Stairway

Stairs to the bathroom landingWhen we neared completion of our twenty foot by fifty foot platform we reconsidered the bathroom elevation.  By raising it nine feet, I hoped to keep it easy to reach from both the first and second floor, while opening up some useable space underneath.  I engaged in discussion with Doug and Deborah, oh, and let’s not forget Perry who had ideas and advice on every step of the way.  We have secret rooms and wall cavities unused to date.  Doug and I had both noticed and discussed that the blast hole in the front left-hand side of our wall would provide an excellent curve for a stairwell. 

The research included a long list of book titles. I found my copy of The Complete Stairbuilder (best stair book on the market) on Ebay.  It explained the sweet spot, the math, the angles and structural considerations.  This was a very challenging task.  It took me several readings.  I enjoyed and understood the lessons.  Even still my (much smarter than I) wife broke out the chalk and we laid out our gentle spiral staircase using the sweet spot to determine angles.   I worked very hard in bursts on this project.  I created the bottom plate from three layers of ¾ inch plywood.  I made the bottom two layers from pressure-treated material.    Often when I would reach a calculation or measurement I would face three or four days of inaction.  I choose to build a stringerless stair, so that each step had its own set of four free-standing walls.  Birdman came through town and spent a couple of days putting OSB sub-flooring on the finished stair frame.  Sanity (Bruce Kurt) scribed the OSB to the rock wall. 

Eventually it all came together, with one minor injury along the way.  After framing in the stairs, there was no longer an easy place to tilt a ladder at the right angle to reach the nine-foot platform.  As a solution we placed scrap two-by-twelve lumber across the supports and used the stairs.  Anyone who stepped in the center of the boards could climb the stairs safely.

One evening our friend, musician Ken Kase, came by with two guitars—his favorite from his own personal collection, a Rickenbacker, and a classic Stratocaster on loan from another friend.  With Ken excited about the photo op, Deborah broke out the Nikon and they chose to photograph Ken with his guitars, posed on the first stair landing from a higher vantage point on the second floor.  The rock wall and the open stair platform provided the perfect backdrop. 

After a few photos with the Stratocaster, Ken wanted to switch guitars.  Ken was born with Achromatopsia, a condition in which his retinas have rods but no cones, so he perceives sight in a way most of us would consider a blurry gray-scale.  With his second step down from the platform, he stepped between two walk boards, flipping both boards from their fulcrum points on the stair supports, tripping, and landing spread-eagled on the bull-nose stair.  His first instinct when he realized he was going down was to save the guitar.  He took the brunt of the impact, while holding the guitar up in the air.  A few moments later, after checking the guitar for damage, he asked, “Why didn’t you get photos of that?!?” 

Sorry, folks, Deborah totally missed the photo op of Ken’s fall.  In spite of some bruises and a sore knee, Ken made a full recovery and he still plays guitar.   We’re just glad that it didn’t happen a day earlier when the clamps were in place.  He could have easily impaled himself on one of them.  If you’re wondering, the Stratocaster had one tiny chip in the finish, and its owner graciously forgave Ken and us for the damage.