Stair Railing

I am redoing the current (as in 70's) wrought iron stair railing with this spindle MB105/6 group and a maple base and hand rail. 2 questions:
1) is there a good reason to use the "shoe" as opposed to just setting the spindle in the base? 2) does anyone know if the "finish will disappear" with cutting down a bunch (just center sections) for a pony wall railing?
Have inquiries into a company, is there a manufacturer that anyone in this auspicious group has used that they love?
OH yes, is figuring out the number of spindles just length/4 inches?
Totus Tuus
Claudia (take out no spam to reply)
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