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Detailing Stair Tread Ends

There's more than one way to bullnose the end of an open stair tread. November 19, 2006

We are making stair treads for the first time. Any pointers on construction methods would be greatly appreciated. We are making them out of jatoba and will be bullnosing the fronts. Most everything is a wall to wall butt. However, there are a few open ends that I would like to return a piece of bullnose around so as to not see the end grain. How do you go about this?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor R:
I draw a line 1 1/4" in from the edge and then draw a miter to the corner. I cut as much of the line as I can on my SCMS and finish the line and miter with a jigsaw. The return piece is 1 1/4" wide and overhangs the back of the tread by 1 1/4". I glue the entire length of the return to the tread, end grain to face grain, and three nails - two into the treads and one into the stringer in the return's overhang. If you are doing the balusters, care should be taken in regard to nail placement. You will most likely find yourself putting the nails right where the baluster holes need to go.

The second method is the swoosh (looks like the Nike swoosh), is fast and easier after you have made the two templates. The treads and returns are shaped on the shaper with a bearing cutter. You should cut the return piece from larger stock and cut it off after you run it past the shaper. It's easier on the fingers.

From contributor G:
End grain to long grain has always been a problem in woodworking. We put pocket holes on the bottom of the tread and then a series of biscuits. Glue it up, and use the pocket
screws to draw it in tight. If a baluster hole is to be drilled, then take out the screw if it's in the way before you drill. If you don't want to fool with pocket screws, then just biscuit
and bar clamp. Never had a problem. The biscuits make nice loose tenons and you can drill right through them. You can also use a spline, but that is a little more work.