# Stair handrail

 Forum topic by jimmyhopps posted 04-06-2012 08:06 PM 2742 views 0 times favorited 5 replies
 jimmyhopps149 posts in 1133 days 04-06-2012 08:06 PM I suppose this is more of a math question than a woodworking issue, but here goes. I am installing a handrail down my basement stairs. At the bottom, I plan to just cut a 45deg miter return. At the top of the stairs, there is no room to make a horizontal rail segment before making the return. Hence I am trying to figure out if it is possible to make a 1 cut return segment that is also level (ie the rounded top of the hand rail is at top and not cocked at the same angle as the stairs/rest of rail). I’ve tried to dummy up a cut on some 2×4 but haven’t wrapped my brain around it. Thank you.

## 5 replies so far

 TCCcabinetmaker925 posts in 1109 days #1 posted 04-08-2012 07:53 PM ok, draw a level line at the approximate height you want to end at the top of the stairs, go to the bottom and mark that same height, pull a straight line between those two points. Take a protractor (angle finder) and locate your angle, simple. Pretty much has to be done this way because while there are standard step pitches, I’ve got no clue that yours was done right. Also, alot of times woodworking questions are…. math questions. -- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them. doughan96 posts in 1345 days #2 posted 04-08-2012 08:22 PM If the stair is at or near 71/4 rise and 11 1/2 run the miter angle at the top and bottom will be approximately 18.5 degrees.why bother leveling off at all though? just cut a 45 and return it to the wall at some point past the start of the second floor(or first floor ,what ever you want to call it) at the top and after at the bottom of the nose of the last tread.In california the code for residential say that the grip surface of the rail must exceed these two points…commercial buildings must proceed level 14 inches past these points. TCCcabinetmaker925 posts in 1109 days #3 posted 04-08-2012 08:40 PM silly californian, california building codes are only important to know in california :PWe have different natural disasters to worry about than you, I mean most of our buildings have to be built to withstand 140 mph winds not earthquakes, and also safety regulations may be different, like say, an actual required distance for a hand rail. But also building codes may not be required to be followed by owners in certain areas, as sad as it is. -- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them. jaidee42 posts in 1534 days #4 posted 04-13-2012 03:22 PM The real math problem is that, since you have an asymmetrical cross section on the hand rail, you will have to make a miter cut on both pieces and it will be a compound miter (like joining crown molding at inside corners). So the angel you solve for will have to be halved for each cut. Otherwise you will never be able to match the meeting cross-sections so they look right. Unfortunately I do not know the math on this one, just the concept. A good finish carpenter should know, or at least be able to point you in the right direction. Good luck! And post a picture of the finished work so we can all learn. -- I used to be all thumbs......'til I got a tablesaw! jimmyhopps149 posts in 1133 days #5 posted 04-20-2012 02:46 PM I have concluded that this can not be done. the asymmetric profile becomes a problem at anything other than 90 degrees. Hence I made 2 cuts to do the job (see pic). the crown approach i think only works on 90 degree angles – leveling off the handrail requires a ~20 degree cut.

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