Renovating a home can be expensive. If you need to make some minor additions, like adding or updating handrails along a staircase, blacksmith Celeste Flores suggests doing it yourself. Her company Clay and Steel offers tons of DIY instructional videos for all kinds of renovations, including forging a handrail.
The first step in forging your own handrail is making the measurements. It’s always good to overestimate so that once you forge the parts, you can cut away the excess. If your parts are too short, you’ll be back to the drawing board. After that you need to shape the metal into the size of a basic handrail, or buy pre-made ones at your local home improvement store.
Once you have your basic parts, you’ll need to do a mock fitting of the handrail to ensure it’s the right length and height. A handrail should be roughly 35 inches above the ground and the break should be parallel to the ground. Make any necessary size adjustments on-site before moving on to the final steps of welding, cleaning, and painting the parts.
This part will likely take the longest. You’ll need to trim the pickets, make a pieces for bracing and get an abrasive wheel. If your handrail isn’t at the right angle to use the clamps, tack the pieces to the table.
The entire piece needs to be tacked or it will warp and bend when you weld the parts together. After welding, check to ensure the piece is still in alignment. Once you’re sure it is, drill holes between any two pieces of metal that cross paths and weld the hole. This will strengthen your rail.
Once the welding is done, check the metal to ensure there hasn’t been oxidation or other blemishes. If it looks good, drill the holes you’ll need for the final installation. It’s a good idea to make pilot holes about half the real diameter before drilling the final holes, in case you make a mistake. Lastly, use a countersink on the holes you drill to form a depression. Now, you’re ready for the final steps.
The last few steps are the most difficult, but the end will be in sight. You’ll need to grind the entire piece to clean up the welding, and then use a sanding wheel to smooth out the metal. Ensure you wear heat protective gloves, as the metal will be incredibly hot. If it gets too hot, pour some water over it. Once the sanding is done, you just need to paint it, coat it with varnish, and install.
If you have some basic blacksmith skills, this project will take you about a month, but it’ll save you thousands of dollars to do it yourself.