October 27, 2016 - How To Cut Stair Spindles for Sloped Bottom Rail

We commonly get asked how to cut the spindles for use on stair railings, especially when using Sloped Bottom Rail.  Here we’ll attempt to answer those questions.

You’ll need to cut the angle on the ends of your stair spindles on site during installation.  It is not done here at our shop.  This is because every stair is slightly different, and cutting the angle on site avoids potential problems with the installation.  For customers using a Flat Bottom Rail, it is as simple as determining the angle of your stairs and setting your miter saw to that angle.

For exterior wood balustrades, we recommend the use of our Sloped Bottom Rail.  This has a 15 degree slope to it, which helps shed water and prevent rot at the base of the spindles.  Most people want their stair rails to match the rest, and so use the Sloped Bottom Rail on the stairs as well.  While we offer bottom notching for standard rails right here from our shop, you’ll need to cut the compound angle in the base of your spindles during installation.  With the right tools, it’s a fairly simple task.

We recommend the use of a table saw and miter gauge:  Set the angle of your table saw to 15 degrees (to match the angle of the sloped bottom rail).  Next, set the angle of your miter gauge, which will slide in the slot provided on your table saw, to the angle of your stair rail.  Raise the saw to 1/2 the width of the spindle so that it cuts half way through the thickness of the spindle.  It is best to use a miter gauge with a length stop, so each spindle will be exactly the same length.

Notching Porch Stair Spinles 2Notching Porch Stair SpindlesYou’ll need to first cut the angle on one side, then shift the miter gauge to the opposite angle for the other side.

There are a few different ways to do it, and each finish carpenter will have their own tricks.  But this should work well.  Try it on a few scrap pieces first, and soon you’ll be proud to show off your work on your porch stairs.

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