Our company operates a woodshop in Chatham, Mass., where we design and build a variety of products from custom cabinets to one-of-a-kind pieces. We were recently hired by a local home builder, Steven Nickerson, to make several unusual porch columns for a custom home he was building on a site overlooking the ocean. The inset porch has living space above, which is supported by three structural posts that carry a heavy engineered lumber beam. The design called for three PVC columns to conceal the structural posts, along with four identical columns that would be purely decorative, including two pilasters set into the walls at the ends of the porch. Steve's crew had carefully laid out the structural posts and had already finished the trim work, so it was critical that our columns meshed with their work. We fabricated the columns in our shop, and installed them on site over the course of about four weeks.

The architect provided precise CAD drawings for us to work from (see slideshow). The columns were to be 10 inches square from the base to a height of 3 feet 2 inches, then taper to 7-1/2 inches square at the cap. One peculiarity was that the taper was not a straight line, but followed a gentle camber that bowed out 5/16 inch at the midpoint. The...

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