Victorian porch

The Old House Web

All text and photos by InsideSpaces.com.


Once very popular in nineteenth-century homes, decorative millwork is beingrevived. This article will show you how to complete this Victorian railingproject from creating a pattern, to cutting your own balusters, and finallyinstalling the porch railing. This medium difficulty project requires a band orscroll saw and takes about eight hours.

Items needed:

  • Band or scroll saw
  • Ruler and marker pen
  • Screw driver
  • Table saw
  • Sandpaper (trim or drum sander optional)
  • Primer and paint

Difficulty: Moderate

Time required: Eight hours

Caution: Wear eye protection when operating power tools

Step 1: Patterns and designs
The design for your ornamental sawn baluster determines the look and feel for the porch. You can exaggerate the height, openness and style depending on the pattern.

pattern step 1

Step 2: Consider cutouts
You don't need a hole saw to create the ornamental effect. Sawn balusters are typically offered in the following sizes:

Widths: 3-1/2, 5, 7 and 8 1/2 inches
Lengths: 24, 27, 30 and 36 inches

step 2 cutouts
Step 3: Measure height
The overall height from the deck or flooring of a typical railing is 34-38 inches. Be sure to check local building codes for the minimum required height, then use this to calculate the length of the baluster needed.
  • Subtract the thickness of the hand and shoe railing and clearance space.
  • The space between the deck or flooring and the bottom rail should be 4", although some local building codes may allow more space. Clearance requirements are designed to protect small children from either slipping under a railing or getting their heads stuck between the railing and floor.

Inside spaces created this this design. For a larger image which you can download and use to create your own template, click here. There are many variations.

step 3 height
Step 4: Choose wood
If you don't have a band or scroll saw, sawn balusters can be found in a variety of styles. Prices vary depending on size and material, from $7 to $27.

Two of the best materials for this project are kiln-dried redwood or cypress. This was not readily available for our project and Inside Spaces used standard pressure-treated pine.

step 4 wood choice
Step 5: Cut stock to length
With the pattern selected, cut the stock to length with a power miter or table saw. step 5 cut
Step 6: Trace pattern
Trace the pattern onto the stock material, carefully avoiding making cut lines on knots. A pencil works well on most wood, but for pressure-treated a permanent marker is better. step 6 trace
Step 7: Set guard height on scroll saw
The scroll work is best done using a scroll saw. Because our design did not have small radii cuts, we were able to use a band saw with a 1/4" blade. With the saw off, set the blade guard height to be about 1/4" above the stock and be sure the tension is correct. step 7 guard
Step 8: Begin cutting
Start by cutting away smaller sections from one side. step 8 cut
Step 9: Continue cutting
Now cut away on the other side. step 9 cut more
Step 10: Cut larger sections
Continue cutting away larger sections. step 10 sections
Step 11: Remove small sections
Secure strap and remove the small sections carefully. step 11 remove
Step 12: Hand sand
Sand cuts by hand, or by using a trim or drum sander. step 12 sand
Step 13: Secure bottom railings to post
The hand and shoe rail can be made of 2 x 4, 2 x 6 or 5/4 stock. We used 5/4 fir for the base of the shoe rail. The hand rail is two pieces, cut from 2 x 4 and 5/4 stock with an angle and beveled on the top. Both rails must be securely fastened to the post. Note that this must be very strong to support the lateral weight of over 200 pounds. This can be accomplished through a series of screws. step 13 secure
Step 14: Slide balusters into shoe rail
The balusters slide into the mortise in the shoe rail. step 14 balusters
Step 15: Screw in shoe rail
This next step takes more than one set of hands, so get some help on this. On the last baluster, you will need to rip the width to fit. Once in place, secure the rails with weatherproof screws every 18 inches. step 15 screw shoe
Step 16: Prime and paint
Once you have the railing in place, use a good quality primer and follow with two coats of paint for the final step. step 16 paint

The above instructions werecreated by InsideSpaces, a Website providing detailed home improvement stories. Text and photos,Copyright 2001, InsideSpaces.

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