In the perpetual struggle between attractive symmetrical handrail bracket layout and safe
robust attachment to solid wall studs there are only two real alternatives:
1. Preinstalled wall cleat reinforcements between the studs at the handrail location
before wallboard is attached or
2. A surface mounted decorative backboard securely fastened to available wall studs
however they are spaced.
In most homes, the only practical balance between the two opposite requirements is
the surface mounted backboard firmly attached to every wall stud with brackets located
as needed evenly spaced the length of the handrail.
In this picture from the Wayback Archives handrails run up each side of the stairwell.
The backboard is ordinary stock pine outlined with cove moulding and fastened to
each individual wall stud with countersunk screws. The brackets are spaced evenly
along the length of the backboard as needed.
Of course, a backboard is not necessary if the placement of handrail brackets
eclectically follow the wall stud pattern without regard to symmetry.
Here at Handyman Blog we love to talk about balustrades (CLICK LINK HERE),
their design, their construction, their layout… so naturally it was hard not to
admire the vintage circular mezzanine balustrade in the lobby of Hill Hall at
the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill when attending a concert this week.
A sturdy example of Victorian Era workmanship with perfect symmetrical balusters
assembled on a continuous circular curve around the entresol opening at the
building’s main Entrance Lobby directly attached to the music auditorium.
There is every reason to believe this handrail has seen continuous service since it was
first installed over a century ago.
Symmetrically Spaced Balustrade
Earlier blog episodes featured discussions of how old timey carpenters spaced balusters with
lumber scraps and a firm grasp of Euclidean Geometry.
No fancy tape measures or calculators, just wood sticks and their brain!
Today’s episode features a trip out to the field to demonstrate how to use those
measurements to make a template guide and install balusters with little effort.
Pretty basic stuff. Use your template guide board to tack individual pickets into
place with pin nails and then fasten them securely with coated deck screws.
One note: the treated wood picket is not as carefully milled as an interior baluster
so you may need to keep an eye out for measurement creep and make tiny adjustments
along the rail panel to avoid a large space at the end of the run.
(My latest attempt to explain old timey carpentry balustrade layout techniques)
You young whippersnappers don’t know how good you’ve got it!
Grandpa did not have a tape measure to build stuff and he sure did not have a calculator- he had sticks!
And with nothing more than sticks-long sticks, short sticks, small sticks he could build a perfect handrail!
Before you do anything you’ve got to make a paper plan to show you where to put the pickets!
See, a handrail has pickets or upright sticks or spindles to fill the space between the posts. They’re called balusters in the jargon of the vernacular.
The good news: this magnificent handrail from the good old days is cut from *SOLID* redwood! No finger-joint stock or laminate, just solid continuous redwood.
You will be hard pressed to find such on any new construction today.
The bad news: it has suffered tremendously from the slings and arrows of multiple outrageous reattachment to the porch columns for which it was made so many years ago.
The only solution was to peg the damaged holes and slots with dowels and fillets and dress out the raw spots with epoxy.
Maybe it will receive kinder, gentler treatment in it’s old age and not need to be rebuilt for many years.
No tape measure! No calculator!! Euclid and his Geometry in the real world!
Old timey carpenters were not always “book learning smart” or patient enough to
read some manual or instruction sheet in the way required of modern carpenters.
But they did have a firm grasp of classical arithmetic and geometry in a way that
seems to have completely disappeared from the modern construction project.
The contemporary outdoor deck balustrade seems to be one of the most obvious
casualties of this absence of classical geometrical knowledge.
With nothing more than a piece of cardboard or 15lb felt or even sheetrock or
(now) tyvek, the old timey carpenter could take some scraps of wood and a pencil
and lay out a perfectly symmetrical, evenly spaced balustrade regardless of the
length of the interval between the railing posts in just a few minutes.
So where to find a stairwell window guard when you need one?
Well, if it is an odd size and only one is required, it is about as much trouble to make one as to find something that will meet the specifications.
A simple enough job shop assignment but still with many steps between start and finish.
So here, in a brief video montage, an overview of a basic shop assignment because, realistically, there is no such thing as a simple job.
Custom Window Guard Ready For Paint!
Corner Bar In Fiberglass Shower Stall
Grab Bar Installed With No Tile Damage
From the custom job files……….
Job Shop fabricated stainless steel grab bars for a fiberglass shower stall and fully tiled bathtub.
The challenge was to install completely functional safety bars without damage to the existing tile or fiberglass.
The solution was to weld the custom shaped handlebars to a wall-plate which was drilled in place with attachment holes to bolt the entire assembly directly to the wall studs.
The completed bars easily supported the full weight of a 300 lb male engaged in strenuous push-ups and other suspension exercises.
The basic radius handrail executed in redwood.
For the time it was pretty snazzy.
Nowadays this kind of stuff is made in ornamental iron.