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Handrail to Newel Connection Tips

Advice on joining a handrail to the newel post. February 10, 2009

This is probably something rather simple, but what's the best way to connect the upper end of a raked wood handrail to a box newel - hardware? Everything I find is about the bottom-end connection.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor R:
Is the box newel solid or hollow? I also have some ideas on how to mount them if you are interested.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. The box newel will be solid.

From contributor R:
I sometimes anchor the rail through the face of the rail by drilling a horizontal hole through the top while the rail is at its angle. Some people may consider this sacrilege but at times you may not have a choice. I first pilot a 3/8" plug hole with a spade bit. Then I use a long thin bit (1/8") to drill through the rail at a right angle to the cut that will fit against the newel to mark the post.

Make sure the pilot hole is closer to the bottom than the top of the rail. This is so you have plenty of material (meat) between the screw head and the post so the screw won't blow out when you tighten it. After that is accomplished pre-drill your holes to accommodate whatever screw you choose to use. I find I pull the rail very tight using this method if I use a hefty screw.

The 3/8" plug in the top of the rail may trouble you but if you match it well and because it has such a small footprint, customers never seem to mind. If you want to go through the back of the post drill a 1" plug hole then a pilot a hole through the post into the rail same as through the top of the rail. Then set up to use a 5/16" x 3" lag with washers. It seems to me if I use a screw in this situation I usually strip out the head or snap the screw. A lag is better in this instance.