The finished handrail
The finished handrail

I've mostly built traditional stairs using manufactured rail parts. Recently, though, an architect asked me to install a contemporary stainless steel handrail to fit a 10-by-10-foot opening. The L-shaped balustrade and the horizontal guardrail at the landing were to be fabricated from 1-inch square tubing, with 3/8-inch solid square balusters 4 inches on-center (1). Because the metal shop was several hours away from the job site, one of the first things I did was make an accurate full-scale template on sheets of plywood, fitting it to the rough stair carriage and providing actual dimensions. After getting approval from both the architect and the building inspector, I drove the plywood templates to the shop. Though this process took a couple of days, it was time well-spent; the actual installation went smoothly and took only about a day.

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