I want to replace my stair spindles and handrail some time soon.
The existing spindles are moulded pine...nothing out of the
ordinary. The spindles are 32m thick square at their widest
and in parts as the moulding is designed reduce to something like
20 - 22mm diameter.
So I can't see anything wrong with starting with 25mm (1") square oak
with the intention to leave the shape of the spindles square.. with
chamfering of the edges.
Is this ok? or am I missing something?
I made my stair handrail about 18 years ago and I used 3/4" (19mm)
stock (lauan/meranti) for the balusters. They are square with a routed
ogee 1/8" groove in the middle of each side, leaving I would think
about 1/2" solid wood in the middle. They lasted perfectly well until
last Christmas Eve when I lost my balance and fell on them and broke
two. I will not say why I lost my balance. :-)
I would say you're OK with 25mm oak. Note that in Canada and the US,
building codes dictate that balusters have to be no more than 10cm/
4inches apart so that babies can't stick their heads in between.
Many stock spindles or balusters are a little larger than the 1" you
mention. Many stock millwork stair rails and shoes sold in the U.S.
are ploughed to accept 1-1/4" or 1-3/8" balusters. I just built a set
of box newels, rails and shoes for the staircase in our new house. We
used square balusters that are 1-3/8" square. All but the top and
bottom 3" are rounded with a 1/2" radius router bit. As Luigi noted,
code here requires no more than 4" opening between baluster surfaces
and ours are spaced just under that. Made a pretty good looking rail.
It's more graceful to have a turned spindle; square sticks supporting
a rail is arts-and-crafts to lazy-modern in style, and doesn't
really grab the attention in my opinion. Grain in a narrow
spindle won't show much, I'd think of maple as more ideal
(and easily turned on a lathe; oak, not so much).
Aesthetically, any rotation of a square spindle will show
up badly (the one spindle that catches the light different from
its neighbors), but no such problem for turned ones
Does renting a wood lathe appeal to you?
Hee-Hee, I hear you but....
I have a wood lathe and the idea of turning my own crossed my
However, we are trimming in an arts and crafts style and our square
spindles were finished in contrasting color which adds its own visual
interest. Another consideration was finishing the staircase someday.
I have two speeds when it comes to this kind of work: Slow and
Methuselah. It would have taken forever to turn all of them, which
left us with purchase. Good, heavy spindles were in the $40 to $75
range and we needed several.
I'm not sure the renting is a good option. By the time most learn to
turn and then turn dozens of spindles they might loose interest in
fixing up the stair rail. Rental cost will get way out of hand too.
Best to buy a machine
I'm guessing whit3rd is an experienced turner :^}
I replaced wrought iron railing and stair railing a few years back. I
had thought about turning my own until I priced them at one of the big
box stores, (wife just said it was Home Depot) The oak turned spindles
were really nice, and not very expensive at all. Pretty sure they were
supplied by Babcock lumber, (babcocklumber.com) something close to this:
No way I would turn all those by hand. I think the price was only
slightly more than the wood would have cost me. More over, the corner
posts, end posts and railing and hardware were all sold and matched
perfectly, so all I needed to do was install, stain and varnish.
Good, heavy spindles were in the $40 to $75 range and we needed several.
No way I paid any where near that. Not sure how much, but I surely
would have turned my own for that kind of cash.
As far as thickness goes, if you are buying the rails, the ones I bought
had a 1 1/4" dado milled in the bottom of the rail to fit the 1 1/4"
square spindle. Milled spacers were sold that you cut to fit in between
the spindles. This makes it really easy to install the spindles. If
you are making your own rails, no problem, but if you are buying the
rails, you don't want 1" spindles if the rail dado is 1 1/4"
It would have been easy, and fun to turn 5 spindles, 30 spindles, plus
the corner and end posts, not so much. In fact, I'd rather watch old
reruns of the American Woodworker than do all that hand turning of that
many identical items.
I'm pretty experienced and I wouldn't bother, unless I had to pay $75 a
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