesn’t taken long. This is the same technique countertop builders utilize. Hot melt the strips on the four edges and transfer the lines to the replacement tread.

2 construction paper and tape- works for retro treads and tread replacement. Tape the paper to the tread creating a template to follow with the saw. Use blue tape, attach it first to the perimeter. Cut some construction paper a little smaller than your blue tape line. Tape that piece on your first tape going around the perimeter. Carefully pull it up as one piece and transfer to your board.



3 Bevel square and tape measure and 2 ft level- this method requires a little extra care. I only use if I have a couple treads. I check that the riser is straight along the long edge, if you can shim straight, do so. If not, use a straight edge against it to run your bevel square against. Transfer that mark to your new read. Then do the same for the other side.

Bevel cut the side and back edges for a tighter fit. Do not put a bevel on the last 1 1/2 inch of the sides where the front bullnose is. I use my saw set on a bevel for this cut. See below




This the side view of the bevel cut. I use a skill saw set on a bevel. Making sure not to cut the visible part of the front bullnose. If you did everything right it will just drop into place.


Here is the side view of the tread against the stringer. We primed and painted the stringer before we dropped the tread in. The tread was also stained and coated before installation. This method leaves a crisp line.



Building a curve handrail

Curved handrail on a stair. Part one

Curved handrail

existing curve handraiL

My client was in need of a new curved rail. The old one had a broken volute.There was nothing great about the old one.  It was pine and typical builder quality from the 80s. All the Newels were naturally loose from poor building practices and time.

The replacement rails are all red oak same as the new Newels. We will be installing iron balusters after the painters are done next week.

Normally we remove the rails on curved or radius stairs. Attach heavy L brackets to the treads then bend the railing on the L bracket hugging bottom of the treads to keep the rise in check. I always hate leaving a stair without a rail for safety concerns. This time I used the existing rail as the bender frame, without removing it.

curve rail stair

adding female form boardsM

Above I added a female form to a 6010 handrail. I put oak strips 1 1/2 x 5 inches on the sides for attaching my new 6010 bender rail. The metal brackets are 2 1/2 inch level clamps sold for curve rail installations. The level U clamps were very handy . It would have been somewhat difficult without them. The female form material is flimsy and deforms easily . The clamps kept that in check.

bending curve rail

curve rail bending

I have never tried to install curve railing on top of an existing rail before.Generaly its done on the treads with L brackets. Above, I test fit the bender rail prior to gluing it up. It was a tight bend. We started clamping from the center working to the ends. I removed the volute on the bottom. Cut the top  of the newel at the top of the stair so that I carry the bender rail past those points. So far….it’s working.

curve railing

glued up 6010 oak handrail

After we get it out of the clamps. the handrail gets a sanding and a volute added to the bottom. I will not go into detail on the volute. i assemble the cuts with the rail laid out on the treads. use a level on the volute to check the cut. I screw the volute to a flat board prior to cutting, The handrail is always cut at a 90 deg to the top edge. the easing on the volute is cut at the rake angle of the stairs. Around 37-42 deg on most stairs. Try not to dwell on the cost of the volute or the bend-a-rail you just spent a couple hours building. Another important factor is to cut the rail at the correct points at both ends as they set in the glue up. If you attach too far up or down it will affect the radias points on the treads. ie your balusters will not line up on the treads. Trust me on that.

6010 volute

Volute setup for cut, The volute is screwed to the board underneath for stability.


All done

curved railing

oak curved handrail