Sailboat handrails

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Project by MattObjects posted 10-20-2012 09:19 AM 3591 views 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My old sailboat needed new cabin-top handrails so I made these last winter. I wanted handrails beefy enough that they would hold under the weight of an adult man hanging from them in storm conditions. That meant both that the wood needed to be thick enough to withstand the strain and also that they needed to be very securely attached to the boat.

These handrails are made from African mahogany. Rather than drill holes through the tops of the handrails toward the deck for the attachment of screws or bolts (which would have required plugging the holes afterward), I epoxied stainless steel threaded rod into each base and then drilled holes through the deck for the threaded rod to pass through. Attached to the threaded rod on the interior of the cabin are a second set of internal handrails that are mirror images to the handrails mounted to the deck. These not only provide a safety feature on the interior of the cabin, they are also more attractive than just having backing plates and exposed threaded rod and nuts from the exterior handrails. The interior handrails are made of padauk.

4 comments so far

View robscastle's profile


6308 posts in 2686 days

#1 posted 10-20-2012 09:40 AM

Your “old sail boat” looks very neat, the handrails are a nice touch to it.
A question:
How did you attach the internal handrail to th threaded rod?

-- Regards Rob

View shipwright's profile


8358 posts in 3280 days

#2 posted 10-20-2012 05:48 PM

Those are seriously solid handrails Matt.
How about a picture or two of your boat?
I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View James Alberding's profile

James Alberding

79 posts in 2678 days

#3 posted 11-09-2012 05:44 PM

Very nice. This is most likely an ignorant question. I love the idea of mirroring the rails inside. Did you fasten the rod on the inside with a nut then counter boar the inside rails to epoxy over them? I only ask because I don’t know how much I would trust only epoxy without some way to tighten it to the deck.

They look great. Did you take any pics of the ones inside?

-- measure once, cut twice...

View MattObjects's profile


24 posts in 2859 days

#4 posted 11-09-2012 07:24 PM

I drilled holes into the bottom of the bases of the external handrails and then drilled corresponding holes all the way through the bases of the interior handrails (i.e, from the bottom of the base out through the top of the handrail). I iinstalled stainless steel screw-in insert nuts into the mouths of holes drilled in the bottom of each base on the external handrails. I then poured a small amount of epoxy into each base through the insert nut. Right after that, I threaded 3/8” SS threaded rod into the insert nuts. By the time the threaded rod bottomed out in the bases, epoxy had worked its way up the threaded rod, letting me know the void inside each base was completely filled with stainless steel or epoxy and permanently attaching the threaded rod into the bases.

Once the threaded rod from the external handrails was passed through holes drilled in the deck into the cabin interior, washers and low-profile SS nuts were placed on the threaded rod. The interior handrails were then installed onto the threaded rod (with widened holes at the bases to slide over the low profile nuts) and then fastened in place with two stainless nuts each onto the other end of the threaded rod. At some point I may try to plug the holes through which the nuts were installed (which were wider than I would have liked, to allow room for a socket on the nuts), but for now I like having access to the fasteners.

As for the strength of the handrails, we got caught out in a freak storm this past June (google Chesapeake Bay Derecho if you want info about that storm), and there were several moments where the exterior handrails were the only thing that kept all 200+ lbs of me from going overboard and the interior handrails were the only thing that kept my wife from being knocked about inside the cabin.

I don’t have any pics of the interior handrails now but will take some the next time I am down with the boat.

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