Why am I writing this?
I was first introduced to handrailing in 1985, while working on site in Cookham, Berkshire. I was part of a team of carpenters, carrying out a refurbishment of a public house, the contractor I was working for at this time called in a specialist to fit the handrail, this of course made me think “What is so special about handrail?” about a year later I had the opportunity to work with a friend on another staircase that required handrail, I jumped at the chance and had my first glimpse of handrailing. I was hooked.
Luckily my friend had learnt from his dad, his dad did a full apprenticeship in the 1940’s learning from guys that had probably had their training around the turn of the 20th century.
This as far as I was concerned gave me a good traditional grounding in joinery, I was also lucky enough to be of an age to have grown up with the imperial measurement system; which of course most of the staircases throughout England had been manufactured in.
From this point forward things changed rapidly, we changed to metric measurements and the advent of computers, this changed the way the industry worked. The technology had great benefits when carrying out surveys and drawing the staircases and the handrail components using the tangent method. The down side was that the world was speeding up too, this meant many of the traditional ways of doing things were changing.
In recent years CNC technology has started replacing the skilled craftsman, Sad to say but these machines programmed correctly can produce a more constant standard of finish in a lot less time than the poor old guys stood at a bench.
So to get to answer the question of why am I doing this? I have loved working on stairs; the focal point to many a grand entrance, also knowing that my work may still be standing in a couple of hundred years is a wonderful thought. I have carried out a fair amount of restoration work and would like to document the traditional ways for others learning stairs to use in years to come. The traditional way of drawing the stairs and the geometry used in setting the staircase out is still a major benefit even with CNC technology if you want your staircase to work and flow with the rest of the building.
What I am trying to achieve.
I have been very lucky with the properties that I have had the opportunity to work on and the skilled people that I have worked with and learnt from. My aim is to bring the skills from the past into a modern day format as a reference for anyone wishing to gain an understanding of staircases and how they work. I will not be able to cover everything here as I am still learning but I see learning stairs is like picking lottery numbers: there are only a few rules (or numbers) but millions of permutations. The difference is, with the right knowledge you can pick the numbers in advance.
I will build the information on this site as fast as I can but I do still work as a consultant and I do want to get the information on these pages as correct and easily explained as possible. Therefore I am creating all the content myself including the images used. The information I present here is from my own experience and beliefs through trial and error. Where possible, I will give different examples of ways to do things. Each job is different and as such different methods may be required to achieve the best result.
I hope to make this a useful and informative resource.