Riding the Rails

The railings of a deck mark the final appearance of the structure. I wanted to make the railings wrought iron and wood combined. This meant a great deal of work to make the railing structure blend with the character of the house. We came up with a design that adds to the flavor of the porch and gives additional style building on the curved effect of the corners.

To finish the curved sections of railing the support structure under the top rail must be added. To bend the support piece I used “kerf” cuts spaced every inch along the board. The “kerf” cuts through 3/4 of the depth of the board. The remaining 1/4 of wood will bend into shape with ease. I used screws to secure the “kerffed” board to the cross-piece. I bend the board into shape a little at a time and secure the shape using screws.

The final effect is great. Now let me show you how it was done. The totals on the railing included a top and bottom crossrail. All 215 linear feet was hand routed to get the proper shape. But how the curves were made is the most difficult part.

It all started with a 2″x12″ x 60″ board. I had just enough room to cut out pieces for 3 of the 4 rails I needed. The inside curve rail was too large to fit in one piece on the 12″ width of the board. This curve I had to cut both the top and bottom rail in 2 pieces and bond them together in the middle. The jig saw left ridges in the board that had to be planed off with a shaping tool then sanded.

Top then side view of the two pieces bonded to form the long inside curve piece. 

I left “tongues” of wood on each half so that they could be joined with glue and screws.

After getting the correct shape of curve for each corner the routing began. I used a Yonoko rail bit to round off the top of both the upper and lower cross-piece. Routing 215 feet of 2x4 board created a huge amount of sawdust. Of course each side of the board had to be rounded, so it was more like 430 linear feet of routing. The upper cross-piece required the top corners to be rounded with the larger router bit. Then, the bottom corners were rounded with a smaller router bit. That makes 645 linear feet of routing in total. Then…everything had to be sanded smooth to be painted white. I used a primer first, then finished with a coat of oil-based bright white paint. The oil-based paint gives that hard, glossy smooth surface.

          2.25″ Router Bit                 Rounded bottom cross-piece at left. Top at right.     Painted top cross-piece installed.

To finish the curved sections of railing the support structure under the top rail must be added. To bend the support piece I used “kerf” cuts spaced every inch along the board. The “kerf” cuts through 3/4 of the depth of the board. The remaining 1/4 of wood will bend into shape with ease. I used screws to secure the “kerffed” board to the cross-piece. I bend the board into shape a little at a time and secure the shape using screws.

Assembling the cross-pieces and the wrought iron pieces completes the railing.