Building Cambered Columns

The slight camber on the posts may have seemed a minimal gain for the amount of complication it added to the project, but once the columns were finished and in place . . .

. . . we found that the detail added an unmistakable elegance, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

The column plan called for straight sides from the base to the height of the handrail, then a gentle curve from there to the cap.

A thin strip of straight-grained poplar described the curve for the router to follow in cutting the template.

The first step in creating perfectly mating sides was to make an accurate MDF router pattern. A thin strip of straight-grained poplar described the curve for the router to follow in cutting the template.

Before final routing of the edges, the authors trimmed the PVC blanks to within 1/16 inch of the cut line.

Most of the miter material was taken off on the table saw.

Only a narrow vertical band was left to safely ride against the fence.

The MDF template is screwed to the PVC blanks.

The blanks are then routed with a large 45-degree chamfer bit.

The chamfer leaves a crisp mitered edge.

Biscuits ensure accurate alignment as the half-columns are glued together.

Note the squaring blocks

Plywood gluing cradles, accurately sized to match the tapering columns, make it easy to place the clamps.

Though they are gluing a single corner, the authors have placed clamps on all four sides to keep things square.

While the cement on the columns was drying, the authors set up another gluing station for the caps and bases.

The caps and bases are laminated out of two pieces of 3/4-inch PVC.

The caps and bases are then trimmed to final size on the table saw.

Installation began with the caps and bases of the structural post surrounds; small cleats attached just inside the column sides provide alignment and backing.

Installation began with the caps and bases of the structural post surrounds; small cleats attached just inside the column sides provide alignment and backing.

The clamping procedure on site was just like that in the shop, except in a vertical position.

The purely decorative columns were fitted together — cap, column, base — then slid into place under the beam; here, after securing the cap, the author screws the side of the column to the alignment block inside.

The shingles were held back for installation of the pilasters, which had to be scribed on two sides to the house corners.

The authors first roughed the scribe cut with a circular saw, then installed blocks to catch the handrail and finished the scribing in place.

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