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CNC Ideas | Custom Stair Treads with the ShopBot MAX CNC

A little goes a long way!

We hooked up with a few builders in the area and when they finish a home they always contact us for a custom stair tread. These little details make a home sale a little sweeter. The builder going the extra mile to add a few of these little items make the buyers comfortable with their decision on a home builder and start out there in their new home with a revitalized feeling. We typically do 20-30 stair treads for each builder throughout the building season. The “cookie cutter” steps we offer are really geared towards the more affordable home. Adding a personalized detail to this class of home makes it feel like it is a notch above the rest. In the more expensive homes, we build custom built-in stairs or the builder will bring us the top treads after they install the steps. Let’s dive in on how we complete the custom stair treads.

What to say?

We try to keep in generic but allow some personalization to the original owner. These folks will not be in these homes forever and want to make it applicable to the next buyers as well. We typically write “Welcome Home” or “Home Sweet Home”. They are certainly the most popular but we have also had a request for different quotes or poems on the steps. Our favorite is “Work hard, play hard”. That was for a bachelor’s home!

Building the steps

We build the step(s) out of composite decking material. It is an excellent material for this application as it will get a lot of traffic and easy to clean. Plus the paint the manufacturer puts on it really contrasts nicely when we engrave it. Our generic step is a single stop with a 1″ overhang on the sides, no overhang on the back, and a small overhang on the front. We like to minimize the risk of folks catching their toes on the front lip.

PRO TIP: make sure to use composite decking screws when constructing projects out of this type of material.


We design our steps in Vectric Vcarve Pro. This is a CAD/CAM package that allows us to create designs and then apply tool paths to those designs. We must design our material holding jigs into our file to make sure we have the parts spaced correctly.


Holding your material down on the CNC is a serious consideration. There are many, many, many options out there to keep material to your spoil board. Double-sided tape, clamps, vacuum tables, and even nails or screws. We have designed our workflow around four holes in the tops of the stair treads to use a screw in each hold to secure the material to the spoil board. These holes are the exact same holes that will be used to secure it to the step base.

Bit Selection

We like to use a 60-degree v-bit when engraving. We use AMANA Tool Number RC-1108 from ToolsToday.com. It is a carbide insert tool that is easy to change inserts when they get dull or damaged.

Production Execution

When we get into producing these stair treads, we often time go into a production mode. We set up our work holding and material registration to where we can simply insert the material and hit go and we can prep other material or do other things in the shop. We place our material into our work holding setup on the spoil board, load our file, and hit go! It is that easy. Once done, we can remove the material, insert new blanks and repeat as many times as we need to.

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