(posted this on diy.stackexchange but it was suggested I try here)

I have an old staircase with winders, so if I want 32 inches between handrail and nose of stairs, I'm going to have to cut some angles.

If the overall run of the handrails is going to be about 180 inches, and I'm cutting a 17 degree miter about 40 inches from the top, how would you securely join the two pieces? Options I've considered:

  • wood glue and finishing nails. I've done this for the returns, but one doesn't expect a lot of load on the returns, right?
  • some kind of rail bolt, like this one
  • dowels, though I'm nervous about getting close alignment on a mitered join.

Here's a picture of what I'd like the finished handrail to look like. the joint in question is towards the end where the walls meet: Mitered handrail for a winding staircase

  • A picture might help
    – bowlturner
    May 6, 2015 at 19:49
  • Whatever you do, make sure the joint can be easily taken apart without damaging either handrail. At some point in the future, someone may want to remove the handrails from the wall; for example, to refinish the walls or to move a large piece of furniture up or down the stairs.
    – rob
    May 6, 2015 at 21:45

2 Answers 2


You could also use a rail bolt to join the two pieces by inserting it in a T-slot under one side of the rail, or by drilling two perpendicular holes, and filling the exposed hole with a plug if it would be too visible to have an exposed T-slot. Rail bolts are simple, strong, and can be tightened as needed.

rail bolt

Image from HomeDepot

  • 2
    Having had to dismount handrails to get furnishings around a corner, I have to vote fo this over any glue-based solution.
    – keshlam
    May 6, 2015 at 21:38
  • I used a rail bolt and glued the two ends... sorry keshlam. With a bit more experience under my belt, I might try the rail bolt in the future.
    – Rob Latham
    Oct 13, 2015 at 19:41

This is how I would likely try to do it.

Take two pieces and clamp them together how you will want them to be aligned.

On the bottom of the rail I would make a groove (or two) Possibly with a router and straight bit.

make a spline, preferably out of the same material as the hand rail.

glue them all together.

It will act similar to your dowels but will be easier to align them correctly. It will give plenty of surface area for glue surface. You can even make the splines curved if needed.

They could also be turned into a design feature, but making the 'grooves' to/on the top and use a different colored wood. Anytime when gluing if you can use a piece to cross the others you can make the joint stronger.

An alternate would be to have a wider 'spline' on the bottom that you can use screws to reinforce the glue (actually if you use screws in this case likely that would be enough).

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