Cooper Project: Torii Stairwell Barrier

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Project by Todd A. Clippinger posted 03-11-2007 06:59 AM 4270 views 3 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a stairwell barrier that I designed and built based on a Japanese torii gate. It is made of black walnut, black walnut veneered panels, brushed steel, and 1/2” tempered glass.

You do not need to have a handrail and balusters for a stairwell barrier. The clients wanted something unique here. The architect’s ideas and designs were not unique enough, they were the standard variations appropriate to the Prairie Style. The front double entry door has an Asian graphic design in it. We laid the design in the floor when we did the tile work, and I came up with the idea of Japanese torii gates holding sheets of glass.

The last two photos show the early ideas for the shape that would cap off the top and the MDF model. The final shape to top off the steel frame was not figured out until I had the steel frames in hand and everything came together in the design.

I had to veneer the panels that the glass is mounted to. The solid stock that I had was out of control with movement, and I knew that there would be a liability issue. The great thing was that it created a symmetry on all four torii gate stands. Many people have commented on it wondering how I got the same pattern out of a single log. They thought it was all solid wood.

These were technically quite challenging to install because everything had to line up so perfectly plumb and straight. The stands are bolted clear through the floor and floor trusses with 12” bolts and back plates underneath. I also had to core drill through the tile to mount the units on the flat subfloor. Install took me 3 days.

I was excited about the clients choosing my design. But it was easy since the architect started a great painting that I had the rare opportunity to add just a few of my own brush strokes.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

13 comments so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5594 days

#1 posted 03-11-2007 07:16 AM

Interesting Design. Very good.

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5457 days

#2 posted 03-11-2007 11:07 AM

Superb, design, Todd. When you do a commission like this it must be a bit like leaving a part of you behind when you hand it over to the client. I really like the Asian them that is developing in the place.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

657 posts in 5413 days

#3 posted 03-11-2007 11:29 AM

If only you could have created grooves in the edges of those standards/legs for the glass then you would have had some adjustments. Yes, again no margin for err in this project. In projects like this the adage measure twice and cut once is so very true. Well thought out!

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5440 days

#4 posted 03-11-2007 02:21 PM

my jaw is dropped, mouth open and head is shaking in disbelief.
Amazing beauty—and functional. You can’t get better than that.. You just can’t!!
I’m in awe.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 5591 days

#5 posted 03-11-2007 02:35 PM

Interesting, great wood contrast and colors. You’ve been busy, haven’t you?

-- Jesus is Lord!

View David's profile


1969 posts in 5419 days

#6 posted 03-11-2007 06:25 PM

Todd – I am trying to catch up on all the LJ postings this morning (an impossible but fun task). I spent some time exploring your work and postings. Absolutely beautiful work. I really like this project – something about the combination of wood, glass, steel and the contrast with the rockwork. Please keep these coming.

By the way your shop is wonderful. How fortunate to have two shops to work in . . .


View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 5441 days

#7 posted 03-11-2007 07:19 PM

Very cool Todd. What an amazing piece of work you did.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Karson's profile


35279 posts in 5680 days

#8 posted 03-30-2007 04:53 PM


Were the panels attached by drilling through the glass and then running bolts through the veneered panels and the glass.

And then how is the glass attached to the stands?

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5607 days

#9 posted 04-01-2007 06:19 AM


-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5579 days

#10 posted 04-01-2007 05:44 PM

I hope you got the credit for that design, it’s beautiful.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5379 days

#11 posted 04-01-2007 08:21 PM


The “buttons” that you see on both sides of the panels hold the glass and the panels all together. There is a 1/2” spacer between the glass and the wood panel. (The cleaning lady isn’t too crazy about me for this design.)

The buttons are commercial grade fasteners with a threaded stud that can be had in various lengths as required. An allen set screw keeps averything tight.

Since the glass is tempered, the holes have to be drilled in production of the glass before it is fired for the tempering process. I set the torii gate stands first, then made plywood templates for the glass guys, everything turned out perfect.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View woodchips's profile


238 posts in 5244 days

#12 posted 08-20-2007 02:55 AM

Todd, that is truly beautiful. You really did a great job on this. The glass really highlights the asian influenced torii gates, outstanding!

-- "Repetition is a leading cause of carelessness, and carelessness usually leads to injury"

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 5316 days

#13 posted 08-28-2007 03:54 AM

Really nice, Todd. This is something that I would be proud to have in my house. Wonderful design!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

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