/ Modified apr 30, 2023 9:35 p.m.

Precision carpentry and fun combine for slides in Sierra Vista

A Sierra Vista man builds massive wooden slides.

Wood Slide 1 Clyde Martin's daughter test rides the 45-foot wood slide in April 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM

It’s a life-long love of wood crafting, design challenges, and faith that’s driven stair-crafter and Top Tread Stairways owner Clyde Martin to reach for the stars in crafting his staircase and slide creations.

Martin’s first stair and slide combo featured a 33-foot spiral staircase with an adjacent spiral slide that sold for $110,000 to a couple in Sacramento, California. Martin says that slide has since won him two national awards, “People’s Choice Award” and “Best Curved Stair Traditional” from the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association at the 2021 Staircraft Awards in Denver, Colorado.

That slide was made from 438 layers of 2-foot-wide by 8-foot-long cross-laminated planks of American black walnut wood. At the time, Martin said that project was the biggest he’d ever made.

Sprial Wood Slide Martin's award-winning 33-foot-long spiral slide and staircase. The slide-staircase combo sold for $110,000 to a couple in California in 2020.
Courtesy Clyde Martin.

Now, he’s just topped that.

The Sierra Vista stair-crafter says this 45-foot slide that will go in a pediatric hospital in the midwest is the biggest slide he’s built yet. He’s working as a contractor for Aventure Solutions, a Maryland company that builds indoor and outdoor poly-playsets like rock climbing walls.

“Basically, they contacted me, wanted this slide,” said Martin, who added that the slide weighs around 1,800 pounds. “It was going to be, like, 20 feet long — 23 feet long, something like that. And just wide enough for just one person comfortably — 18 inches wide. Maybe it was hickory or red oak, something very basic as far as the hardwood world. So, I gave them a price, I put together a 3D model — I do all my own design work, and I upload that to Sketchfab so they can view it.”

But then, the client wanted to double the slide’s size and upgrade it to Black Walnut wood — a higher-quality material.

“So we got 45 feet long now and we’re three feet wide, so two people can very comfortably go side-by-side down there,” Martin said. “And yeah, next thing I knew it was upgraded to Black Walnut … 15-foot rise, it’s a vertical rise. It’s more than a single story height.”

When propped up to the appropriate height, it goes into the rafters of Martin’s workshop on the outskirts of Sierra Vista.

He says the finished slide will be shipped in one piece to its destination this week.

On average, Martin’s projects take anywhere between 3-6 months from design to completion and cost between $10,000 for straight staircases and slides to $130,000-180,000 for a curved slide-stair combo.

Martin’s love of the trade is closely tied to family, as he comes from a family of creators.

“My dad built houses in eastern Pennsylvania most of his life,” said Martin. “So, that’s where I learned the trade, you know, learned all the trades. And later, ended up running the businesses with my dad — and then for my dad before I’d stepped out and opened my stair shop.”

He opened Top Tread Stairways in 2006 in Sacramento and moved his business to Sierra Vista in 2018.

“It seemed to me that there was a shortage of highly-skilled tradesmen in the west coast, and especially in the stair industry,” he said. “I’d just had this inspiration ‘Someday I’m going to start a stair shop,’ ‘cause I’d seen how they do it in the east coast. And I’d watched them, you know. All the years that we were doing custom homes, I’d order the stairs, I’d watch them build it at different times in the shop, and was very connected.”

As for what’s next for Martin, he’ll be sliding into his next creation as the commissions come in.

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