A newel post is the finishing post at the end of railings, typically found at the base of stairs. In addition to being decorative, it provides a solid structural foundation for the handrail. Make a newel post sturdy and secure so it does not loosen from the constant pressure on the handrail. With a few common tools, you can install the post with moderate ease.
Place the newel post in position so the handrail will connect to the centre of the corresponding side of the newel post. Trim the base of the newel post with a saw if needed so the handrail hardware will be in the proper position.
Check each side for plumb with the level. Hold the level vertically against the side of the newel post on each side. Adjust as needed with wooden shims placed under the newel post base until the level shows that you have positioned the post upright.
Mark a plus sign on one side of the newel post with a matching plus sign on the floor beside that side of the newel post. Make a minus sign on the opposite side of the newel post and the opposite side on the floor. These markings show you where to place the newel post after drilling the pilot holes.
Lay the newel post on a sturdy surface. Drill pilot holes for the finish head screws with a drill and a 1/8-inch drill bit. Create pilot holes in two locations on each side of the newel post. Do not disturb the shims. Drill the pilot holes at an angle so the screws will go through the newel post and into the floor.
Apply wood glue to the floor where the newel post will be installed, leaving the shims in place.
Place the newel post in position, matching the plus and minus markings for proper alignment, and use the drill to screw in the finish head screws through the newel post and into the floor. Countersink the finish head screws by tightening them to just a little bit below the level of the wood. Check each side for plumb while installing the screws. Shim as needed.
Attach the handrail to the newel post before the glue dries.
Immediately wipe up any wood glue that squeezes out from under the newel post.
Cover the heads of the finish screws with wood putty, and trim around the base of the newel post with putty.
The project is much easier with two people--one to hold the post and level it, while the other inserts shims and screws.
Do not over-tighten the finish head screws or they will not hold the newel post securely.