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Custom Handrail Parts

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  • Custom Handrail Parts

    I wanted to post some pictures of recent sculptural handrails parts. Some of the guys who attended last Summers' tangent handrail seminar (hosted by Keith Mathewson of Seattle Fine Woodworking) may find this interesting.

    Keith and I just got back from the Stairway Manufacturers Association's annual conference in Reno NV (SMA). Both he and I were given an opportunity to address the members and share some thoughts on "Vintage Handrail and Stairs" (this was fun). We had an assist from Steve Guenzel of Advanced Stair Systems who brought along some of his very old stair books to share.

  • #2
    Re: Custom Handrail Parts

    The double wreathed volute is about 21'" across and descends down two steps. The handrail is 3 1/2" wide. Two other fittings are various starting wreaths.

    Of course this is all very fun (when it's done).
    Last edited by Jim Baldwin; 04-21-2012, 11:24 PM.


    • #3
      Re: Custom Handrail Parts

      Looks really nice Jim! Any other interesting bits to share?
      Be true to your home


      • #4
        Re: Custom Handrail Parts

        I'm tinking...

        Keith called me a day or so before he was supposed to fly out to Reno and told me he didn't think he was going to make it..."I'm standing in two inches of water" he said "and I'm not outside!" One of the fire sprinkler lines had busted or something and douched his whole shop. Someone he managed to slog through it all and and show-up anyway (the show must go on). I was relieved since I don't tap-dance to well (we had a two-hour time slot on the agenda)'

        I don't golf either so I'm sure I missed most of the really important stuff, but it was all very informative. I don't know why but I was surprised by how many wives were in attendance and how many of them are not just "deck-fluff" but knowledgeable partners and professionals.(worthy of a whole new thread here).

        Last edited by Jim Baldwin; 04-21-2012, 11:22 PM.


        • #5
          Re: Custom Handrail Parts

          Your volute is awesome and has found its way to be my new backgroud on my computer this week. Your presentation at the SMA meetings was very interesting to me and the rest of the members that crowded to room to hear about Vintage Handrailing and Stairs.

          I'm sure we all left with a greater appreciation of the history of Tangent Handrailing and the authors that fought it out to have the most accepted method amongst their peers and readers.

          My stairbuilding book collection made it back from the meeting safetly and have found their way back on display at our shop and have added a new one this week, by a Nicholson apprentice named Langley Banks, who is well known for building the stairs at the Crystal Palace in England.

          You should also post your full layout drawing of the volute, I found it to be almost as amazing as the volute itself.



          • #6
            Re: Custom Handrail Parts

            OK, since you've asked...


            • #7
              Re: Custom Handrail Parts

              I'm curious about Langley Bank's apprenticeship under Peter Nicholson?

              Of all the many professional titles rightly attributed to Nicholson including: architect, mathematician, engineer, inventor, teacher and author, no mention is ever made of him being a stairbuilder, carpenter or workman of any kind. In fact, it's pretty obvious that Nicholson himself never aspired to working with his hands directly, otherwise he would have followed in his father's trade of stone masonry.

              I think it's fair to say that Langley must have been a "student" or perhaps more correctly an "apprentice architect"? Either way it's largely semantics since the proof is in the plum-pudding of the Crystal Palace!

              I find that each author had something significant to say or add, but I always consider their backgrounds when evaluating any of their "new" or "improved" methods. The Mowat brothers for example, were both university science professors and technical drawing masters (yikes!). Some of their line-drawings may never be fully deciphered (at least by me).

              Well as usual, I have an opinion about something I've never seen. I'm just jealous of your fantastic book collection. I hope you keep them in an area that isn't directly under a fire sprinkler. Some of my old books were damaged when a water line froze and burst in the attic. The books got soaked from above (I'm still thinking of Keith).
              Last edited by Jim Baldwin; 04-22-2012, 11:27 PM.


              • #8
                Re: Custom Handrail Parts

                That's a cool series of drawings, Jim.

                Is there one book in particular you recommend for volutes?

                I gotta say, it's nice to have taken your class and be able to read the drawings.

                "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts; for support rather than illumination." -Andrew Lang


                • #9
                  Re: Custom Handrail Parts

                  The actual volute layout (with slight modification) was taken from Mowat (fig 284) along with their method for finding bevels. In this case, the width of the handrail is used to determine or describe the scroll. I usually prefer this method since the rail rolls up neatly on itself and in its' smallest practical diameter.

                  Other drawing methods yield larger caps which require more "crevice" carving. These volutes sit well on larger newel posts. Each of the various methods for drawing scrolls (sometimes termed "open" or "closed") have their advantages or proper application, which is why we have a half-dozen or more to choose from.

                  The worst example of a (pseudo) volute is seen in a typical 7030-5 factory fitting. These are no volutes at all but half-circles with blobs for caps. Of course tens of thousands of these litter American homes and pass for "fine stair work" (which remains my acknowledged, prejudicial opinion).