Staircase - calling mathematicians

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Okay, so I've chosen my next project and it entails a curved staircase.  I can count the stairs from pictures but what I have to try and figure out is how high each step is and how wide etc.  Given that it's curved essentially into an oval, with two small landings and then a large landing at top, makes it a little more tricky.  I'm not sure if I'll do the whole staircase as this will be little more than a roombox somewhat.  It goes up to a second level and again, I have to figure how high the second level sits....  Trying to work measurements etc is quite tricky for my brain.  Does anyone have any foolproof ways of working this out or is it really just trial and error??

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I would cut a sheet of scrap paper or lightwieght card into the desired curve that fits from floor to floor, and then take strips of scrap paper and practice folding them into accordion pleats the height and depth you want for your risers and treads until you have filled your curved strip; not foolproof, but I'm not a mathematician.

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47 minutes ago, havanaholly said:

I would cut a sheet of scrap paper or lightwieght card into the desired curve that fits from floor to floor, and then take strips of scrap paper and practice folding them into accordion pleats the height and depth you want for your risers and treads until you have filled your curved strip; not foolproof, but I'm not a mathematician.

Sounds like how I would figure it.  I've got to figure the height of what I'm going to build first I suppose.....

38 minutes ago, Mid-life madness said:

Have you looked at a calculator on line? I Googled 'calculate curved staircase' and several came up. https://www.blocklayer.com/stairs/spiral-stairs.aspx

Made my head hurt just looking at it :crazyeyes:.

Good grief!!  I had no idea that there would be such a thing - but need a mathematician to translate it for me!   :D  

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I am not entirely sure what you are planning, but any staircase is just a series of steps. Figure out the height between the surface of the ground floor and the surface of the first floor (as opposed to the ceiling) - in other words, the ceiling height plus the floor thickness. Hope that makes sense. Then divide by the number of steps you want. Using a standard thickness of material would be easier, eg 6mm thick wood but this might not divide evenly between your number of steps.

For drawing up the plan, an overhead view (looking directly down) helps me.

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I just clicked!  Duh!  @shannonc60  - You do Nutcote Cottage!!!  I LOVE that cottage!  It's on my wishlist!!  Love your kitchens too - and other kits!

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You could also make mock-ups of the stair steps, tape one where you want the stairs to start and glue successive steps the way you want them to go until they end up at the next opening, and then untape the bottom step when the glue is dry and use the template to make your curved piece and finished steps.

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12 hours ago, Shareb said:

I just clicked!  Duh!  @shannonc60  - You do Nutcote Cottage!!!  I LOVE that cottage!  It's on my wishlist!!  Love your kitchens too - and other kits!

Yep, that’s me! And thanks! Great to hear you like my kits!

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Love that bricklayer website calculator!

This is how you use it:

Notice at the top there is a blue block that says "Spiral Stairs Metric". Click on the box right below it that says "Imperial". This will change the measurements from metric to feet/inches. Fill in the blocks to suit your needs. Total rise is how high your room box is from the floor to the ceiling. Ideal rise is the height of each step, or how high your doll will have to step up on each step of the stairs. Inside radius is the radius (one-half of the diameter) of your vertical staircase pole. Tread length is the length of a step, measured from pole to outer edge. Rotation is hard to explain. If you start at the bottom rung, and make a complete circle as you ascend, this number would be 360 degrees. If you only go around a half circle by the time you reach the top, rotation would be 180 degrees.

If you have landings, make a landing pattern using 2-3 steps merged into a single larger step/landing. You will then need to add the extra (missing) steps to the top to keep the correct height. For example: If your landing is three steps wide, you will need to add and extra two steps to the top of the stairs to reach the ceiling.

If you switch to Imperial the default numbers of a ceiling height of eight feet, four inches, and an individual step height of six inches is a good working estimate for a dollhouse staircase. Of course, you must divide by 12 to get 1:12 scale measurements. The program generates a pattern that you can use to cut the steps. Just resize and print, or use the measurements to hand draw a pattern.

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I also want to do a curved staircase. I get that there is math involved in planning the steps but the curved railing is my problem. I'm sure it involves soaking and bending a piece, but do you have more detailed info?

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3 hours ago, Lita said:

I also want to do a curved staircase. I get that there is math involved in planning the steps but the curved railing is my problem. I'm sure it involves soaking and bending a piece, but do you have more detailed info?

Thankfully the railing I'm doing is all wrought iron!  I think it would be relatively simple to bend a thin flat piece of wood for the bottom.  I think if you soaked the wood, bent in however far you need, clamp it into position and let dry that should work.  However if you want a round curved handrail I don't know how you would achieve that!

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I'm becoming partial to the styrene channel molding I find at hobby shops in the model train section for staircase handrails.

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On 8/16/2019, 3:02:23, Shareb said:

 I think if you soaked the wood, bent in however far you need, clamp it into position and let dry that should work.  However if you want a round curved handrail I don't know how you would achieve that!

I guess that's why the already-assembled curved staircases with handrails are $50 and up! You're right, the handrail is the problem.

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Some of those curved handrails are notched to better enable bending them. You can see the notches clearly on the left handrail in the picture below. I think smoothing that over with stainable wood filler would effectively make those notches disappear.

You can also do a build-up method using varying thicknesses of wood. You have to use sheets of wood, not stripwood. You cut out the entire curve on a flat sheet of wood, then another slightly smaller to put on top of that, then the top of the rail from a thicker piece of wood. That one has to be sanded a lot to give it a rounded shape or else you end up with a big block of wood for a handrail. Once layered atop one another, the pieces make a pretty good curved railing.

Essentially, you're cutting the wood into a curve, not trying to bend the wood into a curve. Does that make sense?

I have a staircase that used that method. I'll try to get pictures of it later.

Notched Handrail.jpg

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That absolutely makes sense. The other thing I learned shopping for kits is that one woodworking supplier also includes a template for a curved cut-out in the upper floor. Duh! I won't be able to fit a curved stair into a square hole...Will have to consider that!

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Sorry, I know these pics don't help at all. This is the staircase that goes into my Barstow Belle. Part of the handrail is curved, as are the top and bottom rails of the upper railing that goes around the stairwell opening on the second floor. They've been filled, sanded and painted/stained so you can't really see the layered build-up process used to make them. I'll post them anyway, such as they are. :/

Barstow Staircase 1.jpg

Barstow Staircase 2.jpg

Barstow Staircase 3.jpg

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Dangit, I can't find the books from which I learned to do staircases. I'll link to them below. I prefer building my stairs out of long blocks of 3/4" thick wood stacked atop one another. I learned that from Christopher Cole's book. It enables a much greater variety of stairs than can be accomplished using traditional stair stringers, which I find very limiting. If I could find that book, I'd post his schematics! Maybe someone else has it.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Make-Your-Own-Dolls-House-by-Christopher-Cole-hardcover-w-dust-jacket-1976/223490488192

Christopher Cole.jpg

That stacked method was used to create my stairs that I pictured above. I believe that method was also used to create this dollhouse staircase:

Circular Dollhouse Stairs.jpg

The built-up method for curved railings is from Dorie Krusz's book:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Building-Miniature-Houses-and-Furniture-by-Dorie-Krusz-HC-Dollhouses-Dolls/173957631877

Dorie Krusz.jpg

The spiral end cap instead of a newel post at the base of this staircase below is from that book.

This method also works for full railings for circular staircases, as well as the landings around stairwell openings (again, as pictured in my post above). For the actual staircase railings, you have to lay the finished staircase down onto matboard or sheetwood (I prefer sheetwood) to get a template. You have to use the finished stairs and not just a schematic of how it looks from above, or else once you tip the railing up at a 45-degree angle, the length will fall short.

Again, I can't find my copy of that book for no love nor money. Maybe someone else has it. It doesn't give specific instructions for doing railings for a circular staircase but the method is adaptable.

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I think my copy of Dorie Krusz's book went to another member, so long ago I've forgotten who it was.

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This is the staircase I'm doing.  You can't tell so well from this picture, however they are oval and in an oval room.

Parisstairdone-1440x1080.jpg

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If you're  going to make that balustrade, wire is easily bent to fit whatever kind of curves you need.

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