How these woodworkers turn staircases into art

  • JMP Wood is a family-owned business that started in 1974.
  • It specialises in custom staircases, railings, and other woodwork.
  • Here’s a look at how the woodworkers make their custom stair parts.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

The following is a transcription of the video:

Narrator: JMP Wood in Brooklyn, New York, is known for its exceptional woodwork and close attention to detail. A family business that started in the 1970s, JMP Wood specialises in creating parts for custom staircases.

For the process of making stair parts, JMP uses a mix of computer-controlled tools and wood turning, which is using handheld tools to create shapes in the wood. One of the most intricate parts of the staircase is the baluster. It adds a decorative element to a staircase, and there are a few ways to make a baluster unique.

To make a baluster, the wood material is selected from JMP’s inventory. The material is cut to size and inspected for any cracks or imperfections. Then it’s time to set up the CNC machine, which stands for “Computer Numerical Control.” These machines come in handy because it’s much more time-consuming to craft not only one but multiple balusters by hand. Employees can map out the cuts ahead of time, and the machine will follow those exact coordinates that it was programmed to follow.

Michael: We do have a lot of CNC machinery that helps us get through the process a lot smoother. And we also do it by hand too. So if it’s under 20 pieces, most likely we’ll turn them by hand. And then if it’s over 20 pieces, we’ll actually make a drawing, put it on the machine, and just let that run.

Narrator: From there, that same piece of wood is then put into a CNC lathe machine to create a twisted design. The CNC lathe machine spins the wood while its knife creates the design. The design of the baluster is inspected for any imperfections. The baluster is then sanded. It’s a similar process to make the other parts of a staircase. To make the handrail, a block of wood that’s been prepped to size and programmed in the 3D scanner is brought over to another CNC machine. This version of the machine is a five-axis, which refers to the number of directions in which the cutting tool can move.

JMP uses a 3D scanner to help configure the dimensions of the rail. The scanner creates tool paths, which essentially is where the machine is travelling and cutting. The handrail is cut off its support legs and sanded. Both parts are then boxed and shipped. JMP can process 20 to 100 custom orders in one week. So next time you’re walking up a staircase, you’ll now have a better understanding and more of an appreciation of the work that is put into it.

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