How to Use a Wood Router When Building Wood Stairs

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When building wood stairs, a wood router is essential for several tasks, such as stair nosing and stair edging. Learn how to use a wood router effectively for building wooden stairs from these tips below.

What does a Router Do?

A router is used to make cuts in wood in various edge shapes and styles. Among the most commonly used for building stairs are the chamfer cut, which produces an angled edge; the round overcut, which makes a curved front edge; and the beading cut, employed to make a double groove in a piece of wood with a curved face between the grooves. To make stronger stair treads that stay in place more effectively, a dovetail cut can be made into the stair stringers.

How does the Router Cut?

The router cuts by carving out sections of the wood. It employs various bits on a circular base that penetrates the wood to make recesses, or shave off the edge of the wood to create a particular edge finish.

The Chamfer Cut

The chamfer cut is used at the base of a set of stairs to create the finished sides of the bottom step. If the stringers were not "chamfered" at the base, a sharp corner would be left sticking up in the air. People could cut their ankles on this corner if they approached the bottom step at an angle of fewer than 90 degrees.

The Round Over Cut

At the top of the staircase, where it joins a floor surface, builders place a bar of wood with a rounded front edge, called a nose or nosing. This reinforces the top edge of the step and also keeps the floor surface from being scratched or lifted when people step onto it. On stairs that are narrow from front to back, a nose piece can be placed on each stair tread. This is effective if the wood stairs will be carpeted, as the round-over cut edge provides rounded support that will not wear down the carpet fibers.

The Bead Cut

Used to create many styles of decorative molding, the bead cut can be applied to a slender piece of wood, which is then placed down the edge of the stairs against the supporting wall. This beaded strip acts as a baseboard for the top edge of the stair stringer. It conceals the ends of paneling, wallpaper and drywall applied to the wall surface. The beaded strip is then painted or stained the same color as the surface of the wood stairs. A variation of the beading cut can be used to shape stair handrails.

The Dovetail Cut

More commonly used to connect drawers into a cabinet, the dovetail cut can also be used to insert stair treads into the stair stringers. The stair stringers are dovetailed, and each narrow edge of the stair treads is then notched in a corresponding shape, to fit into the stringer. Fewer nails, screws, and other fasteners are needed to hold these stairs in place, and they also tend to warp less than other stair treads.