Building a six-figure, 33-foot walnut stairway and slide combo

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. - Most of the projects that come through Clyde Martin's Top Tread Stairways business are priced between $500 and $2,000.

Then came the O'Brien family, who commissioned Martin to build a 33-foot all American black walnut staircase and slide combo. The project took two and a half years to build and install, and ran for more than six-figures.

Martin describes the project as the most challenging of his career. 

The slide was constructed with 438 layers of 2-foot-wide by 8-foot-long cross-laminated planks. Martin and his team first built it in the company's 5,000-square-foot shop, before breaking it down into three large pieces. Pieces were then transported to the O'Brien home, carried in, lifted into place, and joined back together using seven hidden bolts at each joint. The adjacent stair stringer was assembled as one piece, with each tread being attached on-site.

Martin is firm believer in pre-building, refusing to take jobs that would require on-site building.

"What we really specialize in is pre-building stairs and parts in the shop, and keeping site time down," he says. "I find that one day in the shop equals about two to three days of work on the site."

Founded by Martin in 2006, Top Tread Stairways is a custom stair-builder specializing in stairways and railings in all types of wood. The company stocks thousands of stair parts in every wood species to expedite installation. 

Martin describes his shop as a more of a low-tech traditional woodworking business, but says he is interested in purchasing a CNC. All of his machinery is from Laguna Tools.

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Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected].