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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Attaching Handrail to a Newel Post

Handrail to Post

Attaching a handrail to a newel post is a relatively simple procedure that requires only a couple of installation tools and hardware and very little skill.  So, I’m going to assume if you are installing your balustrade that you have a tape measure, level, saw, etc.  Also you will surely have the majority of the additional tools but here is the list of specifics for this particular task with those items that are not as typical bolded.

¼” drill bit
1” Spade or Forstner drill bit
½” Spade or Forstner drill bit
Rail Bolt Runner (or vice grip pliers)

Hardware Rail Bolt KitIncludes Rail Bolt, Face Grain Plug (Matching wood species of handrail), Nut and Washer
Wood Glue

Now that I’ve identified the tools and hardware let’s get down to the actual method of attaching a handrail to a newel post.  You should begin by reading this blog, follow the steps of layout, drilling, and inserting the rail bolt, but then dry fit the handrail before you actually install it with the balusters.  This will allow you to adjust the angle of the rail bolt, “keyhole” the ½” hole, etc. as may be necessary.  However, assuming that the post has been set and that the handrail has been cut to fit and to length and its height is known, we can begin the process.

Step 1: Layout the rail and post with the center points of the holes that will be drilled in the next step.  The hole in the post is for the Rail Bolt.  The center of the hole is ¾” up from the bottom of the handrail and centered across the post.  The center of the bottom hole in the handrail is 1 ½” from the end and centered across the bottom of the rail.  The center mark for the hole in the end of the handrail is 3/4” up from the bottom and again centered across the end of the handrail.

Secret Compartment within a Box Newel Post

WoodStairs Hidden Hidden Box Post

Newel posts are the large supporting posts that occur intermittently, or at corners or ends of a balustrade to which the handrail is attached.  They provide the greatest structural support of the balustrade.  Over the centuries a wide variety of styles and designs have occurred and continue to reoccur.  There are basically two categories of wood newel posts, turned and box.  Within these categories there are virtually unlimited design possibilities.  Today however, I’d like to discuss box newel posts and a particular new feature that has recently revived.

Box newel posts are squared, hollow newel posts that are typically larger than the turned alternative.  There are an infinite number of sizes and shapes based on this squared style, and they incorporate a huge variety of details to create unique designs.  Some of these features include inlays, mouldings, panels, plant-ons, rosettes, finials and other accessories.  There is one feature of most box newels that is almost always unappreciated, the hollow void within the post.  It is this compartment that we at have begun to take advantage of for our customers.

It is rumored that in historical times a copy of the house plans were rolled up and placed in a newel post upon completion, thereby sealed within the secret compartment within the box newel post.  In addition they have been used as a sort of time capsule with some relevant articles sealed inside.  Also, occasionally secret compartments were created, into which items could basically be hidden in plain sight.  The top cap became a lid and the items were immediately accessible to those who knew the secret.  It is this feature which has revived.

How to Bend a Wood Handrail

Bending Curved Handrail

While bending a wood handrail is one of the more difficult aspects of stair and balustrade installation, with the right tools, planning and an understanding of the process it shouldn’t dissuade anyone from giving it a try.  The most important things to consider with this process are time and preparation.  If you take the time to make sure everything is set up and organized as it should be then you should have plenty of time when you are actually bending and the glue is starting to dry.

There are several things you will need for this process, as follows:
At least 2 people wearing disposable clothes 
The Bending Handrail itself
Handrail Bending Forms (2 per rail the full length of the rail)
Bending Brackets or Bending Guides (1 per riser or 1 every 12-18” of floor level)
Electrical Tape or Shrink Wrap
Wood glue – Typically about a gallon per rail to insure you have enough
A small Paint Roller and Paint Pan
Clamps: C-clamps or pipe clamps (2 per Bending Bracket or 1 Per Bending Guide + more if needed to clamp the brackets down instead of screwing them.
Shims if using Bending Guides
Tape Measure
Drill and Screws Paper
Cardboard or plastic to protect the floor if needed
Some people also use latex gloves to keep the wood glue off their hands

Bending Brackets:
The first step in the process is to build the bending brackets.  The basic rule of thumb for the quantity need to bend a rail is one per riser for a stair handrail or one for every 12-18” of floor level bender rail.  There are basically three types of bending brackets that we recommend based on the situation.