There is nothing more beautiful than a sweeping staircase. We had the opportunity to build just that earlier this year. Originally asked to supply a mahogany Dutch door for a side entrance, the clients quickly asked us to bid on the handrail fabrication and installation.
Spiral Handrails and staircases are considered to be its own discipline in our trade and cannot be considered as a standard carpenter’s discipline. To be able to make a spiral handrail like this you need to be of a furniture quality. We were happy we could provide this quality and take on this kind of project. They are extremely hard to build and we took a lot of planning and thought before making cuts for this one.
The staircase and house design was by Jacob Hocking of CTX. The contractor was Steven Pacheco of SJ Construction. Their work prior to our involvement was first class. Engineering a concrete slab spiral staircase that is open underneath takes some real skill both on site and in design. Hats off to both as the project would not be possible without their involvement.
The overall size of the handrail as well as the level of detail and handwork made this project extra special. You will notice that there are no posts throughout, which meant it required hand carved corners and a wreathed volute at the end. It was also so large that it could not be made as one piece and transported safely. This required us to make the handrail in sections, use a hidden fastener system, and do a lot of site fitting.
In order to shape the handrail we made a very robust jig for our shaper table. We used a pair of rollers from another machine, removed the fence from the shaper table, and used some bearings and plywood for the rest. This jig was great but it still required three people to feed the spiral sections through the shaper to assure it did not twist incorrectly.
This machining could only be done on the outside of the handrail as it twisted upward when coming out of the shaper table. Machining the inside would result in the handrail sections needing to twist downward into the table of the machine – Not Possible. The inside shapes were done with a combination of hand routers, profiled hand scrapers and hand chisels.
We used an invisible fastening system that is also quite tricky and requires some special jigs to guarantee alignment. All the joints came out perfect as they were pre-jointed on site before being shaped into one another.
The sharp turn where the handrail meets the landing had to be completely hand carved do to its sharp turns. The wreathed volute at the bottom was also hand carved and slightly ascends all the way to the center. These are the very tricky sections that stand out if they are made by hand rather than by factory routers.
In the end the spokes were custom ordered iron that did very well to break up the walnut handrail from the flooring while offering another substrate’s texture into the mix.
The piece came out beautifully and makes for a very attractive centerpiece for our client’s home. We continue to welcome tough pieces and projects that challenge us.