What is a plowed handrail? This is a frequently asked question regarding stair parts and stair installation. The answer is simple; many wood handrails are manufactured with a channel removed on the bottom side. This “plow” allows for the simple and clean installation of square-top wood balusters, including completely square mission or craftsman wood balusters. The stair handrail is ordered with the correct plow to match the exact width of the balusters being used, typically 1 ¼” wide or 1 ¾” wide although custom sized plowed handrail is available.
The stair balusters (or spindles) are installed into the handrail and then the space between them is filled with small precisely fitted pieces of wood called fillet. Fillet is made from the same wood species as the handrail and is available in several profiles to add additional detail to the balustrade. It comes in 3’ lengths or longer and is very similar to a wood molding. These longer lengths are then precisely cut into small pieces to fill the plowed area between the wood balusters.
Finally, a related question applies to shoe rail. In many cases when using wood balusters a plowed shoe rail is also used. In this situation, the shoe rail is also ordered to match the width of the wood baluster at the bottom block. Fillet is also used in the same way to cover the nail holes made when installing the balusters and filling the plow between the balusters.