How To Restore a Porch Railing
Learn how to restore a water-damaged original handrail around a porch, with a new beveled bottom rail to keep the water from damaging the spindles.
Use one of the removed brackets to create a template for fashioning the replacement brackets. Place the bracket on drafting paper, and trace the design onto the paper (Image 1). Use pencils to black in the back of the drafting paper, creating makeshift "carbon paper" for transferring the design onto MDF to create a template. Use a straight-edge ruler and compass to refine the intricate patterns of the design (Images 2 and 3), and transfer the pattern onto a thin sheet of MDF.
Once the pattern is transferred, cut out the template using a band saw (Image 1). Mill 8-quarter poplar stock to 1-3/8" thick, and edge-glue the pieces together to form the piece from which the final design will be cut (Image 2).
With the MDF template complete, transfer the design onto the poplar stock (Image 1). Leave an extra 1/8" of width on either side of the bracket to allow for custom-fitting later, since the spaces where it is being installed on this 100 year-old porch may not be perfectly square or even. With the design transferred onto the stock, cut the perimeter shapes of the bracket using the band saw (Image 2). The band saw is the ideal tool for cutting wood into curved shapes -- especially thick stock like this. Repeat the process to create five more bracket cut-outs from poplar stock.
For this job, the band saw has certain limitations since it can only cut the outside of the design. To cut the intricate interior pattern, the ideal tool is a scroll saw. First, take the brackets to the drill press and drill holes using a bit the same size as the smallest radius of the design. Once holes are drilled in each of the interior sections of the design, insert the small scroll-saw blade through each hole. Then attach the blade at the top and bottom. When the saw is turned on, the blade moves up and down, allowing the interior portion of the design to be cut out (Image 1). A hand jig-saw could be used for this portion of the project, but a scroll-saw is more accurate -- especially for tight curves. Once the interior cut-outs are done, take the brackets back to the drill-press, where a sanding bit is used to smooth the cut-marks made by the saws (Image 2). Use a wood-rasp to file the tight inside corners of the design smooth (Image 3).
The work is nearly complete. However, the original brackets had decorative finials that hung down below. To reproduce the finials, replicate the design on paper (Image 1). Using the drawing as a guide, fashion the finials with a lathe. Make all five finials from a single piece of wood (Image 2). Afterwards, separate the individual pieces to create the individual finials.
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