Project:Upcycled Handrail

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An Upcycled Handrail

Ciaran Handrail Finished 1.jpg
Status: complete & documentation
Release Date: completed 2021
Initiator: Ciaran
Materials Used: Reclaimed roofing beams (over 100 years old) from attic conversion
(Appears to be Antique Douglas Fir)
Tools Used: Chisels (Woodworking), Reciprocating Saw, Rasps, Hobelbank, Sandpaper

After a major attic conversion project, Ciaran had the romantic notion of sculpting the handrail for the new stairs from the antique roofing beams salvaged during the attic conversion. Things started well but were put on hold many times over the years before finally being completed in 2021.

Major Steps

Some related images are in the gallery below:

  • Cut away any rotten and cracked sections from the beams.
  • Select best sections of remaining beams for the various curves and straight pieces of the handrail.
  • Prototype the lower curve of the handrail using dowel stock and some foam pipe insulation.
  • Prototype the upper curve of the handrail with some strips of wood wrapped in cardboard and tape.
    • Prototyping went quickly, allowing many iterations and adjustments to find the best curve for the handrail.
  • The wrought iron uprights that hold up the handrail were ordered and installed
  • Another prototype was built from strips of wood and a glue gun. This was glued to the uprights to confirm the curve before the uprights would be cut to match the planned curve.
    • This prototype handrail stayed in place for several years serving as temporary handrail, in retrospect there was a fear of actually cutting the uprights to size and starting the actual wood carving.
  • I finally got the courage to start cutting the beams roughly to shape with a Reciprocating Saw. This was a difficult milestone as I didn’t have much wood so couldn’t afford to cut off too much.
  • After the first cuts with the saw I switched to using Chisels (Woodworking) and Rasps.
    • This was very tedious, but it was essential that I removed material slowly as the curves were being created by eye. I had to stop several times and put the pieces into place to check the curve and then remove them again to continue refining.
  • Slowly the curves developed and I decided that the pieces were pretty close to perfect and could be roughly sanded and then fixed in position.
  • When in position I did the final sanding and finishing to make sure the curve flowed smoothly through all the pieces.
  • I added a couple of fixing brackets to the wall to stabilise the rail.
    • This was a mini project itself. As the stairs and handrail were DIY, standard brackets wouldn’t fit. So I had to improvise using two old paint roller handles left over from previous DIY projects see photo’s below.
  • Back to the handrail. I stained it with coffee and a vinegar and steel-wool solution to darken it. I then coated it with a natural beeswax finish.


Next Steps

  • Hopefully no more steps!
…and no more handrail projects for me.