Solving Puzzling Steps, by Tom Moore

Architects, designers and clients often ask for details that test our imagination and problem solving skills; many times it’s as if there’s a hidden riddle. For this set of freeform, organic stairs, the owner asked for mahogany treads to match the finish carpentry through the existing home. Our first thought was to run the wood straight and trim the front edges to fit the curves. After some discussion and sketching, we decided that running the mahogany length wise and carving them to follow the curve would offer a finer, more custom look.

Our first step was to design a pattern; we cut rosin paper to fit the steps and gauged off the face, which Nick is doing in the first picture. To achieve the desired width in three equal depth sections we had to freehand the areas where the steps widened, and used semi-random spacing. Next, we matched each puzzle piece up to hardwood in the shop, cut to pattern and labeled diligently. While them working this out, we also had to develop other details like how to face each tread and how to finish to the slate risers. After all of the milling has been done and the drywall complete, we will bring the parts back to the job install. If I wanted to, I could probably bring my five year old grandson with me and have him help with the installation of the numbered puzzle pieces. We’ll have to laminate strips of hardwood to the face to get a nice flowing curve and then sand and finish it.  Check back soon for the results!