Teaching Stairs

Yesterday I felt particularly useful around here. We’d been climbing in and out of the barn or using a 2X10 as a ramp to walk up. That’s particularly scary for me since falling off just such a ramp was how I wrecked my neck and found myself disabled. We finally got a chance to do something about that, but it had been quite a few years since I’d built a set of stairs from scratch. I laid out the stringers, then mostly just supervised and taught some tricks and techniques.

Becky and Natalie did most of the actual work, and were most excited about feeling useful and productive, rather than being relegated to cleaning or cooking or other “women’s work”. Ty helped out and learned a few things his shop teacher never told him (or rather, unlearned a few things his shop teacher did tell him…), but the women did nearly all the sawing, drilling, and screwing.

The stairs are removable, and just slide up into the barn when not in use, which was one of the parameters of our assignment. They work really well for what’s needed out there, and I’m rather proud of “The Stair Crew” as we’ve been calling ourselves.

A standard set of stairs is comfortable for the average person to climb because of the ratio of height to width of each step. Build the stairs too wide and they’re awkward to walk up. Build them too tall, and they’re more like a ladder. Each step is 7.5 inches high and 10 inches wide. That’s 7.5:10, or dividing by 10, 0.75:1 which is just .75. The height of the step is called the rise, the width is called the run. So the rise/run works out to 3/4. Does any of that math sound familiar to you?

It should. It’s the slope of a line, the geometry you did in middle school.

So the next time you see someone post that stupid sarcastic fucking Facebook meme about how they are so glad they learned algebra and geometry rather than something useful in life, tell them to go talk to Becky and Natalie about building stairs.