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Thread: Wood for Handrails

  1. #1
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    Default Wood for Handrails

    I need to make a couple of new handrails for the forward deck of a 25' powerboat. They will be painted so I was wondering what a good alternative to teak would. Any thoughts? FM

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Last month I made of couple of handrails out of Khaya. It is not as stout or rot resistant as teak, but hopefully it will be adequate for task. Khaya is a pleasure to work with and not very expensive.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Lots of perfectly good choices. What species are you considering, and have access to?
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "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)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    I'm a fan of rot resistant cypress.

    kb

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Quote Originally Posted by signalcharlie View Post
    I'm a fan of rot resistant cypress.

    kb
    +1 since it will be painted

    have you considered a CETOL finish?

    sw
    "we are the people, our parents warned us about" (jb)

    steve

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Being cheap and without easy access to exotic woods, I made mine from a 2 X 6 piece of Home Depot spruce. First, I made a center line through the length of the board. Then I drilled 2 1/4 inch holes one foot apart, 16 inches would work too, then skip two inches and repeat for however long you want the rails. Next, connect the pairs of holes, leaving the two inch segments intact. Now you should have 2 1/4 X 12 or 16 inch oblong holes through the center of the board, each one separated by a two inch piece. Now take your bull nose router bit and round off all edges, inside the holes and along the outer edges. Last step, set the fence on your table saw so you can cut right through the center of the length of the 6 inch board (really 5 1/2 inch) and you will have two handrails of whatever length you choose to make them. Put whatever design you like on the ends of the rails. I treated mine with epoxy because I planned to paint them and 10 years later they are as good as new.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Black locust would be my first choice. Plenty strong and never rots, even in fresh water.

    Alex

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Thanks for the replies and ideas. Any thoughts on Douglas Fir and White Oak? Also the rails do need to take a bend.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Pitsligo +1000
    Daniel
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Quote Originally Posted by From Mystic View Post
    Thanks for the replies and ideas. Any thoughts on Douglas Fir and White Oak? Also the rails do need to take a bend.
    Either is fine. Neither are known for their superlative paint-holding. Either will look good with a Cetol or varnish finish.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "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)

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Either is fine. Neither are known for their superlative paint-holding. Either will look good with a Cetol or varnish finish.
    Mileage varies. I'd seal with CPES and paint if a coating were to be applied at all, which it probably should be for Doug fir or white oak. Neither species is really suitable for a bright finish, however often it's attempted. The wood stains and discolors when it gets wet. Oak, especially, will turn black in contact with any ferrous fastening. Once the "freshly sawn look" goes south, you end up varnishing wood that looks like doo-doo and what's the point of that.

    More importantly, and again I realize there may be differences of opinion, but to my way of thinking anything like a grab rail or the like should never be painted or finished bright. Anything you are going to rely on to stay on the boat by grabbing ought not to be smooth and slick. Bare wood should be used in such applications. Expensive as it is, quality teak is best, along with other tropical hardwoods that have straight grain, good strength, and stand up to the elements well when left bare. The same goes for wooden cleats and the like. (Invisible sealers like Thompson's WaterSeal, Flood's WoodLife, or even clear Cetol in moderation (nothing that builds up) can be used on bare wood if the species doesn't stand up well to moisture... but then, why would you use it on a boat?) Pitsligo's recommendation of black locust, if you can get it, is a great option.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Those spindly looking, African Mahogony, hand rails on "Bright Star's" coach roof have been giving good service ever since the boat was built in 1960! They are each made of one solid piece of material.
    Jay

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    Those spindly looking, African Mahogony, hand rails on "Bright Star's" coach roof have been giving good service ever since the boat was built in 1960! They are each made of one solid piece of material.
    Jay
    Spoken like an experienced skipper who never leaves the cockpit and always sends his crew forward in a blow!

    Now that you mention it, Jay, damn! They do look "spindly," and very artistically flared at the bases. Quite a shaping job, actually. Exquisitely detailed work. They look to be a third the diameter of the half-round trim on the cabin top edges. I don't have my library at hand. Are they as LFH drew them? Added by a prior owner? Recycled from another boat when Bright Star was built?

    If they are as LFH drew them, like everything else, I'm sure he had a well-thought-out opinion about handrails. Somehow, I can't imagine LFH doing anything without a good reason. "Enquiring minds want to know!"
    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 04-28-2017 at 11:38 AM.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Quote Originally Posted by From Mystic View Post
    I need to make a couple of new handrails for the forward deck of a 25' powerboat. They will be painted so I was wondering what a good alternative to teak would. Any thoughts? FM
    I try to make 'em easy and stout and mount the top rail on base sections to eliminate any fancy work. Yes, they look a bit blocky but they sure as heck are functional. I rip the pieces with a slight angle on the side, I forget how much. I used "mahogany" deck material, I think it was marked "kaya." I've built them this way before and I keep them low, always secured with 1/4 inch SS screws with washers and nuts below. Epoxy glued together and coated, then painted a few coats of topside paint. You can pick up the boat with them so I never have any concerns when I grab one.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post
    Spoken like an experienced skipper who never leaves the cockpit and always sends his crew forward in a blow!

    Now that you mention it, Jay, damn! They do look "spindly," and very artistically flared at the bases. Quite a shaping job, actually. Exquisitely detailed work. They look to be a third the diameter of the half-round trim on the cabin top edges. I don't have my library at hand. Are they as LFH drew them? Added by a prior owner? Recycled from another boat when Bright Star was built?

    If they are as LFH drew them, like everything else, I'm sure he had a well-thought-out opinion about handrails. Somehow, I can't imagine LFH doing anything without a good reason. "Enquiring minds want to know!"
    Hi Bob, You are correct The hand rails are exactly as LFH designed them. You can see my boat in the chapter on the H28 in "Sensible Cruising Designs" in the photo on page 38. It was taken in Barcelona just prior to shipping her to the states.
    Jay

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    Hi Bob, You are correct The hand rails are exactly as LFH designed them. You can see my boat in the chapter on the H28 in "Sensible Cruising Designs" in the photo on page 38. It was taken in Barcelona just prior to shipping her to the states.
    Jay
    Thanks, Jay! I remember that photo. Actually, now as I look at them again, there's a vague similarity in that curve to the base with the sheer strake of the classic NGH "Columbia Lifeboat," AKA "Columbia Dinghy." As I recall when I studied that design in the booklet, Building the Herreshoff Dinghy, getting that shape into the plank was notably difficult, but it sure makes all the difference in the look of the boat. Probably LFH learned from his father!

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Wood for Handrails

    Yes, that dainty looking rail has lasted since 1960! Even so, I have never considered making a vang fast to it!
    I agree that planks can often be a bitch to lay out to be fair when fastened to the fames. I always remember LFH's advise to"Trust your instinct and eye"!
    Jay

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