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well it broke. now what?

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Forum topic by Juan_Eduardo posted 01-12-2019 07:56 PM 1029 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Juan_Eduardo

10 posts in 274 days


01-12-2019 07:56 PM

I’m in the process of making and installing a handrail for the winding entry staircase in our 1912 victorian. I used 1.75” fir dowel stock and did a complete install using dowel screws and then took it out of the house whole to unscrew and do the glue-up/finishing. Should have been easy…

Well, it fell off the sawhorse and fully cracked along the grain in the under-easing segment. I tried to glue/screw it back together, but couldn’t get a good clamp/adherence because of the awkwardness of the joint and it came apart again during finishing.

Now my aim is to install it and then try and rejoin the thing together and I’m hoping somebody out there has suggestions on the best techniques/materials to use to do this. Here’s a pick of how it sits when the two pieces are reinstalled:

Some issues:

-The handrail has three separate bends, not including the returns, so any major movement or trimming is problematic, as it will create cascade effects for the rest of the handrails positioning. Here’s a pic:

-The joint is likely to be under a fair amount of torque, just to fit where it needs to fit

-The area of the break is quite rough, and because it’s through an easing, removing significant amounts of material can screw up the angles

-the area has glue residue all over it from my previous fix attempts, but I’m not sure how to remove it easily without removing lots of material. Here’s an image of both edges:

-There is a remaining dowel screw in one end, which I’m doubtful I can or should remove

I guess the real question is how can I adhere/attach the two sides so that they’ll hold? Titebond II and screws haven’t done the job and I’m scared of splitting the wood that’s left if I use hardware. I’m not super worried about appearance, because I’d like the handrail to have a “worn” look, but I’d like it to appear somewhat professional.

-- just figuring this Sh__ out as I go


22 replies so far

View OnhillWW's profile

OnhillWW

186 posts in 1737 days


#1 posted 01-12-2019 09:31 PM

The original screws were too fat and had nowhere near enough engagement with the 2nd piece. I would back the screws out. Get a rotary tool such as a Dremel and install a SS wire brush or a stiff SS toothbrush like brush ( used for cleaning guns). Then with the brush working in or with the direction of the grain remove as much old glue as you can while best preserving the profiles of the fractured mating ends ( glue will not stick to glue). Stop once you have become totally bored with the process, i.e. you probably still have some glue there but the more raw wood to raw wood contact the better. Get a pair of #6 or #8 screws that will reach an inch or better into the 2nd half of the joint. Temporarily rejoin the two split halves again via clamps, tape, indentured servants…whatever and drill two appropriately sized pilot holes for the screws you have selected. You can install temporary blocks onto each half , these will allow you to better position and tighten your clamps) Disassemble and in the left hand piece enlarge the hole diameters to allow the screws to just pass through with no to minimal contact with the hole. This will ensure that the screw will pull the two halves together when tightening. I’d use epoxy because it will fill voids. Tape off the exterior prior to gluing, and thicken the epoxy to reduce sag and run out ( Google how to ). Now with everything ready and something on the floor to catch drips cross your fingers and do the deed. Good luck – it isn’t going be easy but its doable.

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

View OnhillWW's profile

OnhillWW

186 posts in 1737 days


#2 posted 01-12-2019 09:41 PM

Also, If you add a couple of additional handrail brackets close to and either side of the joint they will each bear some of the load that the joint is trying to carry. It might help unload the joint making it last longer.

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5350 posts in 2814 days


#3 posted 01-12-2019 09:59 PM

Your picture is too close to see how straight or curved the rail is beyond the break and what’s the diameter is the hand rail. Is the hand rail round or does it have flat side? Where in the system is that piece located. Can’t say I have a fix but next Zip Bolt may have an answer on connection option of rand rails. Their stuff is top notch.

https://youtu.be/CeKLZy1QmKg

http://zipbolt.com.au/

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

846 posts in 1607 days


#4 posted 01-12-2019 10:15 PM

First. Let me commend you for succeeding as well as you have. Unfortunately, I think, due to the material you are using, it’s small diameter, and the unfortunate grain direction, it was destined to fail. I don’t think you have much of a chance of “fixing” this without the use of epoxy and a hefty spline or dowel through the joint. The screws are definitely the wrong choice and unless your existing screws have been backed out part way, they are too short to do the job any way. I’m not sure how you would cut a slot for a spline. But, for a dowel, I would use nothing smaller than a 1/2” hardwood (larger if you can) and drill starting on the right side of your first picture on an angle so that your dowel ends up parallel with the left side and in the center of the rail. You will likely have to purchase an extra long drill bit for this. Of course, make sure your broken pieces are lined up and tight together before you do this. Then, glue the whole thing together with epoxy and grind/sand the protruding dowel smooth and flush.

I know this is late advice, but if I were doing this I would have, first of all, used a sturdier material like oak and made the rail a larger diameter. Secondly, I think I would have considered making multiple straight sections with intentional “breaks” or gaps where you have bends. If I were going to do the bends, I would have made joints on either side with sloppy fit centered dowels to allow for alignment adjustments. Once everything was installed (dry fit) and aligned, I would remove and reassemble in sequence with epoxy glue at each doweled joint as I progressed. This process would eliminate the “fair amount of torque” you mentioned.

Good luck

View Juan_Eduardo's profile

Juan_Eduardo

10 posts in 274 days


#5 posted 01-12-2019 10:29 PM



The original screws were too fat and had nowhere near enough engagement with the 2nd piece. I would back the screws out. Get a rotary tool such as a Dremel and install a SS wire brush or a stiff SS toothbrush like brush ( used for cleaning guns). Then with the brush working in or with the direction of the grain remove as much old glue as you can while best preserving the profiles of the fractured mating ends ( glue will not stick to glue). Stop once you have become totally bored with the process, i.e. you probably still have some glue there but the more raw wood to raw wood contact the better. Get a pair of #6 or #8 screws that will reach an inch or better into the 2nd half of the joint. Temporarily rejoin the two split halves again via clamps, tape, indentured servants…whatever and drill two appropriately sized pilot holes for the screws you have selected. You can install temporary blocks onto each half , these will allow you to better position and tighten your clamps) Disassemble and in the left hand piece enlarge the hole diameters to allow the screws to just pass through with no to minimal contact with the hole. This will ensure that the screw will pull the two halves together when tightening. I d use epoxy because it will fill voids. Tape off the exterior prior to gluing, and thicken the epoxy to reduce sag and run out ( Google how to ). Now with everything ready and something on the floor to catch drips cross your fingers and do the deed. Good luck – it isn t going be easy but its doable.

- OnhillWW

Thanks much for the input. I did use the “temporary block” method to try and join these pieces, but the results just weren’t strong enough. I think you’re right that I could have better results with epoxy. Do you have one you’d recommend? The only one I’ve used is primarily for filling…

The two vertical screws you see in the picture are 1.5” #8 screws. The railing stick is only 1.75” diameter. Maybe I could use longer screws and then back them out when the epoxy has cured? Not sure if what’s left would be strong enough…

-- just figuring this Sh__ out as I go

View Juan_Eduardo's profile

Juan_Eduardo

10 posts in 274 days


#6 posted 01-12-2019 10:39 PM



Your picture is too close to see how straight or curved the rail is beyond the break and what s the diameter is the hand rail. Is the hand rail round or does it have flat side? Where in the system is that piece located. Can t say I have a fix but next Zip Bolt may have an answer on connection option of rand rails. Their stuff is top notch.

https://youtu.be/CeKLZy1QmKg

http://zipbolt.com.au/

- AlaskaGuy

Sorry for the lack of perspective… The stock is full round and 1.75” diameter. The broken portion is an under-easing immediately uphill from the 90 degree bend.

-- just figuring this Sh__ out as I go

View Juan_Eduardo's profile

Juan_Eduardo

10 posts in 274 days


#7 posted 01-12-2019 10:46 PM



First. Let me commend you for succeeding as well as you have. Unfortunately, I think, due to the material you are using, it s small diameter, and the unfortunate grain direction, it was destined to fail. I don t think you have much of a chance of “fixing” this without the use of epoxy and a hefty spline or dowel through the joint. The screws are definitely the wrong choice and unless your existing screws have been backed out part way, they are too short to do the job any way. I m not sure how you would cut a slot for a spline. But, for a dowel, I would use nothing smaller than a 1/2” hardwood (larger if you can) and drill starting on the right side of your first picture on an angle so that your dowel ends up parallel with the left side and in the center of the rail. You will likely have to purchase an extra long drill bit for this. Of course, make sure your broken pieces are lined up and tight together before you do this. Then, glue the whole thing together with epoxy and grind/sand the protruding dowel smooth and flush.

I know this is late advice, but if I were doing this I would have, first of all, used a sturdier material like oak and made the rail a larger diameter. Secondly, I think I would have considered making multiple straight sections with intentional “breaks” or gaps where you have bends. If I were going to do the bends, I would have made joints on either side with sloppy fit centered dowels to allow for alignment adjustments. Once everything was installed (dry fit) and aligned, I would remove and reassemble in sequence with epoxy glue at each doweled joint as I progressed. This process would eliminate the “fair amount of torque” you mentioned.

Good luck

- bilyo

Bilyo: Thanks for the idea. Man if I could change one thing about my life for the last two weeks, believe me, I would have spent the dough for some oak… Like I just read, “cheap is expensive”. Do you have an epoxy recommendation?

-- just figuring this Sh__ out as I go

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

2089 posts in 1108 days


#8 posted 01-12-2019 10:51 PM

However you fix it…...Before you drive yourself into an OCD frenzy, cosmetically if no one can feel it no one will see it. Even if you have to scarf in something with some dark stained hardwood with some fake grain to stabilize it. As long as you can’t feel it you’re good.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Juan_Eduardo's profile

Juan_Eduardo

10 posts in 274 days


#9 posted 01-12-2019 11:09 PM



for a dowel, I would use nothing smaller than a 1/2” hardwood (larger if you can) and drill starting on the right side of your first picture on an angle so that your dowel ends up parallel with the left side and in the center of the rail. You will likely have to purchase an extra long drill bit for this.
- bilyo

Additionally, to make this work I’d have to remove the protruding dowel screw. Any idea how I could do this? Haven’t been able to get a strong enough grip for the counter-clockwise torque required using plyers.

-- just figuring this Sh__ out as I go

View Juan_Eduardo's profile

Juan_Eduardo

10 posts in 274 days


#10 posted 01-12-2019 11:12 PM



However you fix it…...Before you drive yourself into an OCD frenzy, cosmetically if no one can feel it no one will see it. Even if you have to scarf in something with some dark stained hardwood with some fake grain to stabilize it. As long as you can t feel it you re good.

- Andybb

Thanks Andy,

I’m an amature, so not even sure what you mean by “scarf in”. Believe me, no OCD here. I just want to turn this thing from 2 pieces to one and have it stay that way!

-- just figuring this Sh__ out as I go

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

1880 posts in 1999 days


#11 posted 01-12-2019 11:18 PM

+1 Clean old glue residue and use epoxy for next repair.

I would worry about the (end) grain direction on the rail section that broke?

Suggest to reinforce the hand rail with more than couple screws. Hand rails against a wall are seldom cherished from bottom. I would remove or drill out screws, then use trim router cut a slot in bottom of rail, and insert spline using 2-3 inches of 6-8mm BB plywood on each side of break. While not required with epoxy, if you want to use fasteners, fire a couple of brads from side through the spline to hold things as you wrap the joint with HD clear packing tape and wait for epoxy to cure. After 24 hours, remove tape, scrape/sand epoxy residue, and touch up finish. The resulting joint will be stronger than rest of wood.

Nice part about spline repair, is if you end up removing too much material while cleaning that impacts length, can cut bad section completely out of rail, and add back a filler piece supported by a longer spline into the undamaged wood. Use of scarf (diagonal cut) joint will help hide the replaced section.

Have had to repair broken hardwood stair hand rails myself several times (teenagers using them as monkey bars). Breaks were always due grain direction in rail similar looking to yours. Repairs were almost invisible from top, and all you could see from bottom was spline plywood edges and glue joint.

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View Kazooman's profile

Kazooman

1356 posts in 2457 days


#12 posted 01-13-2019 12:34 AM

Impossible to know where this piece fits in the overall scheme of the handrail from the pictures. It looks Iike the piece to the left is straight and the on in the right enters the curve. If so, I would suggest cutting the left piece back to a good 90 degree crosscut and remaking the curved piece to connect how ever far up the line is required. Dowel the ends and be done.

Gluing that break will never be right.

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1893 posts in 1719 days


#13 posted 01-13-2019 02:39 AM

Reach out to LJock “Jbay” that is what I suggest.
Good luck

-- Desert_Woodworker

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

2427 posts in 3449 days


#14 posted 01-13-2019 03:26 AM

One more option is to do what the commercial folks do on site – cut thin strips and bend them, glue and join them.

I’d grit my teeth, cut the piece out using the thinnest and straightest cut I could, then use it as my pattern, accounting for the kerf.

Another option is, add some functional (supporting) detail, after you glue it back together. Embed, say, a 1/8” thick by 1/2” brass piece extending around the bent piece into the straights (or at least part way. Great chisel practice and the satisfaction of solving a problem, permanently.

In either case, and as others pointed out you need screws more akin to deck screws, with undersized holes pre-drilled.

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

846 posts in 1607 days


#15 posted 01-13-2019 03:34 AM

Having read all the above comments, I think I would do as kazooman suggest and cut out the broken section and splice in a new piece, Glue it in with epoxy and dowels. Like this:

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