Sunday, November 25, 2012

The stone walkway

Loading the cart

Unloading. Why the cycling jacket? Its hunting season.

Waiting to be placed in the ground

During construction of the house, we put aside a really nice big flat stone. Sometime this summer I got around to setting it in the walk as the first in a series that will become a stone walkway to the driveway. The stone is lovely and it is a really nice first "step" on this little project.

Nancy and I frequently take a walk through the most beautiful wooded area that happens to just be out our back door. It has dramatic rises and falls, an impressive brook running through it and portions of gentle wooded paths. Part of this walk is on my parents land and over time we've noticed a few choice stones that would make welcome additions to our evolving stone pathway. The challenge is that these heavy stones are out in the middle of the woods and how would we get them back up here to the house?

Luckily we have the most amazing hand cart built to plans created by David Tresemer. We are fortunate that the rocks were located uphill from an access way that we were able to back a truck into. I easily walked the cart down through the woods to the stones and then Nancy and I were able to muscle them into the cart and roll them down to the truck. More effort got them into the truck bed and they are now laying on the ground waiting to be laid in the pathway.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stair Railing, Pt. 2

I started off wanting to install a railing down the stairs from the second floor to the first, but was delayed slightly by needing to rebuild a section of upstairs railing before I could start to piece together the actual stair rail. With that now complete, I spent some time crafting the railing.

First off I needed to pencil  the height of the completed rail on the wall and then mount the handrail brakets that the railing will sit on when installed. We purchased some nice vintage reproduction brackets from Lee Valley.

One of the rail brackets. I find them really beautiful, but as is the lot of a rail bracket, it is mostly hidden from view behind the railing itself

With the brackets installed I then built up the rail pieces themselves. I had planned to continue the railing detail around the opening on the second floor down, but Nancy said it was way too big.  I then  sized the whole assembly down and it is much better now--easier to grasp and a gentler profile all around.

The junction of the two runs of rail where they meet at the landing

This is where the (newly extended) section of stair opening railing meets the rail that goes downstairs. I'm still not sure how these two are going to connect

The intersections where the railing sections meet are the challenging part since they are coming in at an angle and then making a turn or (in the case where the upstairs railing meets the stair rail) turning, dropping, and then turning again.  I knew the only way I'd be able to work this out was to build everything long and then make fitting decisions where I could actually see the relationships.

That is the next step: work out the connections between the two runs of rail and then sort out how I want to finish it where it enters out into the living room on the first floor. Should it be simple and unadorned and just end at the opening? End in a decorative curl atop a post? Hmm... I enjoy visualizing this kind of thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stair Railing

Nice morning light coming in on the section of upstairs railing I'm rebuilding

Its become apparent to me that we need a railing for the stairway between the first and second floors. Any time kids or older folks are visiting I notice the subtle search for support as someone goes up or down the stairs. We are plannng to have a full house here at the end of the year with both young and old alike, so I'm working to get a railing in place beforehand.

This is a somewhat complex project for a couple of reasons. Railings often look simple because they seem to seamlessly wind down the stairway passage, but in fact there are sometimes odd drops and levels that require some creative woodworking and joinery.

The newly rebuilt section of railing that now extends about 6 or 7 inches further along the stair opening. The circle indicates where the post used to be

Additionally, joining the rail to the existing banister that runs along the stair opening on the second floor has required rebuilding a section of the upstairs banister. I resisted making this effort at first since it meant doing some careful deconstruction, but once I committed myself to going that direction it became clear that the project will be much more satisfactory in the end.

As you can see in the photo above, the original banister did not quite reach to the end of the stair opening, as indicated by the light colored circle where the post used to be. I considered various ways that I might extend the existing structure, but in the end decided that the best way to "stretch it" was to rebuild the whole section.  A really nice bonus to result from making this decision was the opportunity to do a better job positioning the vertical wooden posts that sit in groups of three along the span of the railing. When I built the section the first time I didn't really work out a satisfying positioning between the two metal posts and now I have the opportunity to correct that. You may not be able to see it too well in the photo below, but each grouping of three wooden posts now sit nicely centered in the run. It used to be off kilter and it bugged me.

New section of upstairs railing in place with newly positioned vertical posts

With the section of railing rebuilt and extended, now I can get on with my original goal to instal the railing down to the first floor.