Our Masterwood Project 320 and 416K CNC machining centres have
dramatically improved the way that we produce staircases and has allowed
us to remain competitive and overcome the difficulty of attracting
With the house building market showing signs of improvement, the demand for our products continues to grow, given added impetus by the fact that some house builders are now putting up three-storey houses, which obviously require more stairs than standard size properties.
Steve Dodsworth takes off a staircase string after it has been machined
on the Masterwood Project.
Our decision to move away from traditional methods of joinery manufacture was prompted partly by the problem of recruiting skilled staff, a situation all too common throughout the industry nationwide.
We have the Masterwood Project 320RL which is the 4.5m long bed version, ideal for handling the longest staircase components. The three-axis machine features a tubeless type-working table, with eight aluminium-supporting bars and ten suction cups, fitted as standard. Unlike conventional beds it has no pipes that can become damaged during the machining cycle.
It is fitted with a carousel type tool changer with eight positions for IS0 30 cones, has an X axis working stroke of 4500 mm, with a displacement speed of 100 m/min, a Y axis stroke of 1350 mm (with front router) and a Z axis workable thickness of 100mm for routing operations. We also specified an optional twin sided head for drilling door locks and hinges.
The new machine is used to trim, cut to size, route, mortice, and tenon virtually all the staircase components, including the strings, newel posts, kite winders and treads. It has reduced between a third and a quarter the time it previously took using a semi-automatic Ryburn stair trencher and other traditional machines, depending on the components.
Gone is the need to draw out a full size stair layout and then to draw out the kite winders etc by hand, labour intensive tasks that could take up to 1/½ hours to carry out. It’s now all done on a CAD program in our design office, who from working drawings inputs the final machining requirements on to a usb flash drive which is given to the machine’s operator.
The software supplied was Masterwood’s own standard Masterwork, a Windows based program that works with any PC. Incorporating universal CAD for design work, it’s ideal for both joinery and panel products. Longwood also uses the latest Masterstair program.
The accuracy of the machine, to .01mm, is always spot on which means that our joiners can now fit a staircase together correctly first time around, with no need to send back ill-fitting components for trimming or planing. A spin-off from this is that we are benefiting from significant savings in raw materials, which is important as disposing of wood waste is now a costly business.
The CNC machine has radically altered and improved the way we approach the production of staircases. With the process now largely mechanised, we consider we are in the business of manufacturing staircases rather than making them. We are also able supply Staircases ready stained and lacquered, each one bubble wrapped, with only the handrail to be bolted on, just like an item of furniture, not a piece of joinery.
The long-term aim is to use the machine to build up stocks of stair components; ready to be fitted together as the orders come in, which was something that was impossible to do before.
The machines can easily be adapted to general joinery projects - for example decorative bargeboards, skirting and architrave corner blocks