Cecil's Stairs

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Project by PDK posted 01-27-2013 11:46 PM 3285 views 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

If the sliding-top box I built a few weeks ago was my “freshman effort,” these pet steps qualify as my “sophomore effort” here on LJs. Being very new to woodworking, I decided to get some practice with dovetail and half-blind joinery. The opportunity was afforded by virtue of our nearly 15 year-old Red Maine Coon cat, Cecil, who loves to watch the wildlife from the lookout windows in our lower level. Although he occasionally gets up to the 6-inch wide ledge that runs around the perimeter of the room by other means, these steps provide a much easier and more direct route.

The stair system was constructed entirely out of 3/4-inch red oak stock, so it’s plenty strong to support the big guy. In fact, given the tight tolerance of the dovetails, I’m willing to bet that a person could probably walk up the stairs without any issues – certainly not going to try though.

The stringers were created by 14 dovetail “squares.” One side of each “square” had the rabbet cut on the backside to allow for the pin board (I called this side “Side A” just to keep them straight). “Side B” was just a normal tail that would partially interlink with the “A Tails” of the adjoining board (see layout photo).

The most challenging aspect of this project was keeping all the pieces straight as the stringers required creating one set with the rabbet cut on the left, while the other warranted it be on the right. The dimensions of these “squares” were 7 1/2-inches wide by 6 7/8-inches tall. The pin boards were roughly 4 1/4-inches tall. The net of these measurements gave the proper slope for the stairs (for a cat or small dog, that is), which I based partly from a much smaller commercial set of pet stairs purchased awhile back.

The treads were back-cut 1/2-inch with a scroll saw to allow them to recess around the following riser by 1/2-inch. In addition, they were cut to overhang the front of the step by 1/2-inch. All treads, as well as the bottom of the stringers, were finished with a 3/8-inch round over bit. A 1/8-inch deep dado was cut on the underside of all the treads. This allowed the board to recess over the stringers and pin boards and really lock it into position (I believe this dado cut can be partially seen in the glue-up photo I posted).

The top step of the stairs is roughly 2-inches longer than the other treads and serves as a landing of sorts for the cats. Finally, the pin board on the back of this step sits on top of an L-joint that is affixed to a wall stud. This 4 1/2-inch wide block or support board has a 3/4-inch dado that runs through it and allows the steps to just hang off the wall. They can be taken off to clean or vacuum the carpet underneath if need be.

For consistency with our home’s décor, I decided to paint the stringers white. Unfortunately, this covered up the dovetails on the stringers. The risers and treads were finished using a dark Danish oil (roughly consistent with the other furniture in the room) and a layer of paste wax. I didn’t want the stairs to be too slippery, so I opted for one coat of each.

I promised my wife that the next project to be completed is the family room shelves to house our entertainment system and other assorted knickknacks. What she doesn’t know is that I already started on a mobile base and tool shelf for the recently acquired and aforementioned scroll saw. Thanks for reading.

-- - The day I stop learning is the day I stop living.

10 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117905 posts in 4181 days

#1 posted 01-27-2013 11:57 PM

Very cool project,well done.


View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 3012 days

#2 posted 01-28-2013 01:03 AM

First comment…...................Cecil RULES !!!!!

Nice idea and you did a great job on it.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View jeffswildwood's profile


4247 posts in 2581 days

#3 posted 01-28-2013 01:15 AM

Cecil is one lucky cat! Beautiful job!

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3294 days

#4 posted 01-28-2013 02:32 AM

Those are the fanciest cat stairs on the planet! You are not an amateur! Old Cecil looks like he’s eyeing that beer on the shelf to me. I’m not a paint fan but that white paint was perfect for the stringers. Good eye!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View MShort's profile


1798 posts in 4022 days

#5 posted 01-28-2013 03:43 AM

And here I thought my cat was spoiled. Cecil has a very pampered life. ... Nice project.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View ohwoodeye's profile


2285 posts in 3757 days

#6 posted 01-28-2013 01:01 PM

Nice project…......and Cecil knows what they are for!!!!!!!!
If I built this for my cat it would be to stupid to figure out how to use them.

-- "Fine Woodworking" is the name given to a project that takes 3 times longer than normal to finish because you used hand tools instead of power tools. ----Mike, Waukesha, WI

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2779 days

#7 posted 01-28-2013 04:23 PM

Love Cecil’s stairs, really well made and matched the room. Great wood and joinery.


View Monkman's profile


134 posts in 2889 days

#8 posted 01-28-2013 11:58 PM

Fantastic! We have three cats and one which is getting very old. I will use your design to build her some much needed steps to our bed. Thanks for the post.

-- MonkeyMonk

View bubbs's profile


94 posts in 2681 days

#9 posted 01-29-2013 09:10 PM

Lovely and considerate project. And I love that cat.

-- Cats, beer and wood...perfect.

View Silviu's profile


49 posts in 3168 days

#10 posted 01-29-2013 09:12 PM

Lucky cat! :)

-- Silviu, Romania,

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