Handrail help - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
Old 04-07-2014, 11:59 PM Thread Starter
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Handrail help

Almost finished with a rehab of an old carriage house. My daughter is getting ready to move in, but there are just a few items left to pass code. One of those issues was a handrail. I made the handrail and installed it ok, but now f found out a return is needed at the top. I'm having a problem figuring out the angles that I need to cut the handrail and have it come out properly. I just can't get my head around it. Thought I had it figured out twice now, cutting the end of the handrail and using up scrap, but now I need to get it right or I'll have to make more handrail.
Can anyone help me with the math?
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Old 04-08-2014, 02:52 PM
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I don't think you are showing the top where the return needs to be. The reason for the code is so the end of the railing isn't open where clothing or something else could get caught. All that is necessary is to cut a 45 on the end of the rail and return a short piece to the wall. The 45 can be cut with the rail bottom flat on the miter saw table. If you want to level the rail at the top before returning to the wall. you have to calculate the angles according to what exists. You can use a sliding T-bevel, one leg on the rail, then level the other leg. This is the total angle and you need to bisect this equally, check it with a protractor. Just remember, the miter saw is 0 degrees, when set to 90 degrees according to the protractor. Looks like you have that figured out where you leveled the rail on the winder, top is the same but opposite, long point on the top. The cut would be made on the miter saw with the flat bottom of the rail against the fence. You still need to return to the wall as stated before.

Last edited by Hammer1; 04-08-2014 at 02:56 PM.
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Old 04-08-2014, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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Let me try one more time. The railing you see going up to the right is where I need the return. The angle from the lower level railing is 140 degrees. The 140 degree angle was cut using 20 degree bevels on both pieces to make the 40 degree complementary angle to keep the profiles lined up. At the top I just beveled it at 40 degrees to bring it perpendicular to level. I wasn't really comfortable with it for all the safety reasons you stated, but when the mechanical inspector came through he noticed it and mentioned that it would fail the final inspection and that I needed a return. Sounded like a simple solution so I gave it a try with a 45 degree miter and 20 degree bevels, but it didn't come out level at the top. I had some other great idea using complementary angles but only made it worse.
This seems like a common problem these days so I'm hoping someone has a magical formula for coming up with the right bevel/miter combination that brings the return back to level, and keeps the profiles lined up. Thanks to all out there contemplating my problem. This is my first posting and hope I'm doing ok.
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Old 04-08-2014, 06:17 PM
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We have an introduction section where you can say a few words about yourself. If you fill out your profile in your "User Control Panel", you can list any hobbies, experience or other facts. You can also list your general geographical location which would be a help in answering some questions. In doing that your location will show under your username when you post.

There may be two simple suggestions. The first would be to just make a left turn on the same plane where you want the return.

Or, duplicate the angle that you made below for the transition in height. When you get it to the height cut those angles so the rail becomes horizontal. From there, you can create a 90° corner to return it to the wall.

.
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Old 04-09-2014, 09:54 AM
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Am I correct that you are not showing the end of the railing you are asking about, it's out of the picture? Sounds like you already cut the end of the rail. Level is horizontal, plumb is vertical. You probably cut the end of the railing plumb. That cut cannot be used for the return and all of it must be removed. There is no magic "formula" it's very simple. In most cases, the railing is mitered on the end, 45 degrees and a short piece is returned to the wall. The top of this return will not be level with the floor, it will be in line with the slope of the rail. Here is a picture of a simple 45 return. http://www.popularmechanics.com/home...vement/4303237

You can do returns in many other ways. Every stair is different. When you make transitions from a slope to level, it's just a matter of using a level. If you took a level and plumbed up from the floor, then marked and cut the rail to that line, that is your angle. If you want the rail to come up a slope, then level for a distance before returning to the wall, you bisect that angle, divide it by two. There are also fittings made for returns that match the railing profile. You can also get creative with the returns. You don't have to make a 45, any combination of angles can be used that are equivalent. http://www.valleyplaning.com/sitebui...g.w180h240.jpg
http://www.portlandstaircompany.com/...rn-600x450.jpg

It should be noted, cutting stair parts requires accuracy. You can't be off a hair, especially when bisecting angles since mistakes will double. You can mis-cut an expensive part easily. Until you have experience, you would be advised to get some inexpensive 1x3 to do test cuts. You can solve a lot of problems without ruining the rail.
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Old 04-09-2014, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestions. I realized I was over thinking it. In my mind I pictured the return needing to be upright, but after watching I video I saw they were just making simple 45 degree miters and allowing the return to just twist off level.
Those are some interesting returns pictured. I'll have to try experimenting with some of them on my next stair rail. This one is done. Inspection is scheduled. Thanks again.
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Old 04-09-2014, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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I think I should have said that the return twisted off plumb instead of level. I need to be more exacting with my terms. Sorry
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Old 04-09-2014, 05:56 PM
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That corner box ...

Why not give that box a reason for existing other than a start/stop for the hand rail? It could extend down to the step and be either a built up section or a turned column. Right now it looks like a "terminated" termination.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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Old 04-09-2014, 07:17 PM
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[QUOTE="woodnthings"]Why not give that box a reason for existing other than a start/stop for the hand rail? It could extend down to the step and be either a built up section or a turned column. Right now it looks like a "terminated" termination. [/QUOTE

I would use a 1/4 turn and continue the handrail down the winders.
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