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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    206

    Default Box newel posts anyone?

    Box newel posts are very popular these days. Of course, these posts aren't from around these days.

    I recently read a post (no pun intended) about a shop worker who single-handedly produced over 10,000 factory box newels! Pretty impressive, but you can bet they weren't anything like these.

    Of course there's no comparison between Victorian high-style and today's' catalog parts, but don't you wish sometimes that there were?
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    Last edited by Baldwin; 09-06-2013 at 03:34 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Whittier, Ca
    Posts
    251

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Not a style that appeals to me but you have to appreciate the workmanship it took to make those "baheamuth's"(spelling ?) Too bad the tread and riser re-do doesn't even come close in any way. Also, hard to scale it but that looks like one of the shortest rail hts ive seen on that kind of elaborate over-the-top balustrade !!!

    I'd love the challenge to take on a commission to replicate them though which raises a question for you Jim- most modern box newels are hollow, is that how it was done "back in the day" ???

    M Smith

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Box newel posts of the Victorian era were hollow and either square or octagon. They typically did not support the stair but only the balustrade. They were designed after the newel posts of the earlier Jacobean stair which was entirely supported by solid, post timbers.

    The method of construction hasn't changed much over the years. The corners were either mitered or butt, but they're still just boxes. There seemed to be no limits to either the design or ornamentation.

    Some posts were a composite of a hollow box and solid turned sections. It wasn't uncommon to employ at least three separate craftsmen in the production: cabinet joiner, turner and carver.

    They sometimes served as bases for sculptured figures or lamps etc, which I think is still a glorious proposition. The oil lamps came first, then gas and finally electric (and all very collectable these days).
    ____________
    Handrail heights were much lower then and governed as much by architectural proportions as by human anatomy.
    Last edited by Baldwin; 09-08-2013 at 09:28 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Whittier, Ca
    Posts
    251

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Thanx Jim- neat history lesson.

    "Handrail heights were much lower then and governed as much by architectural proportions as by human anatomy."

    First- average ht of a man 100 years ago vs. today ???

    Second- IMHO those box newels are out of "architectural proportion" - so massive for the space, over powering the rest of the balustrade and dwarfing the already too low rail - the rake balusters barely have a top block section to speak of ??? Oh well, i'm sure there are lots of people that "love" it and it appeals to their sense of design.

    I like blue and you like green ??? thus, life is full of wonderful diversity for us all to enjoy !!!

    M Smith

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Although I agree with some of your assessments, I would hesitate to call anything in the State Capitol "out of proportion".

    The neoclassical building was designed in the 1850's during a rime of enthusiastic and strict adherence to classic proportion. In the case of the newel posts, these were not assigned proportions of columns or pilasters but rather of pedestals, being proportional to the ceiling height etc. The balustrade, including the handrail, balusters and base, are also part of the running pedestal detail as well as a shortened colonnade. Anyway, I really don't know what I'm talking about but I believe the architects did.

    I believe it was back in 1980 when the staircases in the capital building were being replicated from an old photo and a few surviving parts. It seems much of it had been removed at one time to make room for offices or elevators. I knew the guys working on the project and saw some of the work being done in their shop.

    I don't love it either but I do like it. Of course I'm only 5'4" and low balustrades are alright by me. Over the last 150 years, the average height for humans in developed countries, has increased by 4".

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Whittier, Ca
    Posts
    251

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Cool trivia about average ht- if i could be re-born in 150 years i'd be 6'-3" !!!

    Ok- next legit stair question:

    What was the preferred method of attachment for a hollow box newel???

    M Smith

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    South of Boston
    Posts
    798

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Although that particular style isn't my favorite, in that "grand" space it doesn't offend me too much.

    I agree with Jim's assessment of the newel being considered a pedestal for proportioning purposes (say that ten times fast).

    This is evidenced by the fact that in a lot of older homes there is a shadow rail or wainscot on the stair wall at the same height as the balustrade. This paneling ties into the room paneling (wainscot) which represents the Dado or pedestal.

    That said, I don't think the average human height has too much effect on a safe handrail. I mean, people do come in different sizes. I find today's handrails to be too high. At 6' I consider myself relatively tall and the 28" rake rail height in my house fits my height quite well. By that I mean it's comfortably useable both ascending and descending.

    I have never heard of someone falling over a handrail before,, but I have heard of people falling down the stairs. Tread and riser layout, lighting and a comfortable (graspable) rail height are likely more important for safety than stockade fence height.


    M Smith: On the tread and riser comment, I have to agree they look poorly executed. Mainly in the choice of material. I think they could have pulled it off with oak, if only they had used quarter sawn.


    Bob
    Last edited by Bob scott; 09-09-2013 at 09:16 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Whittier, Ca
    Posts
    251

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Bob,

    nice input-Jim didn't mention in his original post that these were in the CA Capital (although if i vere more observant of the pic tag i should have guessed so). Crazy thing is these seem to be at an "intermediate" landing, which MIGHT indicate that the main floor box newewls were even bigger ??? usually done that way today (intermediate landing box newels much smaller that is) so it's only a guess.

    "I have never heard of someone folling over a handrail before" - WOW, that is EXACTLY why the codes have changed over the years because people have died doing so. I don't have the official numbers handy but it'd be safe to say 75% or more have fallen over balcony guardrails that were too low. In 2009 Calif changed the guardrail ht to 42" !!!! what was the motivation to move the ht 6" other than people are still falling over them. 42" is ridiculous in my opinion and thought 39" would have been acceptable. Keith M mentioned the SMA is lobbying to get it back down to 36" - maybe he'll chime in ????

    M Smith

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Matt,
    The preferred method of attachment for box newels or solid posts, involved full incorporation of the newel into the stair structure. This was not just for strength but for aesthetic reasons as well. The Victorian stairs were mimicking the old English (Jacobean) stair which were built and supported entirely around load-bearing newel posts.

    Therefore, newels were almost always up against risers or let-in to floors or treads etc. Elaborate multifaceted wedge-dado's were common with everything glued and screwed to the carriage and skirt. Purely flush mounted newel posts were almost unheard of.

    In my opinion, the old way is still the only way (or should be). I've read some of your posts though regarding steel mounting plates and hardware and know you do a great job working with the sub-floor or stair construction "as is". I believe however that you are the exception to the rule, as others wouldn't dream of spending half the time you do.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    920

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    Here is something which may be interesting

    West Coast Regional Stair Workshop
    When
    07 Dec 2013

    8:00 AM - 3:30 PM
    Location
    Pleasanton, CA
    Registration
    Attendee - $89.00 (USD)
    Includes breakfast,lunch, all seminars, admission to exhibits and all publications and handouts.
    Exhibitor - $299.00 (USD)
    Exhibitor fee includes Table Exhibit, program listing and fee for one exhibitor. Additional exhibitor employees/guests are just $89.
    Sorry no discounts - Members and Non-Members pay the same rate equal to our cost to provide this event.
    SMA Stair Industry Workshop


    Join Us & Learn

    Registration Opens October 1st

    Network with stair professionals, learn at valuable seminars, workshops and exhibits.

    Networking Breakfast 8:00 a - 8:45 a
    Exhibits open 8:00a
    Lunch 12:00p
    Workshops and Seminars throughout Day
    Stair and Guard Engineering Issues
    California Stair Codes, Interpretation and Enforcement
    Much more
    All Attendees will receive a free copy of the NEW! "Visual Interpretation of the 2012 IRC" with California Modifications.
    Exhibitors Welcome

    Members may exhibit, space is limited inquire NOW! Toll Free 877-500-5759
    Who should attend?

    All who work in the stair industry are welcome
    You need not be a SMA member.
    Just $89.00 includes breakfast, lunch, and a full day of valuable learning specific to the Stair Industry
    With in reach

    Pleasanton, Ca is central to the the Bay Area and the Valley just outside of Oakland.


    Want to present at a future event
    If you bat 1000 you're playing in the minor leagues.

    Warren Buffet

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    78

    Default Re: Box newel posts anyone?

    I think it was very common to have 2 types of wood, one for the stairs and than another ( walnut , mahogany) for the handrail. I think it could be original?

    I'm not sure about the rail height, hard to tell when all the parts are so big.

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