How to join stair rails

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to join stair rails
Use scarf joints to connect lengths of stair rails. (wooden staircase image by Heng kong Chen from

Long stairways present a challenge when installing a wooden handrail. If the stairway is longer than the longest available length of handrail, two sections of handrail must be joined together. Lengths of wood are joined together using a scarf joint. The ends of the handrail that form the joint are cut at a 45-degree angle and placed together so that they form a straight, continuous length of board. Scarf joints are strong and help conceal the joint better than a basic butt joint, which makes it the ideal joint for a handrail application.

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • 2 lengths of handrail
  • Mitre saw
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Wood finish
  • Paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Measure to find the length of the stairway to determine the required length for the stair handrail.

  2. 2

    Cut a 45-degree angle on one end of each handrail, using a mitre saw, so that the two lengths combine to form a straight length of handrail. Adjust the saw to cut a 45-degree angle slanted to the left on one length and a 45-degree angle slanted toward the right on the second length.

  3. 3

    Apply wood glue to the mitred cuts on the two lengths of handrail.

  4. 4

    Join the two lengths together and clamp them in place. Allow the glue to dry overnight and remove the clamps.

  5. 5

    Sand the joints with fine-grit sandpaper until the joint is completely smooth. Always sand with the grain of the wood.

  6. 6

    Measure the joined handrail and mark it to the length required for the stairway. Cut the handrail to length using a mitre saw.

  7. 7

    Apply a wood finish with a paintbrush. Allow the finish to dry at least four hours before handling and at least 72 hours before installing the handrail.

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