These are a set of stairs that were built using a Festool Domino Joiner. The Domino Joiner is a somewhat recent addition to the tool world. The Domino joiner cuts a mortise sized correctly for a “Domino” (a pre manufactured hardwood floating tenon made by Festool)
This is the site built jig made from scrap wood that I used to mark the end cuts on the stringer and the tread locations. The jig is double sided so it can be flipped to mark both stringers. Once marked, the jig is clamped to the stringer to act as a guide for the saw to make the end cuts, then again for the domino mortices. The hole in the jig is the size of the stair treads and is use to mark the stringer. This is one of the marked stringers. With a project like this it’s important to mark the stringing before making any cuts to make sure that your measurements work as anticipated. The stringers on this project were cut from 4″ x 12″ x 10′ pieces of Douglas fir. Pieces of fir that big are expensive and usually take time to order. A miss cut would be a huge setback to the project. The stringers after the end cuts were made. The jig being used as a guide for the Domino Joiner. The jig has a stop block that the base of the Joiner rests against to set the location of the first of four mortises that correspond with the mortises in the ends of the stair treads. I cut three uniformly sized blocks out or scrap plywood that when placed against the stop set the spacing for the mortises. The jointer with two blocks against the stop. Since the finished floor wasn’t installed yet, I could screw down some scraps of wood to hold the treads in place while cutting the mortises in the ends of the stair treads. The green pieces of wood on either end of the tread act as a stop to push against when their opposite of the end that’s being cut. On the side that’s being morticed, the wood strips provide a consistent surface for the base of the Domino Jointer and set the height of the cut. The same blocks that were used to space the distances between the mortises on the stringers are then used to space the mortises in the ends of the stringers. This makes certain that the mortises match up. Jointer with three spacer blocks. The ends of the stringers with the mortises cut. The top flight of stairs being set into place. The stairs in place with the first slat installed. The bottom ends of the slats were cut to match the angle of the stringer and installed with a domino.
Carrying on with the slates.
Yay More slats! I drilled into the edges of the slats with a countersink bit and screwed them into the stringer. I set the screw heads deep enough that they could be concealed by wood plugs. I used a plug cutter to cut plugs that matched the size of my countersink bit. The slats shown above that do not have holes have already been plugged. The plugs are glued in place then cut flush with the surface and then sanded. The stairs with the slats installed. The stair well with the slats installed and no handrail. Handrail transition at the landing between the flights of stairs. Top view of the stairs. A view from outside of the stairs and a matching slat wall above. At the time of these pictures the landing floor hadn’t been finished and not all of the finish had been applied to the handrail. Maybe I’ll make it back for better finished photos some time. I’ll post them if I do.
Working with The Domino Joiner
The company that contracted with me to build the stairs are the ones who handed over the dough for the Domino (it’s not a cheap tool) and specified it’s use on this project. Having never worked a Domino I was interested in taking it for a spin. I always like trying out new tools!
Overall the Domino worked great. I think the idea is to bring the ease of use of a biscuit joiner to a mortice and tenon system. however with the setup and jigs necessary to accurately cut mortises for all 104 Dominos that were required for the treads alone, it seems like I could have just gone with a traditional mortice and tenon approach. On this job, separate jigs had to be created to make the mortises in the treads and stringers. With a traditional mortice and tenon, a jig similar to the one I used as a guide for the Domino Joiner, could act as a router guide to cut one large Mortice per tread in the stringer. The Tenon on the end of the treads could have been cut without the use of a jig using a table saw with a dado blade or a router with an edge guide. Also the “Dominos” that are used with the Domino Joiner are an added cost that would be avoided with a traditional mortice and tenon system.
While I’m glad I got to check out the Domino, I don’t see myself running off to purchase my own anytime soon. If you’ve used a Domino Joiner let me know what for and whether you’ve found it to be indispensable or like me find it to be “just another neat tool.”