In recent years I’ve posted stories about unusual tools and workwear from Japan as well as traditional methods of construction in that country. I’ve even written about a contest where people vie to make the thinnest possible shaving with a hand plane. The video I stumbled across this morning cuts closer to home because it has to do with stair building, an activity I enjoyed more than anything else I did as a carpenter. Given how different Japanese framing methods are from the ones used in this country, I was surprised by how similar their stair building methods (at least for this one housed stringer stair) are to our own.
My comments below: 0:10 They’re building a winder so they lay the stair out full-size on a plywood template. I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
0:26 I like the narrow sided squares they use to do layout. Our squares are generally designed from roof framing and are bigger and heavier than they need to be for finish work.
0:34 Laying out the winders.
1:06 That they would kerf cut the stringers and chisel the waste out by hand seems like a slow way to do it. I’d have put a bushing on a router and made the cuts with a home-made stair template (the linked story is free but you’ll have to log in to see it). I can’t fault their precision, thought, the cuts are as clean and precise as could be done with a machine.
1:53 I like the pull-style wooden bodied plane. We’re used to pushing planes but with pulling you have more control (think pulling a wrench instead of pushing it).
2:45 This unusual older saw cuts dados (the color has me thinking Hitachi). The dado is being cut in the bottom side of the tread and will house the upper edge of a riser.
3:23 Interesting that they’re splining the stock for the winders. Makes sense; the tread is going to expand and contract and will crack if the pieces are solidly glued together. Looks to me like they gluing one side of the spline and letting the other side float.
4:02 Using the template to verify the shape of a winder tread.
5:10 The carpenter is wedging the riser against the front edge of the dado in the bottom of the tread because there won’t be a molding under the nosing and he needs a tight joint.
5:13 Nice job! I don’t blame him for working in his socks; I wouldn’t want to scuff the treads either. Hopefully the trades that follow behind are equally careful. But based on my experience, the other trades—especially the drywallers—will trash the stair unless someone protects the heck out of it.