Volutes and Easements: Custom Versus Stock

Complex stair rail parts: make or buy? February 8, 2008

I'm looking for suggestions on how volutes and up easements are manufactured. Is the volute made separate from the up easement, or can they be routed as one unit? I have at my disposal a CNC router with 5-axis capabilities.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor B:
Yes, to both questions. The flat factory volute is always made in two pieces and the curved arm volute is turning up now in one piece. The arm of the curved volute usually comes in 2 or 3 pitches (high, medium or low) and usually none of them is quite right. The arm is also mostly straight, so you'll need to straighten out your bent rail on the end to make a nice joint.

I don't like any of this, which is why I make my own volutes. Most stair companies and installers do just fine, however, using standard parts and wouldn't dream of messing around on a shaper or router.

If you're looking for specific information on how to set up and run volutes on CNC, you'll have to ask the Wizard of Oz. The few companies already doing this have invested mountains of money and really aren't interested in giving that information away. Their software and tooling investment alone can exceed the price of the machine. Tough market and lots of high- and low-tech competition to consider here (I think).

From contributor J:
Unless you have a market for some really high end stuff in a volume that is rather significant, I wouldn't even bother. China wholesales 6010 volutes with upeaseings for around $15-25 each in bulk. I have crunched the numbers every way possible, and from where I stand, it just ain't there.

From the original questioner:

Would you mind providing me a list of these Chinese suppliers? If the profiles were similar, I would certainly buy them instead of manufacturing them on my machine, which I use for a completely different line of work. The only reason I was thinking of making them was because the profiles are custom and the rails are different for each job with many odd kinks.

This is for a local stair builder who approached me about making these rail components for him. The rails have a groove on the bottom end for a steel rail, which I guess is used to hold everything together.

What is a 6010 volute? Is there an industry standard or does the number mean something else? You have to excuse my lack of knowledge, as I have never been involved in the stair industry. I do have a very fast method of making these parts, but I would explore all options available before making the plunge.

From contributor J:
6010 is a rail profile, probably the most common. Home Depot even carries it. As far as supply goes, put a RFQ on WOODWEB looking for a supplier for rail and fittings in container load quantities. You should get some good response.