Stairs, Glorious Stairs

The big item on this past week’s to do list was to mount the handrail on the staircase wall. Sounds quick and easy, yes?

But first we had to make a dozen handrail brackets and weld them onto the handrail. In the next photo, we still need to cut the long ends to length. We bent the one-half-inch square steel with the oxy-acetylene torch. These brackets aren’t as beautiful as what blacksmith friend Smyth Boone would have made, but they look industrial and fit the bill:


Here is a video showing how we bent the steel bar:

But before mounting the railing on the wall, it would be much, much easier to paint the wall first. We chose some paint, a rich, dark grey. To refresh your memory, here is the big wall:


But wait. Before we paint the wall, it would be smart if we cleaned the dried mortar from the steel staircase. I bought a gallon of muriatic acid and a few boxes of baking soda (to neutralize the acid when we did the final wash). I also bought two pair of long, acid-resistant gloves.

I mixed a ten-percent acid/water solution and also a bucket of clean baking soda water in case we splashed any acid on us while we worked. I mounted a new wire brush on the small angle grinder.

Ramiro and I donned the rubber gloves and rubber boots. We started at the top of the stairs; I applied the acid solution, Ramiro operated the grinder, and I cleaned up behind him, washing the clean stairs several times with the baking soda solution. It was a long, hard day bending over the stairs:



Here is a video of the process (sorry about the bad audio, must be a problem with the camera…:

With just one more wash to go, the cleaned stairs look like this:


Now for the fun part — I sent Ramiro home and before a new coat of rust could form, I spent another hour applying a boiled linseed oil finish. I wiped the oil on with a rag, then wiped the stairs dry with another rag. The completed stairs are quite glorious if I do say so myself. Here are some photos:


As I finished, the late afternoon sun started streaming in the window at the top of the stairs:


And got even better a few minutes later, the stairs gleaming a rich, dark patina:


Next it was time to paint the walls on either side of the stairs. With the high ceiling, this big room is very spacious. Cynthia and I thought that if we painted the walls white that people would feel lost in the room. The two, floor-to-ceiling window walls bring in a ton of light. So we decided to paint the walls a very deep dark grey to give the space a cozier feel. Spacious and cozy, if you will.

Finally, days of work after just wanting to hang the handrail, it was time. This morning, Sunday, Cynthia and I brought the long, intricate handrail back into the house (it was outside for painting) and screwed it to the wall. Ramiro and I had already drilled and installed plastic wall anchors at the appropriate locations for screws, so the install took only a few minutes. Here are the painted walls, the handrail, and the oiled steel staircase. A new mirror makes the look:


The mirror frame has the same bronze-y brown tones as the oiled stairs.



In my free time this week, I took a day and completed the kitchen stove exhaust fan. I had built the hood, but still needed to install the fan motor and duct work. I started by making a six-inch round outlet hole in the shipping container wall. I used a combination of one-quarter-inch drill holes and a saber saw with a metal-cutting blade. I left two tabs to bend in and secure the duct. Here is the hole almost all cut — I think that it looks like an evil smiley-face icon…:


I tried to use some of that aluminum Slinky hose, but it was seven-inches and the motor was six-inches. I was also concerned about grease building up in all the crevices. This is the stuff:


The more I worked the uglier the mess got, so I threw it aside and made my own ducting. Using pop rivets, I made a triangular aluminum diamond plate box. and cut two, six-inch holes in it. (Yet another use for my DIY homemade sheet metal bending brake.)


Next, I couldn’t make a round duct, so I made another aluminum box to complete the ducting. In the next photo you can see the hood, the triangular aluminum transition box, the exhaust fan, the other aluminum box, and a sound muffler:


Finally, I wired the fan. With no adjacent wall to install a switch on, I chose to use an X-10 wireless remote control unit. I plan to Velcro the wireless switch inside a drawer next to the stove so that it is easy to reach and won’t get lost.

This exhaust fan moves a lot of air. It isn’t as quiet as we would like, but we don’t smell any gas fumes regardless of how many burners are being used.

While I was working on the exhaust fan, Ramiro finished installing the angle iron trim on the inside of the windows:


Armando and Francisco are moving into the home stretch with the garden path, nothing four more yards of gravel can’t cure:



When the rainy season arrives, it is goodbye grass and hello gardens. We have a lot more plants to fill out the gardens.

That’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by.

14 thoughts on “Stairs, Glorious Stairs

  1. Hello,everything is really coming together nicely. I hope i can say the following without stepping on someone’s toes,lol. I was wondering why you did not use stainless steel for your stairs instead of steel ? Aside from higher cost,looks like stainless steel would have saved a lot of time.
    I spent time looking at your kitchen stove exhaust and wonder if it should not be a little lower.We lowered ours in our restaurant’s kitchen and noted a huge improvement . I wonder if your kitchen stove exhaust should be as wide as your cooking area,it would blend in a lot better.Keep what you have and maybe ad an addition on either side to use as a shelf. You could also install some lighting under each shelf.sort of a little work light.
    I will be starting my container home project around the middle of this year and wish to thank you for all the great ideals that you have given me. We will do a progress report as we go along so i will look forward to you picking my work apart,lol.
    I really like your stone pathway,really nice touch.

    • Hi Francis,

      Yes, I agree. Stainless would have been a better choice. But bending and fabricating… I just don’t have the ability to fabricate it and certainly no experience. Given an unlimited budget and time…

      Several considerations set the height, including the ability to see from the breakfast counter through to the TV that will be at the far end of the container. Any lower and the TV would have to be set too low on the wall. Also, Cynthia didn’t want it to feel looming over her head. So far, it seems to capture everything that the stove can dish out.

      Yes, I do plan to install some lighting. Not sure what yet, perhaps some clear LED side markers for tractor trailer trucks. We’ll see.

      The garden path is a big improvement. Before we, including Jabo, couldn’t even walk out there because of the biting bugs and the soggy mud. Now Jabo routinely patrols in the night and we have our own walking trail in the jungle.

      Thanks for your comments, Fred

      Good luck with your container project, and you are welcome for the ideas. Just remember that I am doing most everything the hard way and am inventing as I go. No guarantees!

  2. Hi F&C, Good results on the stairs. When I was over last month you told me your plan to clean the stairs but they were such a mess that I wondered if they would ever get clean. You have succeeded splendidly. And kudos on the mirror matching the colors inthe stairs. Can’t wait to see the kitchen. Still in the Galapagos islands for four more days then Quito for another five before heading back to EV.

  3. I am so enjoying your endeavors and skills. Thank you for sharing.

    I was surprised the stairs came so clean after what two months!

    The colors are perfect and the mirror is a piece of art.

    Stay well.


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