The first step

Emerald Hill is now turned over to Luis, stairbuilder.

He is turning hickory planks, carefully, deliberately, into risers, treads and nosings, cutting wood with what has to be the smallest, most-underpowered, beaten-up, portable Black & Decker table saw, set up outside on the front walk, on a dreary, overcast and sometimes wet day, matching his skills and tape measure against a 7-inch thin-kerf blade. He bought the machine used, he tells Steven, at a flea market 10 years ago, he thinks. He’s burned through many larger, heavier, more powerful table saws, but this is the machine he comes back to with trust. It’s the story he will scribe as he builds the stairs over the next four days.

The table saw is mounted to a plywood slab.
The table saw is mounted to a pine slab.
Luis trims down the dimensions of a plank of hickory to create the first riser.
Luis trims down the dimensions of a plank of hickory to create the first riser.
He checks the fit.
He checks the fit. The board is long. He will take it back outside to the Ridgid chop saw to cut down to size.
He nails the first riser into place.
He nails the first riser into place.
The stair treads come with a bullnose. Jacquela and Steven have asked for a square nosing. Luis trims off the rounded edge.
The stair treads come with a bullnose. Jacquela and Steven have asked for a square nosing. Luis trims off the rounded edge.
The bullnose after it is cut off.
The bullnose after it is cut off.
Luis begins to test fit the tread, using a cutoff template to ensure the tread extends no more than 1/4 inch past the front of the riser.
Luis begins to test fit the tread, using a cutoff template to ensure the tread extends no more than 1/4 inch past the front of the riser.
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