Custom-Made, Hand-Scraped Stair Treads
I was asked to install some hand-scraped Hickory stair treads to match a customer’s hardwood flooring. The job also included opening up a portion of one wall of the stairwell, constructing the newel posts and installing wood handrails and metal balusters. If you do hardwood flooring, you may also see this as a great way to add custom services and better profit.
The customer provided samples of the hardwood flooring installed. I used these as a pattern for creating the hand scraped look for the treads and replicating the stain color. Using 5/4 Hickory stock, I planed and then straight-edged the boards. They were then run through the shaper to put a glue joint on, glued, clamped and left to dry.
The surface planer was used to smooth the back (a flat back is necessary for secure mounting on the stair stringers), then I hand planed the face down. The tread was given a distressed look by setting the plane blade out so it would take chunks out of the wood. Next is block planing to take out the saw marks on the edge and distress that as well. I finished this first phase using a ¼” round-over bit to ease the face edges of each step.
These steps will have the hand-scraped look without actually hand scraping. A cove making router bit was used for this. I marked a squiggly line all the way down the board with a pencil and routed until the pencil line was gone. This removed only about a sixteenth or less of material. Then I ran the router freehand back and forth to make the lines appear random. Using a brick hammer, I distressed the tread surface even more. A jitterbug sander with 120 grit paper was used to smooth everything down a little.
The stain is a gel in a dark mahogany. The color has to match the floor and after drying, 3 coats of polyurethane are applied. It’s important to match the finish to the installed flooring for continuity.
To prepare the stairwell, the old treads were removed and the wall was opened at the lower portion of the stairwell. In this stair case, the stringers were too far apart so I added 2×6 lumber to support the steps. Additional support was added where the wall section was removed.
A Stair Wizard was used to measure the 6 upper steps to size and cut to fit. Now the treads can be installed with risers. Cove trim moldings are added to the two skirt boards. The newel post, hand rail and spindles were installed next.
The newel posts are built using basic rail and stile construction. The bottom of the newel posts are Poplar, as are the stair risers, and the newel top is Hickory. The spindles or balusters are steel and epoxied in. The trim, risers and newel post bottoms were painted on site.
From glue-up to routing, it took about 2 hours for each tread. This is a detailed and time consuming job that only the most discerning client will want. Custom made stair treads and newels is not about saving money, but about giving the customer a high quality product and improving your business opportunities.
Thanks to my lovely wife for taking the pictures and putting up with me. Please enjoy the gallery below.