British Columbia log builder David Edgeley describes himself as a "functional artist." For the last 12 years, his company has specialized in custom-made log and timber stairs and railings. The assemblies are test-fitted at the company yard in Errington, British Columbia, then disassembled, packed for shipping, and sent to purchasers throughout North America and as far away as Germany and Japan.

The heart of the three-level spiral stair pictured here is a 45-foot Douglas fir log measuring 2 1/2 feet in diameter at the top and more than 5 feet at the butt. Edgeley and his crew cut mortises for the treads with a chain saw - a tool that gets too little respect from woodworkers, in his view. "You can do very fine work with a chain saw,...

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