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I posted this question on another forum and will try here also.

I am getting ready to build the stairway into our loft. It has two full log stringers and I have them in place. The steps will be half log. I have built numerous conventional stairs, so calculations for rise and run are not an issue.

My plan is to get one step notched in, leveled both ways, and build from there. I have a metal jig in my head that would fasten to the top surface of a step that is already installed and also to the top surface of the next step to be installed. It would be adjustable vertically so that the step you are installing can rest on the log stringers for scribing. In order to maintain the proper rise, you would measure from the top of the step you are installing to the top of the step already installed with the jig holding everything in place. Then subtract that measurement from the desired rise and set the scriber to that dimension, then scribe for notching.

The stringers are about 14" dia and the steps are half log made from 11 - 12" logs. My original intent was to notch the stringers to make a pocket for the steps, but am wondering if there is any reason I can't notch the steps to fit the stringers instead. This would have the advantages of; not weakening the stringers, although I don't really think that is an issue, allowing some slight adjustment of rise by moving the step up or down the stringer a small amount, and if I screw up a notch, I only lose half of a 3' log, not an entire stringer.

Any comments? Thanks, Kent

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Doesn't sound too good if you notch the steps. Figure the steps will be 5 - 6" thick (half the diameter of the log you cutting them from) and if you notch them the notch area will only be 2-3" thick. To me this would weaken the step considerably, especially if you countersink holes for bolts to hold them in place; this may only give you 1-2" of thickness at these points. You have more room to work with on the stringers, than on the steps.

Alan, can't comment on your pictures because I can't see them. My stingers are full round. Whatever is notched will be notched rather deeply, as the back corner of the tread is nearly flush with the surface of the stringer.
Wes, I doubt that the tread will be weakened enough to matter, as the thinnest portion, which is still pretty thick, is fully supported by the stringer. The stringers are on approx 28" centers, so not much to span there. I use (2) 2 x 10 or 2 x 12's side by side on scaffolding, and frequently am putting all my weight on just one in the middle of the span, and that is a 7' span.
Another consideration is the usage of the stairs. The loft the serve is a single room with no partitions and no plumbing. It is intended for a place for the grandkids to watch tv and will have some portable futons for sleeping. The adults will have real bedrooms in the walk-out basement.
Thanks all for the input and keep it comin' :)
Hi Kent,
There is a real easy way to build this type of stair, but you may be too far along to do it.

The way I used to do it was:

1. cut a pair of stair jacks out of 2x material with the proper rise and run
2. lay them on a flat surface with the cut edges up and spread apart about 2', nail blocking between so they wont fall over or get out of square. This is your jig. it needs to be square, parallel, and relativity level.
3. lay all your treads upside-down on the jig. Your treads should have a very subtle flat square edge on the leading edge where you walk. now I wish I had some pictures to show. but i don't.
4. next, lay your stringers on top of your up-side down treads, position them where you want them and scribe them down to the treads with one scribe setting. don't change your scribes between notches.
You can scribe each stringer separately.
5. now cut your notches in the stringer and lay them back in place over the upside-down treads to check for the fit. At this point I cut the bottom and top of the stringers to the correct angel and length. In your case, you have already done this which kind of complicates this method but it is possible to get it right. You will need to be very careful to set your stringer up just right before you scribe it.

So, you are basically building your stairs upside-down. If you have the means, you can bolt it up in place on the jig and lift it into it's final resting place in one piece, or install the stringers and treads separately on site. Just mark and number every piece so you get it back together the same way.

Hope that helps,
Rick - sounds real neat! Makes a lot of sense too. Unfurtunately am too far along for that unless I chisel some plugs out and remove lag bolts. Might be worth it, tho.
It is slick! so, you must have followed my convoluted instructions. :)
If you are a good scriber you can have all the notching and fitting done in 2 hrs.
I actually could do it in place using your method, but the temporary jacks would have to be upside down and the steps would have to be screwed to the temporary jacks while scribing. Would probably be a little unwieldy. Another problem I am going to have with doing it in place regardless of what method I use is a wall on one side of the stairs that is only 2" away from the log stringer on that side. Will be able to scribe only one side and then will have to make a template that matches that scribe mark in order to mark the side I can't reach. Of course this assumes that the step on that end is uniform in contour.
I'm typing kinda slow 'cause I stuck my finger in a Sir Lancelot last Saturday. Finger is still there, just some lighter.
ouch! that is one of those chain saw blade grinder things, right? Did it get the bone?

I think if I were you, I would leave the stringers in place and scribe the treads down one at a time. You could make that jig like i said, and fix it solid somehow suspended over the stringers and high enough so you can have room to scribe the treads.

You might devise something like a middle support on the jig that you could strap each tread to so as to hold it up in place while you scribe it.

The tread might be 3" away from the stringer and your scribes might be set at 4 1/2". Don't forget to turn the scribe over and mark exactly where that will sit after it is notched.

Have fun !
Prolly could just use a 1" ratchet strap on each end to snug the step to the jig also. Doing one at a time would eliminate most of the sag problem you would have if the were all suspended at the same time. This makes a lot more sense than the adjustable jig I had envisioned. I could put one step at a time on the jig, scribe each, then remove the jig and start carvin'.

Yeh, the Sir Lancelot is that chain saw thingy on a hand grinder. Had just finished shaping a log end and was holding the hand grinder in my right hand while it spun down. Reached for something with my left and stuck my finger in it. Didn't slow it down much. My first thought before the blood started was "dang, that's going to take forever to heal". Put some direct pressure on with my thumb on that hand and grabbed a towel on the way to the bathroom. It trimmed about a third of the nail on one side and removed a fair amount of tissue on the side down to the first nuckle. Wrapped it up good and tight and kept working. By late afternoon was leaking all over the logs so quit and cleaned up. Wife didn't know about it until I quit. Then I was missing a chunk from my rear too. She asked me why I didn't go get it stitched up and I told her there was nothing to stitch, they'd have to darn it or something. I yielded to pressure from her and went to the doc on Mon. He just rewrapped it and sent me home. Said he would tell me in a week if a graft was needed. He didn't think it would. Just touched the bone and a little cartilege. Tendons still work, so should end up with just a scar and a narrower nail and yet another weather change indicator.
Sounds good Kent.
I would say you could cut the stringer or the tread. The stringer would be the better choice though just considering how gravity works, the notch is there to hold it. And the other reason is, is that you have opportunity to level the treads again if the second floor settles an inch or two.

Keep up the good work and watch out for that Lancelot thing.
Well, finally got to the stairs. After a lot of pondering decided to keep the integrity of the stringers intact and notch the steps. Will hold them on with long panels screws and construction adhesive. If I screw up a notch, I haven't lost a stringer, just half a short log. I used Rick's suggestion of building a jig and it is working well. I clamp the half log to the jig, then scribe the contour onto the step, rough it with a chainsaw, and finish it with the lancelot (all healed up now).

Told my wife I found a new coleman hand grinder on sale at Oerscheln's for half price and I was going to get it 'cause it has the handle up away from the cutting wheel and it actually has a guard. Figured she would be all for that, but wanted to know why I was closing the barn door after the horse was out. Got it anyway. Here are a coupla pictures. Working inside on finish work right now.
Ouch, I did a similar thing when we built an extension on our home nearly 20-years ago. Had three small pieces of 1x6 T&G to finish. Cutting one on a table saw and it kicked and pulled my right hand toward the spinning blade. Only got my index finger, straight in from the tip about half an inch to where it chipped the bone. Doc in ER took what was left of my fingernail off, wrapped it up and said see you in a week.

End of finger still sensitive. The nail grew back a bit crooked and about twice as thick.

The guy that prepared and stacked my logs had so many scars from chainsaws, Lancelot's, etc that it was a wonder that he could still use his hands.


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