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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, newbie question here.

I'm trying to build a spiral log staircase and ran up against a problem due to a bonehead mistake ordering materials. I need a handrail of at least 34" and ordered 35" round cedar pickets that are 3" diameter but narrow at the ends for inserting into rails on either side (although I plan to fasten the lower ends into the log treads). I need to put two spindles into each tread, but neglected to account for the rise in the handrail, which makes the second spindle too short on each tread.

I ordered a bunch of extra spindles, initially thinking I'd need three per tread. Is there any way I can join two spindles together to create one of sufficient length to allow for the rise in the handrail? For example, can I just cut a spindle near the top and insert a dowel into the long end and the other end of the dowel into a piece of a second spindle, then glue it together? Would that create enough structural strength to hold a handrail (noting also that the first spindle on each tread will be intact)? If not, is there another method that can be used that doesn't require a lot of woodworking skill or specialized machinery?

Thanks for any advice!!
 

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My experience with stair rails and balusters is not as much as it should be, and more than I wanted. You could probably do as you mentioned, and i think it would be plenty strong enough, after all, it's only every other baluster that would be extended (right?). But I'd bet that joint will show, whether it's unsightly would be a judgement call you'd have to make. If you're planning on painting these (doesn't sound like you are) you could probably hide it with Bondo filling any gaps....but I'm still betting strength of the "stretched" baluster isn't going to be a problem. (Hope I didn't completely misunderstand what you asked).
 

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Discussion Starter #4


How are you planning to install the balusters?









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That's a good question! I'm debating between sinking them straight into the outside end of the tread, like a mortise and tenon. Would I hold them in with lag screws from the underside ot the tread?

It seems the other option is to notch the outer edge of the tread and drive the screw through the spindle from the side into the tread. That preserves more of the tread length but it probably eats up more of the spindle length. Also might not look as nice.

Not sure which method is better from a structural perspective, or whether there is a better option than either. Advice also welcomed here!

Thanks!
 

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Why not just save yourself a lot of headache and install a bottom rail. I can see what you are after in the end, but your balusters are not going to look the best. If this is in city limits and your have to have an inspection, if there is any deflection they may nail you.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I originally thought about doing a bottom rail, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work. It's a curved handrail (since it's a spiral staircase), and I'm going to make it out of 1/4" laminates clamped to the balusters to give it a curve. Was just beyond me how I could do that for a bottom rail and then attach it to the stair treads.

I like the idea of putting on a trim piece. I was thinking about a 3" trim with an incline that would match that of the handrail on top. But how would I attach that to the stair tread? My friend who's helping me suggested deck screws, but I doubt that would be secure enough. And how to secure the baluster tenons into the mortises in the trim piece? Is glue going to be enough? These balusters are going to be the main thing holding up the handrail.

I'm pretty clueless ... :blink:
 

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I originally thought about doing a bottom rail, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work. It's a curved handrail (since it's a spiral staircase), and I'm going to make it out of 1/4" laminates clamped to the balusters to give it a curve. Was just beyond me how I could do that for a bottom rail and then attach it to the stair treads.

I like the idea of putting on a trim piece. I was thinking about a 3" trim with an incline that would match that of the handrail on top. But how would I attach that to the stair tread? My friend who's helping me suggested deck screws, but I doubt that would be secure enough. And how to secure the baluster tenons into the mortises in the trim piece? Is glue going to be enough? These balusters are going to be the main thing holding up the handrail.

I'm pretty clueless ... :blink:
What type of ends are on the balusters?





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Is this the approximate detail?



If so, and you extend the blaster in some manner, it will look "added on to" unless you pop for longer ones. It will be hard to blend a connection between the blaster and an extension. So, if I were you I'd just order some longer ones.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Yes, that's something like what I'm doing. The ends of the 3" balusters, though, narrow to a 1-1/2" tenon.

I tried to design a trim piece, but it would have required a large 4-by piece that I couldn't find at the local Home Depot -- which is the only option in this rural area.

I'm back to the option of cutting the extra balusters into 4.5" sections, and joining those to the back end of each tread to make for a longer baluster. The 35" baluster would go on top of this platform.

I'm not sure how to join these pieces securely. I bought some 3" all-thread lag screws, thinking I could use these, along with wood glue, to secure the 4-1/2" platforms to the treads. For the balusters with tenons, I was going to drill out mortises for the tenons, and also use the double-ended lag screws and glue to hold them in the treads or the platforms, as the case may be.

Does that sound about right, or is there a better way?
 

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where's my table saw?
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you could use a dowel OR

one of these. You can use the new Titebond glue for end grain joints. You should try to match the grain and color of the long post as close as possible and I would make the extension close to the top so it would be partially hidden by the hand rail. A clean and square saw cut is required for an inconspicuous joint. A center hole is also required so the pieces will match up along their lengths.



If this is difficult, you might consider a half lap joint and glue them together. I'd make the lap about 3 or 4" in length on each piece, then mate them together and sand them flush all around.
 

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Yes, that's something like what I'm doing. The ends of the 3" balusters, though, narrow to a 1-1/2" tenon.

I tried to design a trim piece, but it would have required a large 4-by piece that I couldn't find at the local Home Depot -- which is the only option in this rural area.

I'm back to the option of cutting the extra balusters into 4.5" sections, and joining those to the back end of each tread to make for a longer baluster. The 35" baluster would go on top of this platform.

I'm not sure how to join these pieces securely. I bought some 3" all-thread lag screws, thinking I could use these, along with wood glue, to secure the 4-1/2" platforms to the treads. For the balusters with tenons, I was going to drill out mortises for the tenons, and also use the double-ended lag screws and glue to hold them in the treads or the platforms, as the case may be.

Does that sound about right, or is there a better way?
The "platforms" you mention, sounds like the "trim" I mentioned. All it has to be is a piece of wood with some thickness (like ¾") added to the top of the tread. You can just drill that piece, which makes the baluster needed shorter.




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Discussion Starter #14
You are going to be doing this once and looking at it forever, why not just bite the bullet and get the longer spindles. Nine people out of ten will probably think whatever you do is just fine, but you may always wish you had done it properly to start with. DAMHIK
Indeed, we've finally come to that conclusion and are getting a quote on longer spindles. Your logic is impeccable - thanks.

Our last problem is that the treads are not really wide and they splay out at the edges, leaving a gap between each two adjoining treads. We're planning to put the longer spindle between the two treads, which will give more structural stability (essentially tieing the whole staircase together instead of relying entirely on the mortise and tenon joints), but the building inspector might have issues with the gaps between treads. Not sure if there is any easy way of filling those gaps, other than remaking the treads (maybe putting two slabs together for each).
 
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