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Volume 1 Issue 1“Building Confidence”January 2003



Well, as you can see, this is the first newsletter of and Dave's Shop.

My brother, Dan and I conceived this idea in the Spring of 1999. "Let's build a website where I can help people with their building projects", through email questions, I said to my brother, who has a background in the computer industry. That was our idea. Dan got me writing articles on different subjects pertaining to construction. My articles on how to build stairs seemed to hit a nerve out there. I have more questions on that subject than any other. Dan figures we have around 550 people visit our site every day. We have had email and questions from all over the world, as well as a few in my own backyard. The website sells stock plans as well as custom plans for small projects. In this way we get the feeling from people like you, what you want to learn about. Enough of us, you can learn more about Dan and myself by reading our bios, on site.

I thought you may be interested in learning what some of the questions are that I get. Usually, my computer has two or three questions waiting for me when I check it out in the morning before going to work. Yes, I still go to work. I'm a building contractor mainly doing home renovations. I never advertise, just am busy from word of mouth.

Now to the questions:

Richard needed to build a temporary porch and stairs and didn't know where to start.

Here was my answer:

Hi Richard,

Here is a sketch I modified a bit for your purpose.

Make up the landing first with a 2x4 frame,  install plywood.
Turn it over and nail on the legs under the frame, not along side
it. To keep them there nail or screw on a plywood gusset a 2x4
width (3 1/2") x about a foot long to the leg and the frame. Them
install it below the door you want on wood blocks tamped in place.
Nail the double 2x4 posts up to support the handrail and stringer,
over the two front and back legs, as shown on the sketch. Cut out
and install the steps. Install the handrails as shown.


Hello Dave, What do I measure to cut the risers and treads for a staircase? Do I measure from floor to top of stairs, or something else to get the length of the 2x10 or 2x12. Thank you. Buddy

Buddy didn't read the How to Build Stairs article (, I don't think.

Hello Dave, Any ideas on how or what to use for steps on a hill? It has a 7' to 7 1/2' rise, and is about 25' in distance from top to bottom horizontally. Thank you Wayne Hi Wayne, Roughly looking at your slope for a total rise of 90" and a run of 300" you would need 13 risers at about 7" and 12 runs at about 25". This is, of course, a very gentle slope. Depending on the type of earth forming the slope, you could just carve out the steps using pressure treated wood for treads, use landscape ties or rocks. Just keep in mind the rise and run to follow as you go up the hill. The only problem with a large run like this is that it's awkward to walk down the stairs, needing two steps to get down each run. Try working the figures, the lower the rise the less the run on each step due to more steps. Dave
Hello Dave, Do you have any step by step directions on how to build the balcony railing? Thank you Hi Ellen, Below is the answer to a question on a curved handrail system. This might help you, too. The handrail on a curved staircase is usually made up of a series of strips ripped from solid wood. These strips are approximately the height of your finished rail and the width when they are glued up. To glue them up in the right shape you need a shape to follow, ie. the shape of the stairs. If the landing is the only part that is curved, this makes it easy. Use the outside shape of the landing and glue your strips together on it. You need to fasten blocks about every 6 inches securely onto the landing just in the amount of the width of the handrail. your handrail will be clamped to these blocks until the glue dries. Make sure where you secure the handrail on the landing is exactly where the handrail will be on the radius of the circle. When the handrail dries. You need to take it to a mill work shop who will then machine the profile of the rail to match the rest of the rail. You can do this yourself depending on the profile you want. If you are coming up the stairs with a curved handrail, be aware that the handrail is not continuous from the stairs to the landing. The rail on the landing is level and the rail on the stairs is slopped. Where this transition point occurs is called a gooseneck. Most building supply stores have handrail parts such as this gooseneck and the newel post that it goes into. These people are quite knowledgeable with what they sell and can help you probably better than I can, being miles away. They should be able to sell you the lay up strips for your rail, as well. One trick that I use, since I don't have a bunch of clamps, is make my clamps from 3/4" plywood cut into a square horsehoe shape, allowing for the thickness of the rail, the blocks and add about a 1/4" for a wedge that tightens it up, similar to a 'C' clamp with out the screw. Here are some pictures of the stairs in my house that I did as described above: All the parts are bought at a store, except the curved handrail and curved bottom rail. Notice where the rail is located on the curved landing, it has to be glued up in exactly that position. I did this before the carpet was installed. It is important that you can visually see the finished project before you do each step. A staircase if done properly will be the focal place in your home. Dave

We also get comments from those smarter than Dan or myself:

Hello Dave, In your article on building stair stringers why do you
show the run of the bottom riser 1/2" longer than your layout of
10 1/2"?

Hi Kip,

No reason, just stupid, I guess. Thanks for the observation. I'll
get Daniel my brother as well as my webmaster to fix it up.

Appreciate it,


Then the inevitable web site problems:

Love the web site if it did not run off both sides of the window
in NETSCAPE 7.0. I can see text when I select printable version.

I really wanted to use the stair calculator.... But all the print
is off the right side of the window. There is no bar across the
bottom to accommodate the oversize screen. I can only see the middle
most part of the page.

Hope it is easy to fix, I have book marked it for future reference
if/when it is fixed.


I had to get the big guy to fix that one:

Hi Mike,

Thanks very much for the alert!

I've been meaning to get around to checking out the newest browsers.
Looks like I should have done it sooner!

Okay, got the pages altered so they display correctly with the latest
and greatest browsers.


That shows some of what is happening at this end. If you have any comments or suggestions for this newsletter or the web site, please pass them along to either Dave or Dan at email

Well, that's it for this month, don't want to bore you!

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