Historic Replication Radius Architectural Balustrade
REPLICATING HISTORIC RADIUS BALUSTRADE
by Daniel Westbrook Master carpenter
Seattle, Everett, Bellingham
One reason why I like working with historic buildings is that the architectural elements are so visually and artistically appealing, especially for a craftsman like me. Further, I know how much effort the original crafts person went through to mill and build these wood components. For instance take this balustrade I milled, built, and installed recently. Working to replicate architectural features like these, further impresses upon me how well practiced in advanced technique these trades people really were, comparatively to the modern tradesperson, made further impressive using rudimentary tools compared to some of the modern used by todays trades. In any case this millwork project required a lot of planning and time in my shop. A short explanation follows below, for any clients interested in knowing what to expect in working with my service.
A project like this starts long in advance of any hands on work, by acquiring custom knives to mill the beadwork, and matching bevel rail cap. These custom knives cost together in excess of a thousand dollars and quite a lead time. In the end when I do such a custom job the knives stay with the house in the care of the owner for future replication work.
Once all the cutters are purchased and material in storage, as well as the spindles sourced, and everything verified with the client, as well as field measured and verified, it was time to get to work in the shop, modifying the stock to a laminated radius.
Precision work like this takes a lot of practice and expertise from making costly mistakes. I know it’s important for the client and I to have a relationship of trust that goes beyond the normal contractor customer relationship. As with the work, this too is a practiced art form. The rail cap after being run through the molder. Smooth!
As with any project the stock is worked to the desired shape length and profile, then further cut and assembled to fit the space for install in the field.
My shop is set up and designed for custom carpentry work of all kinds, and is used exclusively to ensure a quality space for not only manufacturing components, but also assembly of units. In this case railing sections.
Once all shop work is completed, which is where most of the work takes place, it’s time for field installation. Often when Im working on a clients project in the shop, Ill invite them to come on in and view the work in progress. I feel is a special thing to see the shop, and be a part of the story of their project and home.
As I get older, the more humbled I am with the workmanship of fellow crafts people of history, and thankful for the value and trust my customers put into my craft abilities. I can only say that, carpentry is a never-ending practice. Im sure its the same with life. With relationships. Feeling thankful for my family of clientele.
Feel free to contact me with your unique carpentry project, Id be happy to hear from you.