At top and bottom, infill spacers and backer blocks add strength and help with alignment of the newel cage. The original plan called for fastening the newel base to the first tread and anchoring full-length rear corner balusters to solid blocking behind the riser. After the client changed his mind, the modified newel was anchored to the floor and to blocking behind the first riser.

Even after 30 years of specializing in stair building, I occasionally come across a new challenge that really gets my attention. Earlier this year, one of the builders I work for asked me to recreate the Craftsman style of the stair in his own home for a new house he was building. He showed me photos of his newel post and railing components, purchased from a millwork manufacturer. However, since this new house was being built on spec, he wanted to keep the cost down and wondered what I could do about that. After reviewing the details, I felt that...