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Victorian stairs - progress report

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davebrac

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I am just about to start some renovation work on the stairs/banister at home. The house is Victorian and built in 1864, does anyone know how this newel could possibly fit into the bullnose step? as l need to tighten it. The step is wood (not marble) and l don't think bolts would have been available.

any pointers would be appreciated
 

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AndyT

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I was watching this post and wondering what the answer might be but it seems nobody else knows either...

So, speculating as a diy-er and amateur woodworker, my first question is whether the balusters are cast iron, which is what they look like in the picture.
Next question is exactly which bits are loose.

If it is cast iron, the uprights must be disappearing into something pretty solid underneath the bottom step, thicker than the 1" board you can see. I would expect to find some thick blocks of wood underneath, into which they would have been wedged, but the wedges may have shrunk or been levered loose over the years. It's clearly impractical to dismantle the step to check if this guess is right...

I think, if it was mine, I would investigate at the point where the movement is, and try drilling/chiselling to cut out a small tapered hole, tight alongside each wobbly upright. Into that hole I would tap a matching wedge, with some wood glue on it, to take up any movement, and trim it back flush to the step when set.
 

blackrodd

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One traditional method was to set the iron work up and then pour in molton lead in the "sockets" to fix in place.
This was for outside work in masonry, stone, and the like.
I don't think this method was used for fixing into timber, probably burn the house down!
So therefor i wonder if the ironwork was screwed or bolted into place, on studwork inside, or along side the string.
I am glad you have renewed this thread. as i would like to know, just in case someone should ask this very question at a pub quiz!
Regards Rodders
 

davebrac

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at the moment l am still thinking this through but should start exploring in a day or two. Bought the book that 'bugbear' mentioned and it arrived this morning. There is a lot to look through there. I will post some photos of what l do but thinking of epoxy resin to fix in the loose newel.
 

Jacob

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Pure guess but I reckon the balusters (and/or the newel post itself) could end in a flat screwed sideways to the block, or in a flange or bracket at right angles, screwed down on to the block.
 

deema

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It's purely a suggestion, it would be logical that the bottom step was fully completed before the newel post was fitted, the ornate nature if the post would suggest that the step could not have been slotted over the post if the post was in place initially. So the question then would be how would the metal newel lost have been fixed to the step. A common method of fitting door frame jambs to a floor was to place a metal spike into the floor over which the jamb located. I wonder if this method has been used here. I would guess that a metal spike has either been screwed onto the step, or driven through the step into a solid support post beneath. The newel post would then have a recess into which the spike fitted. The bottom of the post may not have needed further securing or could be seated on putty which was again commonly used to fix toilets down before silicone came along.

What ever you do, I would not try taking apart the continuous handrail unless you are really confident. They are delightful puzzles to get back together again without any ridges....I am inclined to say impossible!
 

davebrac

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deema":1m8ax9k5 said:
What ever you do, I would not try taking apart the continuous handrail unless you are really confident. They are delightful puzzles to get back together again without any ridges....I am inclined to say impossible!
yep l totally agree and l am trying to avoid this at all costs
 

MMUK

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Looking at the first picture and the evident depression around the balusters, I would say the step was mortised through, the balusters inserted in situ and fixed to the framework underneath, then the step was dropped into position and fixed.
 

davebrac

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started the exploration of the stairs today, decided to explore under the stairs. First job was to remove the back plasterboard and l found another wall. However started to remove the lime plaster, bricks, and slate that the outside string was supported on and found the end or the balistrails. Little time with Di pulling it and me tapping from underneath and out it popped. It was fixed with two small wedges.

Now need to figure out the hook that is broken off and find some to braze a new piece on.
 

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blackrodd

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If you have not had much joy in the recommended book, it may help to find sellers and fixers of these balustrades and maybe take the guess work out by any well placed info.
I would think that brazing would be difficult to do, the slow cooling is mostly the problem as it has to be controlled.
Also the repaired area tends to be very brittle.
I would be inclined to put it back how it was if possible, perhaps using 2 newer and slightly bigger wedges to secure it in place again.
Or, If the second to last pic is showing the underside of the cast newel, with the bottom end poking through, one other way would be to drill slightly up, and in and fix with a decent size screw, not too tight.
If the main fixing is predominately by wedges then I would be inclined to keep it so as this would allow for movement,
being rigidly retro fixed may well not a good idea. Regards Rodders
 

davebrac

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blackrodd":394ksc0g said:
If you have not had much joy in the recommended book, it may help to find sellers and fixers of these balustrades and maybe take the guess work out by any well placed info.
I would think that brazing would be difficult to do, the slow cooling is mostly the problem as it has to be controlled.
Also the repaired area tends to be very brittle.
I would be inclined to put it back how it was if possible, perhaps using 2 newer and slightly bigger wedges to secure it in place again.
Or, If the second to last pic is showing the underside of the cast newel, with the bottom end poking through, one other way would be to drill slightly up, and in and fix with a decent size screw, not too tight.
If the main fixing is predominately by wedges then I would be inclined to keep it so as this would allow for movement,
being rigidly retro fixed may well not a good idea. Regards Rodders
The book covers everything except what l wanted to know however it helped and is a great resource. The reason l took the balistrails out is that the fixing at the top is broken, that is the piece that needs a new bit attached to fix into the handrail. This photo shows what it was like before l removed the broken balistrails
 

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twothumbs

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I have come late to the thread...but....I have seen the tops of balustrades where the top 'pin' is effectively riveted onto the top rail before the handrail is screwed in form beneath. The 'pins' are soft so not cast. I always assumed that they were set-in in lead as is with cast iron work. To make a new pin you would want to perhaps drill down and cut a course thread and put a counter sunk screw in. Or drill down and resin in a screw. Of passing interest, on my own stair the bottom baluster is fixed with a square plate to the first bull nose tread at about 4 ins. and 4 no. large size screws. Best wishes.
 
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