How to Bend Wood Railings

Written by wade shaddy
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How to Bend Wood Railings
Curved wood rails are thin peices glued together. (wooden staircase image by Heng kong Chen from

If you examine a wood railing closely you will see that its usually made up of eight or more individual pieces, cut thin and glued together. By using this method, you can bend the flexible pieces one or two at a time to any configuration desired, glue them up and when those are dry, add more pieces until the handrail is complete. You have to start out with two identical pieces of handrail, cutting them both into veneers because the saw kerf removes material needed to complete the profile.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 2 Identical handrails, 2 1/4 inch wide by 96 inches
  • Table saw
  • Resin wood glue
  • Small paintbrush
  • 1 piece of plywood cut into desired arch 4 inches wide by 96 inches
  • 8 Hand clamps
  • 1 Sheet 100 grit sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Set the table saw at 2 1/4 inch to the outside of the blade. Run one of the handrails through the table saw at this setting, it should just shave the outside of the profile off, with no fall off.

  2. 2

    Turn the handrail around so that that the flat side is against the fence. Re-set the fence at 1/8 inch and saw the handrail into strips 1/8 inch wide, stacking the strips in order.

  3. 3

    Place the other handrail on the table saw. Run it through at the same setting, the inside piece retaining the profile. Stack the pieces in order.

  4. 4

    Lay out the first piece of the second handrail that you cut, it should have the outside profile still on it. Spread glue on the back of it with the brush. Pick up the first piece of the first handrail, and place the back of it against the glued edge. Place glue on it, and then pick up the second piece of the second handrail seating it into the glue.

  5. 5

    Clamp the edge of the three pieces together to the edge of the plywood arch. Put another clamp 12 inches from that one, continuing to put on clamps in that order around the arch to the end. Let dry four hours.

  6. 6

    Take off the clamps; spread glue along the outside of the three-piece handrail. Place the second piece of the first handrail on glued edge. Then the next in succession, alternating the pieces from the first and second handrails in the order needed to complete the profile.

  7. 7

    Glue them on using the arch pattern starting from the edge and working around the arch. Let dry, then finish gluing up the handrail with the remaining pieces. Let dry. Take off all the clamps. Sand the handrail with the 100 grit paper by hand.

Tips and warnings

  • If your staircase is already in place. Clamp the thin pieces of the handrail to the top of the balusters, bending it to fit your particular curve. If your curve is a slight one, you can cut the strips into 1/4 inch pieces. Wipe off all excessive glue.

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