Victorian Porch Railing/ Balustrade

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Project by SantaPaulaCraftsman posted 02-07-2016 07:15 PM 3708 views 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Our 1899 Victorian had been purchased 8 years ago with a plain wood railing from the 1960s. The wife and I wanted something fancier, but not overly complicated… as some Victorian mill work tends to be.

Custom wood railings are expensive. I have more time than money, and a lot of tools, but this would entail over 75 individual hand-cut pieces and they would need to be exactly the same in order to look correct when joined together. I could make a master template, but even with the cutting and routing it looked like another ‘Some day, when I have time’ project.

Then, a friend just bought a small home CNC machine and offered its use. This would be the perfect opportunity to make a custom router blank. We drew up a couple samples and he used a CAD program to make paper prototypes.

After choosing one, we bought construction-grade pine boards rather than MDF. I wanted knots, grain, and some irregularities so it would look like wood and not plastic.

The problem soon became apparent. The CNC, although deadly accurate and simple, needed 5 incremental passes of each board to hog thru the lumber, plus the set-up of eight boards per job on the CNC bed, set precisely each time so that the bit would hit the board in the right place. This would take several days of extremely loud, boring work in someone’s home located in a residential neighborhood. I would be testing his wife’s patience. No bueno.

The solution:
1. CNC cuts a single pass 1/2” groove in each board
2. Band saw rough cut the shape using the groove as a guide
3. Router bearing guide bit to ride on the CNC groove for final shape
4. Sanding
5, Painting
6. Assembly

The painting (primer plus 2 coats paint) took far longer than the fabrication.

Now I know why custom wood railings are so expensive.

-- Life so short, the craft so long to learn

4 comments so far

View themaddriver's profile


25 posts in 2410 days

#1 posted 02-07-2016 10:25 PM

I really like those. Did you use 2×12 boards to make them or are they not as wide as I think they are. That would look very nice on my house. Probably won’t be here long enough to add them. Great work.

-- Hope is not a course of action!!!

View Woodworkerjay's profile


27 posts in 3271 days

#2 posted 02-08-2016 02:42 PM

Very Nice job! I have made my own ballusters before too. It was a lot of work, but for something custom made and to suit the era of your home, it is worth it. I love the look of a solid, decorated porch.

-- Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority it is time to pause and reflect. Mark Twain

View a1Jim's profile


118321 posts in 5039 days

#3 posted 02-08-2016 02:50 PM

Very nicely done I like the design. Here’s one I did a few years ago all by patterns and a router.


View Mas's profile


72 posts in 3724 days

#4 posted 02-09-2016 02:22 AM

That new railing looks really good on the house. I bet the wife is ecstatic that you finally got around to it..

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