Monday, 10 February 2014

Varnishing the Staircase

While I was away Simon took the opportunity to embark on a major renovation project -- varnishing our staircase.

 Before (with one step half sanded so you can see the difference).
After it was installed I did the steps and risers of the bottom flight, and that is how the whole thing has  stayed for nearly 5 years. It was just too big, inconvenient and messy to contemplate finishing.

During (steps sanded and washed).

Simon's programme of work was as follows:

Day 1 sanding the top flight including banister with 80 grit sandpaper followed by 120 grit. For this a combination of orbital sander, 1/3 sheet sander and corner sander were used.

Day 2 sanding the top flight banister (all those angles and awkward unreachable bits!).

Day 3 more sanding.

Day 4 more sanding.

Day 5 more sanding then varnishing the whole of the top flight.

Day 6 knocked back the varnish on the top flight and gave it a second coat, followed by a first coat on the lower flight steps.

Day 7 knocked back the varnish on all the steps by hand with 400 grit, gave all of it another coat of varnish. After waiting 4 hours for the varnish to dry, everything was gone over with 400 grit again, dusted with a soft paintbrush and another coat of varnish applied, three steps at a time.

Day 8 all of the banister knocked back with 400 grit sandpaper (once again all done by hand), dusted with a microfibre cloth and given a very thin final coat of varnish.

Most of the days involved 8 -12 hours on him being on his knees, up to his neck in dust. He claims 7 vacuum cleaner loads of dust were generated, but most of it had been removed by the time I was home. The steps are silky smooth - using 400grit sandpaper means a finish like high quality furniture.

 After (ta dah!)

He's done a great job and it was a fabulous surprise. All of the smears the steps were left with from Stéphane's work rendering the walls are gone, they are a rich reddish mid brown colour and the handrails are smooth to the touch.


  1. OK Simon...
    now you've had the practice...
    you can come and do ours!!
    We'll hide the pumpkins away....

    The job looks a good-un!!
    Tedious work, but look at your result...
    no need to buy a shiving mirror ever again!!

  2. Sorryyyy...
    for "shiving"...
    please read "SHAVING"....
    I blame it on the weather...
    my brain's rusting!!

  3. As an amateur woodworker, I am duly impressed with the sanding of 400 grit. I don't even sand my furniture to that degree ! Bravo. I also appreciate how much work it involves for a project of this size. The results are fabulous.

  4. Congratulations to you, Simon, for a job well done.

  5. Clearly need to add our congratulations to the chorus of praise. No doubt the whole area has been impressively lifted by your efforts.
    Is it going to be a matter of wearing patins indoors? I remember my first acquaintance with these when visiting the house of a parquet floor layer in Normandy in the 1960s. I was intrigued by the logic involved in polishing-as-you-walked around indoors.

  6. That is a big, tedious, exhausting job! Well done, Simon!

    Susan will want to go away more often.

  7. Fantastic!

    Bravo, Simon. I guess we all now know where to come for a decent woodworking job.

  8. What a lovely piece of work....and work it certainly was.

  9. In our house, we never wear shoes or even slippers when we go up the wooden staircase to the wood-floored loft. The wood stays warm enough even in winter that you don't feel the need to wear shoes or slippers the way you do on the tile floors on the main living level.

  10. Beautiful result! Was there as much dust as Simon said there was?

  11. Ken: sheepskin slippers inside for me -- my feet are always cold.

    Fraussie: Probably. There's still a thin film of tan coloured dust throughout the house. I'll deal with it peu en peu.

  12. Thanks all. However, I have done it once. I am not likely to ever feel the need to do it again.

  13. Excellent job! The staircase looks like a piece of beautiful furniture...a stair-stepped Japanese tansu cabinet, in fact.