One of the dying crafts that the modern world is slowly pushing to extinction is the  craft of building curved hand rails.

Once considered one of the highest achievements of a professional joiner and stair builder the craft is actually practically forgotten. This is in large part due to the  modern-day  equation that time is money, and that money is the only thing that has value.

An equation that I fully disagree with as I think that the real value of a man’s life, and his time, has absolutely nothing to do with money at all.

But, how ever one wants to theorize on modern social economics the over whelming reality of our world forces the majority of us craftsmen  to find ways to perpetuate our crafts in a world where the economic pressure is forever threatening to kill us.

Luckily, the very fact of being a craftsman shows that we have within us the necessary creative resources to face the challenge.

The modern world is over flowing with innovations, and  if we can apply our creative spirit to use correctly these tools to promote our craft, we will have the resources, not only to face the challenge, but prosper and flourish in the very face of adversity.

I show a perfect example of this is in the following video where Rick has built a 4th axis onto our 3 axis CNC for carving parts in 3D. Starting using the traditional 17th century tangent system for building wreathed rails, he has used modern CADD software to mark out the rail for machining on a CNC with a rotary axis.

This enables him to machine entirely automatically, with no human intervention, wreathed hand rails, turned spindles and newel posts, cabriolet legs, double curved parts,  gun stock or just about anything that  requires carving a part out of solid wood. The whole solutions costing a fraction of the price of a high end five axies CNC machine.

This video was filmed in Welshpool at Gareth’s workshop on the CNC machine that Rick built for Gareth’s company MTM Interiors.

Both Rick, Gareth and the people that work for with them are simple craftsmen with amazing resources of intelligence and creativity, and it is a privilege for me to know and work with them.

To have more information on using the tangent system for building curved hand rails you can read this article:

How to use StairDesigner and ProgeCad for Tangent Handrailing

To meet Gareth and his son Tom and see how they use our CNC Solution in their everyday work have a look at this article:

Using cabinet CNC software with your machine

You can also go here for more information on our Wood CNC Machines.

If you have found this article interesting please leave a comment.


  1. Earle Vogels on May 10, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    What software are you using on the cnc for the 3D machining on the 4th axis indexer?

    • admin on May 11, 2013 at 7:40 am

      Hello Earle,
      We are using MasterCam for the tool paths.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.