This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
In some closed stairs in which there is a housed string between the newels, the string is double-tenoned into the shanks of both newels, as shown in Fig. 20. The string in this example is made 12 3/4 inches wide, which is a very good width for a string of this kind; but the thickness should never be less than 1 1/2 inches. The upper newel is made about 5 feet 4 inches long from drop to top of cap. These strings are generally capped with a subrail of some kind, on which the baluster, if any, is cut-mitered in. Generally a groove, the width of the square of the balusters, is worked on the top of the subrail, and the balusters are worked out to fit into this groove; then pieces of this material, made the width of the groove and a little thicker than the groove is deep, are cut so as to fit in snugly between the ends of the balusters resting in the groove. This makes a solid job; and the pieces between the balusters may be made of any shape on top, either beveled, rounded, or moulded, in which ease much is added to the appearance of the stairs.
Fig. 18. Portion of Stair in Position.
Fig. 21 exhibits the method of attaching the rail and string to the bottom newel. The dotted lines indicate the form of the tenons cut to fit the mortises made in the newel to receive them.
Fig. 22 shows how the string fits against the newel at the top; also the trimmer E, to which the newel post is fastened. The string in this case is tenoned into the upper newel post the same way as into the lower one.
Fig. 20. Showing Method of Connecting Housed String to Newels.
Fig. 21. Method of Connecting Rail and String to Bottom Newel.
The open string shown in Fig. 23 is a portion of a finished string, showing nosings and cove returned and finishing against the face of the string. Along the lower edge of the string is shown a bead or moulding, where the plaster is finished.
A portion of a stair of the better class is shown in Fig. 24. This is an open, bracketed string, with returned nosings and coves and scroll brackets. These brackets are made about 3/8 inch thick, and may be in any desirable pattern. The end next the riser should be mitered to suit; this will require the riser to be 3/8 inch longer than the face of the string. The upper part of the bracket should run under the cove moulding; and the tread should project over the string the full § inch, so as to cover the bracket and make the face even for the nosing and the cove moulding to fit snugly against the end of the tread and the face of the bracket. Great care must be taken about this point, or endless trouble will follow. In a bracketed stair of this kind, care must be taken in placing the newel posts, and provision must be made for the extra 3/8 inch due to the bracket. The newel post must be set out from the string 3/8 inch, and it will then align with the baluster. We have now described several methods of dealing with strings; but there are still a few other points connected with these members, both housed and open, that it will be necessary to explain, before the young workman can proceed to build a fair flight of stairs. The connection of the wall string to the lower and upper floors, and the manner of affixing the outer or cut string to the upper joist and to the newel, are matters that must not be overlooked. It is the intention to show how these things are accomplished, and how the stairs are made strong by the addition of rough strings or bearing carriages.
Fig. 22. Connections of String and Trimmer at Upper Newel Post.
Fig. 23. Portion of Finished String, Showing Returned Nosings and Coves, also Bead Moulding.
Fig. 24. Portion of Open, Bracketed String Stair, with Returned Nosings and Coves, Scroll Brackets, and Bead Moulding.
Fig. 25 gives a side view of part of a stair of the better class, with one open, cut and mitered string. In Fig. 26, a plan of this same stairway, W S shows the wall string; R S, the rough string, placed there to give the structure strength; and 0 S, the outer or cut and mitered string. At A A the ends of the risers are shown, and it will be noticed that they are mitered against a vertical or riser line of the string, thus preventing the end of the riser from being seen. The other end of the riser is in the housing in the wall string. The outer end of the tread is also mitered at the nosing, and a piece of material made or worked like the nosing is mitered against or returned at the end of the tread. The end of this returned piece is again returned on itself back to the string, as shown at N in Fig. 25. The moulding, which is 5/8-inch cove in this case, is also returned on itself back to the string.
The mortises shown at B B B B (Fig. 26), are for the balusters. It is always the proper thing to saw the ends of the treads ready for the balusters before the treads are attached to the string; then, when the time arrives to put up the rail, the back ends of the mortises can be cut out, when the treads will be ready to receive the balusters. The mortises are dovetailed, and, of course, the tenons on the balusters must be made to suit. The treads are finished on the bench; and the return nosings are fitted to them and tacked on, so that they may be taken off to insert the balusters when the rail is being put in position.
Fig. 27 shows the manner in which a wall string is finished at the foot of the stairs. S shows the string, with moulding wrought on the upper edge. This moulding may be a simple ogee, or may consist of a number of members; or it may be only a bead; or, again, the edge of the string may be left quite plain; this will be regulated in great measure by the style of finish in the hall or other part of the house in which the stairs are placed. B shows a portion of a baseboard, the top edge of which has the same finish as the top edge of the string. B and A together show the junction of the string and base. F F show blocks glued in the angles of the steps to make them firm and solid. Fig. 28 shows the manner in which the wall string S is finished at the top of the stairs. It will be noticed that the moulding is worked round the ease-off at A to suit the width of the base at B. The string is cut to fit the floor and to butt against the joist. The plaster line under the stairs and on the ceiling, is also shown.
Fig. 25. Side Elevation of Part of Stair with Open, Cut and Mitered String.
Fig. 26. Plan of Part of Stair Shown in. Fig. 25.
Fig. 29 shows a cut or open string at the foot of a stairway, and the manner of dealing with it at its junction with the newel post K.
The point of the string should be mortised into the newel 2 inches, 3 inches, or 4 inches, as shown by the dotted lines; and the mortise in the newel should be cut near the center, so that the center of the baluster will be directly opposite the central line of the newel post. The proper way to manage this, is to mark the central line of the baluster on the tread, and then make this line correspond with the central line of the newel post. By careful attention to this point, much trouble will be avoided where a turned cap is used to receive the lower part of the rail.
The lower riser in a stair of this kind will be somewhat shorter than the ones above it. as it must be cut to fit between the newel and the wall string. A portion of the tread, as well as of the riser, will also butt against the newel, as shown at W.
Fig. 27. Showing How Wall String is Finished at Foot of Stair.
Fig. 28. Showing How Wall String is Finished at Top of Stair.
If there is no spandrel or wall under the open string, it may run down to the floor as shown by the dotted line at 0. The piece 0 is glued to the string, and the moulding is worked on the curve. If there is a wall under the string S, then the base B, shown by the dotted lines, will finish against the string, and it should have a moulding on its upper edge, the same as that on the lower edge of the string, if any, this moulding being mitered into the one on the string. When there is a base, the piece 0 is of course dispensed with.
The square of the newel should run down by the side of a joist as shown, and should be firmly secured to the joist either by spiking or by some other suitable device. If the joist runs the other way, try to get the newel post against it, if possible, either by furring out the joist or by cutting a portion off the thickness of the newel. The solidity of a stair and the firmness of the rail, depend very much upon the rigidity of the newel pest. The above suggestions are applicable where great strength is required, as in public buildings. In ordinary work, the usual method is to let the newel rest on the floor.
Fig. 30 shows how the cut string is finished at the top of the stairs. This illustration requires no explanation after the instructions already given.
Thus far, stairs having a newel only at the bottom have been dealt with. There are, however, many modifications of straight and return stairs which have from two to four or six newels. In such cases, the methods of treating strings at their finishing points must necessarily be somewhat different from those described; but the general principles, as shown and explained, will still hold good.