Building a curve handrail

Curved handrail on a stair. Part one

Curved handrail

existing curve handraiL

My client was in need of a new curved rail. The old one had a broken volute.There was nothing great about the old one.  It was pine and typical builder quality from the 80s. All the Newels were naturally loose from poor building practices and time.

The replacement rails are all red oak same as the new Newels. We will be installing iron balusters after the painters are done next week.

Normally we remove the rails on curved or radius stairs. Attach heavy L brackets to the treads then bend the railing on the L bracket hugging bottom of the treads to keep the rise in check. I always hate leaving a stair without a rail for safety concerns. This time I used the existing rail as the bender frame, without removing it.

curve rail stair

adding female form boardsM

Above I added a female form to a 6010 handrail. I put oak strips 1 1/2 x 5 inches on the sides for attaching my new 6010 bender rail. The metal brackets are 2 1/2 inch level clamps sold for curve rail installations. The level U clamps were very handy . It would have been somewhat difficult without them. The female form material is flimsy and deforms easily . The clamps kept that in check.

bending curve rail

curve rail bending

I have never tried to install curve railing on top of an existing rail before.Generaly its done on the treads with L brackets. Above, I test fit the bender rail prior to gluing it up. It was a tight bend. We started clamping from the center working to the ends. I removed the volute on the bottom. Cut the top  of the newel at the top of the stair so that I carry the bender rail past those points. So far….it’s working.

curve railing

glued up 6010 oak handrail

After we get it out of the clamps. the handrail gets a sanding and a volute added to the bottom. I will not go into detail on the volute. i assemble the cuts with the rail laid out on the treads. use a level on the volute to check the cut. I screw the volute to a flat board prior to cutting, The handrail is always cut at a 90 deg to the top edge. the easing on the volute is cut at the rake angle of the stairs. Around 37-42 deg on most stairs. Try not to dwell on the cost of the volute or the bend-a-rail you just spent a couple hours building. Another important factor is to cut the rail at the correct points at both ends as they set in the glue up. If you attach too far up or down it will affect the radias points on the treads. ie your balusters will not line up on the treads. Trust me on that.

6010 volute

Volute setup for cut, The volute is screwed to the board underneath for stability.


All done

curved railing

oak curved handrail







2 thoughts on “Building a curve handrail

  1. Anonymous

    Really nice job. Starting one my self was looking around to how others have made out. Like the brackets you use. Good job. Hope mine comes out as well.
    Pete Ward
    Wards fine wood crafts
    New Orleans,La.


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