Assymetric Yacht 3-Deck Spiral Staircase Rail

When Four Corners, LLC (Millerton, NY) opened it doors 16 years ago, it specialized in production work—chair seats and furniture panels, for example. Rapidly making these items one after another meant that an operator had to be pretty much dedicated to loading and unloading the machine. The profit margin on this type of work was low and the labor content high.

However when the company purchased a big 5-axis system, big 5-axis router in 2008, it also began accepting unique projects that frequently required the cutting of amorphous shapes, not only in wood but also in materials like aluminum and plastic. Company President, David Brigham found that a great deal of this was coming to him because the word “no” was not in his vocabulary. He was willing to attempt almost any kind of assymetrical woodworking challenge.

For example, one of the most interesting projects Four Corners has done recently invovled handrails for an elliptical staircase spanning three decks of a 150 ft. yacht. The close-fitting rails have smooth compound curves that mate precisely with the wall and match the decline of the staircase.

The inner lip of the rail is undercut using a ball mill so that users can grip it firmly. The rails attach via machined back surfaces that fit into slots in the wall. Four Corners received models for the rail pieces from the customer. Once the surfaces were established, Mastercam quickly layed down parallel surface toolpaths for cutting the rails from solid cherry with just a single set-up on the big 5-axis router.

David Brigham, President of Four Corners said “A lot of the shops that have woodworking routers are doing very basic things—cutting out panels or drilling a bunch of holes and that’s it. The types of parts we are cutting are typically much more complicated and more exotic. We chose Mastercam because it has much broader capabilities than most standard woodworking softwares. (Not to say we don’t do a lot of flat-panel work. Mastercam works well for that too.) With Mastercam and our 5-axis equipment, what would normally be a problem to make turns out to be quite simple.”

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