Adding safety rails to a church railing

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Project by sras posted 11-01-2017 12:56 AM 1456 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was a big project – took me just over a year.

The original railing has rails spaced a foot apart. Too far to meet today’s safety codes. The previous solution of plastic panels trimmed in wood were worn out. The plastic was clouded & scuffed and a lot of the wood trim was gone. (It looks much better in the photo than in real life!)

I chose a lighter colored mahogany called meranti. I then used Cognac stain from Varathane. The top coat is a water based polyurethane brushed on.

The long rails had to be jointed together. I used a scarf joint.

The longest rails were 20ft long. A bit of a challenge in my 24 ft shop. Lots of crawling on my hands & knees :)

I built & installed the rails in 3 phases. The first phase was all the straight rails.

One of the boards for the long straight rails had this bizarre filler material – some kind of brittle blueish plastic stuff. You can see a little of it in the bottom of the pockets I routed out.

I then made rubbings to transfer the shape.

And cut filler pieces.

And hand filed them to fit.

The next phase was all the angled rails except the long ones. I created the angled ends with half lap joints. I had to create little filler patches for where the half lap didn’t cover.

The final phase was the long angled rails. These rails were also long enough to require scarf joints. I couldn’t use the table saw to create the half lap on these long pieces so I built a jig for the router.

The bottom rail ended up with the most detail. Special treatment on both ends.

While this took a long time, it is really good to see the end result!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

10 comments so far

View Alongiron's profile


654 posts in 3470 days

#1 posted 11-01-2017 01:01 AM

That is really something!! What great work and man..a year?!? what a grind! Good for you! Always good brownie points for the man upstairs!
Great work!

-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View sras's profile


5491 posts in 3906 days

#2 posted 11-01-2017 01:10 AM

Thanks! It took a year, but I didn’t work on it full time. Still – I logged 170 hours on it. Funny thing is I estimated 70 hours :)

Since the time was donated it doesn’t matter, but it was much more work than I thought!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3906 posts in 3028 days

#3 posted 11-01-2017 01:48 AM

Good on ya, Steve! The railing project has a lot of custom fit work, I see. Also, congrats on the retirement!

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View sras's profile


5491 posts in 3906 days

#4 posted 11-01-2017 02:04 AM

Thanks Don! The hardest fit was the last – the long angled rails. I had to take them in and scribe fit each one…

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View ralbuck's profile


6547 posts in 3043 days

#5 posted 11-01-2017 03:48 AM

Turned out to be a great looking project.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View lew's profile


13124 posts in 4532 days

#6 posted 11-01-2017 03:48 AM

I cannot imagine even considering this project. You did an awesome job, Steve!

I had to chuckle when I read about 20’ pieces in a 24’ shop. I know all about crawling over, under and around projects!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Dutchy's profile


3741 posts in 2945 days

#7 posted 11-01-2017 07:40 AM

You have been a lot in the church last year.

Well done.

You will get a lot of compliments on sunday?


View Albert's profile


542 posts in 4366 days

#8 posted 11-01-2017 01:48 PM

Great job Steve, I’ve had some questionable experience with railings that are a lot simpler that those are and you seem to have done excellent work.
Also, congratulations on your retirement. An hour seems a bit long.

View sras's profile


5491 posts in 3906 days

#9 posted 11-01-2017 02:37 PM

Thanks for the comments!

Lew – Having no long boards in my shop is one of the best benefits!

Jan – Since the install was spread out over several months, I’m not sure what will happen on Sunday. I have gotten lots of compliments each time I added more. This last stretch goes downstairs and not everyone will see it…

Paul – I expect it took an hour because I napped half of that!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3643 days

#10 posted 11-01-2017 05:28 PM

You have done some very creative work on these rails and you have done a beautiful job on the project.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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