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Thread: Help, spiral handrail

  1. #1
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    Default Help, spiral handrail

    I need to make a handrail for a spiral stair. The stair is going outside, to my deck, so painted still is probably preferred. Is this something I can bend on my own. Looking at probably 1 1/2” round tube.
    I could make a laminated wood rail and paint it but steel seems like a better choice. I don’t work with steel much but I do have an oxy acetylene rig so I could heat sections at at time and bend around the stair I suppose.

    Anyone have any methods they can share? This project has been on the back burner for years. Extra time in my hands now so time to try to get it done.


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    Tom

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    I've done a couple in wood. And I farmed out one in stainless which I then monitored. It's not an easy fabrication. Takes a lot of layout skills, carefully built jigs, and some fussy fabrication... no matter the medium. Farm it out, and do the finishing & install yourself?

    Wait... is the stair itself already in place, but sans balustrade? If so, you could use it as a form for bending your rail.

    If it's outside... how about stainless? Or anodized aluminum? Or powder-coated steel?
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    I think you're not going to be able to bend that in your back yard.

    Not and have it look worth a rip.

    I would think that getting a section of that tube long enough to make a difference and red enough to take the curve is going to be a lot of gas and time and aggravation.

    Is the stair itself metal?

    You may be able to buy one . . .

    I have made a laminated wood rail, and it's pretty easy to make a little fixture for the end of each tread to form the rail against.

    LOTS of clamps!
    Rattling the teacups.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    One thing you may consider is using seven round rods.

    Make up your form, then bend each into place and weld them together as you go.
    Rattling the teacups.

  5. #5
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    Default Help, spiral handrail

    I have not had any luck finding one to buy. Laminated wood rail may be the way to go. I think I have enough clamps...


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    Tom

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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Quote Originally Posted by oznabrag View Post
    One thing you may consider is using seven round rods.

    Make up your form, then bend each into place and weld them together as you go.
    OR, bundle the seven of them in place, bind the bundle with zip ties (hose clamps?), and weld them together after they are all bent into place.

    Using seven will be important.
    Rattling the teacups.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    I've made a couple with 1 1/2" sch 40 pipe. Both were pretty big radius's, like one was 12' and the other 14'. Turns out it is a helix. I have a small Italian rolling mill with a side roller where I could apply extra pressure to get the helix needed.
    On a small diameter stair like 6-8 ft that is a lot of helix required. Would be tough to do in steel. You'd need a bigger rolling mill with more side thrust available.
    How about using some of that 1 1/2" OD orange plastic gas pipe? That would be strong and do a helix nicely. Paint with flexible bumper paint . Pex tube would make good lower railing bars if supported often through drilled uprights. Helices here too
    Is it steel stair treads around a big center pipe? You could water jet cut some nice posts if your budget allowed.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Tom, I seem to recall seeing ads for spiral staircases in the back of magazines ? Is it in your budget to have the handrail fabricated ?




    Rick

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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Or use heavy chain and weld the links together.

    Sorta like those mailbox posts you see sometimes.

    Rattling the teacups.

  10. #10
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Figmental View Post
    I've made a couple with 1 1/2" sch 40 pipe. Both were pretty big radius's, like one was 12' and the other 14'. Turns out it is a helix. I have a small Italian rolling mill with a side roller where I could apply extra pressure to get the helix needed.
    On a small diameter stair like 6-8 ft that is a lot of helix required. Would be tough to do in steel. You'd need a bigger rolling mill with more side thrust available.
    How about using some of that 1 1/2" OD orange plastic gas pipe? That would be strong and do a helix nicely. Paint with flexible bumper paint . Pex tube would make good lower railing bars if supported often through drilled uprights. Helices here too
    Is it steel stair treads around a big center pipe? You could water jet cut some nice posts if your budget allowed.

    Yes, steel stair treads around a center pipe. Using trex type material for the treads.
    PVC is a thought. Easy to bend with a bit of steam. Gotta think through how to properly support it if I go that route.

    Keep the ideas coming guys.

    Segmenting it is a possibility if I can come up with a good bend jig, and it would be a helix shape.


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    Tom

  11. #11
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeye54 View Post
    Tom, I seem to recall seeing ads for spiral staircases in the back of magazines ? Is it in your budget to have the handrail fabricated ?




    Rick

    I could have it fabricated, but I’m not good about hiring stuff out....
    (Even when I should)


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    Tom

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Check around and see if a local metal supplier is able to do a helical bend for you.

    Not in your neighborhood, but you could visit Lew on the way through.
    https://www.cmrp.com/helical-bending-services


    EDIT: ah, I see that's been mentioned already.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    A friend just built a cool all wooden spiral staircase for his carriage house remodel and he told me he was going to use a big piece of rope he had to make the railing. He plans to use the stairs as the form and carefully lay the rope in place, with supports to keep it from sagging, then saturate the rope with West System epoxy. The rope is pretty big, 1 1/2 or 2. Id tell you how it turned out but were on lockdown now and I havent been back to see it. Ill give him a call soon to see how it went.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenBauer View Post
    A friend just built a cool all wooden spiral staircase for his carriage house remodel and he told me he was going to use a big piece of rope he had to make the railing. He plans to use the stairs as the form and carefully lay the rope in place, with supports to keep it from sagging, then saturate the rope with West System epoxy. The rope is pretty big, 1 1/2” or 2”. I’d tell you how it turned out but we’re on lockdown now and I haven’t been back to see it. I’ll give him a call soon to see how it went.
    I like that notion. I also liked the welded chain idea.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    This is the same friend who saw some aluminum double wheel trailer fenders at a surplus shop and bought them to make a weathervane for his carriage house. A little bit of cutting and welding and voila:

    AD570719-689E-4841-B4B9-0FF725F721FA.jpg


    62D83200-DF9B-4492-8746-085EF19967C6.jpg

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    ^ A very talented friend !!! Tom, we used to pack tubing with sand before bending it (no bender handy ) - could you use a sand-packed length of tubing for the railing ?




    Rick

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    You could use some 2" wire rope... 6x37

    https://www.uscargocontrol.com/shop/...pe/2-Wire-Rope

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    That's about the most complicated thing one is ever likely to have to bend out of steel. Because it has to both look pretty, with nice fair curves, and match both the diameter and pitch of the helix pretty closely, it has to be quite accurate. It's the sort of thing that cases the guys in the shop at work to come into the office with that crazed look - you want us to do WHAT?!? Rolling it would be the way to go, and you may be able to find a shop that has experience with railings and has a three-roll bender set up specifically to make a helix. I wouldn't try it at home unless you don't care if it looks lumpy. You could maybe make a segmented curve, one segment per step, incorporating the lumpiness into the design? In that case you'd want a jig for bending - each bend needing to be the same angle, but with the bend plane rotated a precise amount to form the helix . . . Hoo boy. That's interesting geometry. Might work if you got the angles right..

    It it were mine, I'd laminate it out of wood.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    That lobster vane is FANTASTIC.

    Within my skill set, this helical rail would be segments of pipe welded in place. I'd probably go through three cans of weld-thru primer and at least as many grinding wheels, but it still seems like the way to go.

    The chain idea seems easy and artsy, but it's going to rust immediately and constantly, and just doesn't seem very hand-friendly.
    The true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Figment View Post
    . . . segments of pipe welded in place.
    You could make a welding jig that held three segments, two welds. That would give you the bend angle and the rotation of the bend planes both. Make a weld, move the assembly over one segment at a time to get the helix angle, make another weld, move it over . . . . It would have to be very accurate, because any errors would be cumulative - or maybe you could adjust as you went to compensate for inaccuracies. Interesting problem.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    I could see you making a rolling mill. I guess you'd have to make 360 degrees at a time, to keep it manageable.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    I've never bent anything that complicated, but for a bender you could rent a "Greenly 555" bender(electrically powered) in a pinch there's the "chiacago benders"(ratchet powered)...nothing that would yield a "continuous bend" along the entire length ( at least not reliably) but could look pretty smart, if you could get the bends to match the stair treads...maybe many small bent sections, smaller/short pipe joiners, welded and ground down to smooth- this would be a lot easyer than doing the whole thing in one shot. And could be assembled in place. with a welding jig moved from tread to tread as assembly progressed.
    Last edited by the_gr8t_waldo; 03-31-2020 at 10:40 AM.

  23. #23
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    Lightbulb Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Step 1: Get yourself a tree trunk, slightly bigger than the diameter of your stair.

    Step 2: Remove everything that isn't a handrail.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Alternately:
    Step 1: Get yourself a tree trunk, just about the ID of your rail.
    Step 2: Draw the helix on the outside.
    Step 3. Wrap the railing around it - either laminated, or sections of straight pipe welded together.

    I'm not being entirely facetious. A wooden form the size of the stairs might actually be the easiest way to lay the thing out.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    As it's outdoors, you could train a suitable tree in place - apple and pears might be the obvious choices.
    I'd much rather lay in my bunk all freakin day lookin at Youtube videos .

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Quote Originally Posted by P.I. Stazzer-Newt View Post
    As it's outdoors, you could train a suitable tree in place - apple and pears might be the obvious choices.
    Patience is a great virtue, indeed.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    Alternately:
    Step 1: Get yourself a tree trunk, just about the ID of your rail.
    Step 2: Draw the helix on the outside.
    Step 3. Wrap the railing around it - either laminated, or sections of straight pipe welded together.

    I'm not being entirely facetious. A wooden form the size of the stairs might actually be the easiest way to lay the thing out.
    Could build a form out of tubafors. Might be easier to handle.

    Unless he has a grapple bucket. In which case, why didn't he mention that to begin with???

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    Alternately:
    Step 1: Get yourself a tree trunk, just about the ID of your rail.
    Step 2: Draw the helix on the outside.
    Step 3. Wrap the railing around it - either laminated, or sections of straight pipe welded together.

    I'm not being entirely facetious. A wooden form the size of the stairs might actually be the easiest way to lay the thing out.
    The stairs are already the size of the stairs.
    Rattling the teacups.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Quote Originally Posted by L.W. Baxter View Post
    Could build a form out of tubafors. Might be easier to handle.

    Unless he has a grapple bucket. In which case, why didn't he mention that to begin with???
    Rattling the teacups.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    ...

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Maybe some pictures would help --

    https://www.finehomebuilding.com/mem.../021070086.pdf
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    SWMBO suggests building an enclosing mesh tube, with entrance holes at the base and top - then training whatever plants you like up the outside - vines, creepers, espalier fruit.....
    I'd much rather lay in my bunk all freakin day lookin at Youtube videos .

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Ah, hell. Put in a damn elevator. Easier, less expense!
    There's a lot of things they didn't tell me when I signed on with this outfit....

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    No-one liked the wire rope idea?

    Has anyone ever worked with 2" wire rope? It is pretty stiff stuff.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Help, spiral handrail

    Im sure Paul can drive the Exploder over. He can ram some curves into a pipe, and youll be good to go.

    Peace,
    Like Bob Villa, But Not

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