(Contributed by H. Kennard)

The setting out and constructing of stairs, including all requisite hand-railing, is one of the highest branches of Joinery, if not the highest. It embraces work far beyond the scope of the ordinary joiner, necessitating a course of special training. For this reason there are in all joinery works special men, known as "Staircase hands," who are kept almost exclusively for stair-building work. One of the indispensable qualifications of a staircase hand is that he be able to intelligently read drawings. He may be also called upon to make his own working drawings, which will entail a knowledge of drawing instruments and their use; and he must be capable of so illustrating his ideas on paper that others besides himself may readily grasp his meaning. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in staircase work.

The following is a Glossary of some of the technical terms used in stair-building and hand-railing:-


The whole system, including all flights.


A complete length of treads and risers, reaching from floor to floor, or from floor to landing.


The horizontal board upon which one treads when going up or down stairs (Fig. 167).


The vertical board rising from the back of one tread to the front of the next above (Fig. 167).


A level space at the top of a flight, and between floors, usually where the direction of stairs changes.

Quarter-Space Landing

A space equal to the width of one flight, extending half-way across the well (Figs. 157 and 159).

Half-Space Landing

Equal to the width of two flights, extending right across the well.

Well, Or Well Hole

The space from top to bottom of a building containing the staircase. In the case of "Dog-leg" Stairs this is completely filled. With "Open newel," "Circular," and "Geometrical" Stairs a space is left between the two outside strings (Figs.

158, 159, and 166).


When the tread and riser are framed together the combination is termed a "Step."


The sides of stairs carrying steps. When they rise above the steps, completely enclosing their ends, they are called "Close" or "Housed" Strings. (Fig. 166). A "Cut" or "Open" String, on the other hand, is shaped to fit underneath the steps, which have their ends returned across its face (Fig. 159). A cut and mitred and bracketed string is cut to mitre with the riser, and has thin, ornamental shaped brackets fitted to cover the ends of risers (Fig. 167). When the plan of a string forms part of an ellipse or circle, while at the same time it rises with the pitch of stairs, it is termed a "Wreathed" String. The two strings to one flight are named "Outside" or "Outer" String and "Wall" String, according to their position, the names being self-explanatory.

Pitch Of Stairs

The angle formed between the floor and the line of nosings.


The rounded edge of tread which projects over the riser (Fig. 161).

Line Of Nosings

An imaginary line drawn from the nosing of top step to nosing of bottom step of a straight flight. All nosings in the flight should just touch this line.


A small hollow moulding fitted into the angle between tread and riser immediately under the nosing (Fig. 161).

Pilch Board

A thin triangular piece of wood the sides of which represent respectively the "Rise," "Going," and "Pitch" of step.

Rise Of Step

The vertical height from top of one tread to top of next (Fig. 161).

Rise Of Stairs

The vertical height from one floor to the next.

Going Of Step

The horizontal distance between the face of one riser and the face of next (Fig. 161).

Going Of Stairs

The horizontal distance between the face of the bottom riser and the face of top riser in the same flight.

Bull-Nose Step

One having a rounded end. The usual formation of the bottom step of the stairs (Figs. 157 and 166).


The projection of a close string above the nosings of the steps (Fig. 166).


Moulding planted on the top edges of close strings (Fig. 166).


The ornamental end of newel post projecting below string (Fig. 166).

Rough String

A board fixed inside a cut string to strengthen it, and notched to fit the steps.

Wreath Piece

The portion of string immediately under the hand-rail wreath (C, Fig. 159 and Fig. 168).


A step in a turn of stairs tapering in width from wall to outer string or newel. The one coming in the angle of walls is termed a "Kite" Winder (Fig. 157).

Winder 242

Fig. 157.


Ordinary flyers are the parallel steps in one flight. "Diminished" flyers come next to the winders, and are slightly reduced at one end (E, Fig. 158).

Dancing, or Balanced Steps, are winders not radiating from a common centre.

Curtail Step

One having a spiral end (Fig. 159).

Commode Step

One having its front curved on plan (Fig. 165).


The under surface of a flight of stairs, as distinguished from


The finished boarding or plaster under stairs (Fig. 166).


Pieces of stout timber fitted up the under side of steps for support (Fig. 166), and providing a fixing for the soffit.

Pitching Piece

A piece of timber fixed under stairs between newel and wall (Fig. 166), into which the carriage is framed.


Short pieces fixed to support winders.


The space between floor and under side of string (Fig. 166).

Apron Piece

A thin deal facing to the trimmer of landing (Fig. 166).


The posts at top and bottom of a flight, into which hand-rail is fixed (Figs. 158 and 166).