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Cheap Handrail

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by BSchend, Jan 5, 2016.

  1. BSchend

    BSchend Member

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    So I'll be doing a set for Addams Family in a few months. The set will end up with quite a bit of railing (approx 90'), both due to necessity of look (inside a house) as well as safety. I have in the past simply used basic square finials with 2x on top for cheap railings, but even painted well these didn't really look "right".

    From a budget standpoint (aiming for no more than $1000 for the whole set) the thought of spending between $250 and $350 on even the most basic milled top rail isn't the most appealing. I'm thinking of simply using 2x3 (finding the straightest 12 of them I can find) and simply routing a rounded edge on them. The 2x3 shape is close to basic hand rail size to begin with, so a rounded profile should make it look a little more accurate than a plain board.

    Seem like the right plan? Or does someone have any tricks on cheap hand rail? Thanks for any feedback in advance.
     
  2. TheaterEd

    TheaterEd Renaissance Man Fight Leukemia

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    I've always just taken a 2x2 and attached a 1x3 on top of it for interior railings. From 20' it gets the job done. Picture a skinny horizontal rectangle on top of a square.
    I first saw it when I realized that a local community theater had actually built their audience hand railing this way.
     
  3. dbaxter

    dbaxter Active Member Premium Member

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    Our audience is a little closer than 20', so I've had good luck in using pressure-treated outdoor deck railing. Also for the spindles. It's surprisingly cheaper than 'regular' railing. Comes beveled on the edges and has a channel underneath for the spindle tops. You will want to paint it, not just stain.
     
  4. petercav17

    petercav17 Active Member Fight Leukemia

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    All of the railings that we use at our theater are 1x1 16ga box steel. It's great because we can build them in common lengths and use them time and time again. Also chopping them to fit custom lengths is fairly easy. Plus they're very sturdy and very minimal and thus doesn't intrude on the set. Although, you do need to buy steel and have the capacity to weld.

    Obviously this doesn't look pretty for interior looks, but I thought I'd throw this out there for an easy handrail. Also, you can always screw 1x3 or lauan to it to make it look a little less bad.
     
  5. Evans Poulos

    Evans Poulos Active Member

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    I do balusters between 1x3 then cap with 1x4 or 2x4 depending on the desired bulk and soften the edges with a round over in the router.
     
  6. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    For handrails, that's a great shape, much better than 2x4 and 2x6 so often used. Easier to get a grip (especially if you have arthritis.)
     
  7. ChristopherRobinJ

    ChristopherRobinJ Member

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    In the past, my theater used pvc pipe screwed onto 2x2 posts with the ends cut to match the curve of the pipe.(the pipe fits snugly into a curved Valley at the end of the 2x2)The pvc is flexible to use in long curves if needed. The rough ends can be covered with a simple wooden plug or anything really. We had it painted black to hide any missed details but I'm sure with some dedication it could look pretty good in lighter colors too.
     
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  8. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Christopher Robin's Idea is a great one <Cause it was one of the suggestions I was going to make.> Another way to build great looking, large, handrails is to start with a 2x2 then 'build up' with strips of Luan or MDF. this will give you a blocky, Minecraft looking profile which is easily worked down with a sure-form and or sander.
    For big curved handrails you can do the same basic thing but set some points on a work table, start running strips of 1/8" or 1/4" and build up the curved profile you are looking for. I hope this makes sense. If not, tell me here, I can expound.
     
  9. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    For those interested, here are the handrail detail requirements form the Life Safety Code. The International Building Code has very similar requirements. There are reasons and occasions where varying form these in scenery is justified, but I would argue that using a 2X4 for a handrail of an otherwise unseen escape stair is wrong.

    7.2.2.4.5 Handrail Details.
    7.2.2.4.5.1 New handrails on stairs shall be not less than 34 in. (865 mm), and not more than 38 in. (965 mm), above the surface of the tread, measured vertically to the top of the rail from the leading edge of the tread.
    7.2.2.4.5.2 Existing required handrails shall be not less than 30 in. (760 mm), and not more than 38 in. (965 mm), above the surface of the tread, measured vertically to the top of the rail from the leading edge of the tread.
    7.2.2.4.5.3 The height of required handrails that form part of a guard shall be permitted to exceed 38 in. (965 mm), but shall not exceed 42 in. (1065 mm), measured vertically to the top of the rail from the leading edge of the tread.
    7.2.2.4.5.4* Additional handrails that are lower or higher than the main handrail shall be permitted.
    7.2.2.4.5.5 New handrails shall be installed to provide a clearance of not less than 21⁄4 in. (57 mm) between the handrail and the wall to which it is fastened.
    7.2.2.4.5.6 Handrails shall include one of the following features:
    (1) Circular cross section with an outside diameter of not less than 11⁄4 in. (32 mm) and not more than 2 in. (51 mm)
    (2)Shape that is other than circular with a perimeter dimension of not less than 4 in. (100 mm), but not more than 61⁄4 in. (160 mm), and with the largest cross-sectional dimension not more than 21⁄4 in. (57 mm), provided that graspable edges are rounded so as to provide a radius of
    not less than 1⁄8 in. (3.2 mm)
    7.2.2.4.5.7 New handrails shall be continuously graspable along their entire length.
    7.2.2.4.5.8 Handrail brackets or balusters attached to the bottom surface of the handrail shall not be considered to be obstructions to graspability, provided that both of the following criteria are met:
    (1) They do not project horizontally beyond the sides of the handrail within 11⁄2 in. (38 mm) of the bottom of the handrail and provided that, for each additional 1⁄2 in. (13 mm) of handrail perimeter dimension greater than 4 in. (100 mm), the vertical clearance dimension of 11⁄2 in. (38 mm) is reduced by 1⁄8 in. (3.2 mm).
    (2) They have edges with a radius of not less than 0.01 in. (0.25 mm).
    7.2.2.4.5.9 New handrail ends shall be returned to the wall or floor or shall terminate at newel posts.
    7.2.2.4.5.10 In other than dwelling units, new handrails that are not continuous between flights shall extend horizontally, at the required height, not less than 12 in. (305 mm) beyond the top riser and continue to slope for a depth of one tread beyond the bottom riser.
    7.2.2.4.5.11 Within dwelling units, handrails shall extend, at the required height, to at least those points that are directly above the top and bottom risers.
     
  10. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I was under the impression that the OP was asking about Onstage, Visible Scenic Elements and NOT escape unit handrails.
     
  11. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    He does mention safety as a criteria and concern in first line, and sometimes knowing some of these details make them easy and painless to incorporate. I didn't always understand the importance of graspability, but after being exposed to research on it, I realized how important it was to stair safety, and how not difficult it was to incorporate into designs. Likewise height (though research shows the code minimums are probably a little too low for today), continuity, etc. I was in an airport the other day and could not keep my hand on the railing because there was not enough clearance around decorative elements. Simply knowing that 1 1/2" clear is considered acceptable and better design makes it easier to accommodate and build into a set.

    Plus, a performer (or director or technician on the set) gets hurt and it becomes an issue. Rather than "uh...oh...gee" responses wouldn't it be better to day "the handrail was lower than regulatory minimum upstage for the purpose of forced perspective".

    Its about knowledge and education. My most successful projects are the ones where the client could do it themselves next time.
     
  12. TheaterEd

    TheaterEd Renaissance Man Fight Leukemia

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    I personally never thought about graspability when designing handrails before and I currently have a 2 x 4 handrail on a set piece for an upcoming show. Had I read that post 2.5 weeks ago I probably would have gone with something else, but we're a little too far along at this point to change it in time.
     
  13. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    The graspability comes from the "hook" grip, where you actually hook your hand under the rail as falling forward in decent. A lot of experts feel smaller would be better yet - the 1 X 1 steel tube seen more abroad than here. That involves getting your hand around it, so clearance. Wide rails or teh silly 2 x 6 with a groove in it require a lot of hand strength. Sure probably most of us here can grab it, but a little arthritis or any disability in the hand and it's hard or impossible.
     
  14. BSchend

    BSchend Member

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    So I ended up making my own railing out of 2x3, routing the top with a thumbnail bit, and the underside with a quarter round leaving a center section the original depth. Not perfect, but were easily made, easily stained and easily used. One person helping during the build thought the railing had been store bought. It was roughly the same size and looked similar to this http://www.homedepot.com/p/Stair-Pa...-Oak-Wall-Hand-Rail-6042R-ESR-HD16L/202088441.

    At $.25/lf for a 2x3 as opposed to $4.85/lf it was more than worth it.

    All in all I did 90' of railing and 19 newel posts (4x4, routed 1x, and moulding) for less than $300. Overall not bad. Most expensive part was all the darn spindles.
     

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  15. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Very nice!
     
  16. BSchend

    BSchend Member

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    Thanks! I was actually quite pleased, even if all the set dressing didn't get completed. Guess you do what you can when you have 4 and a half days from build start to opening night.
     
  17. JChenault

    JChenault Well-Known Member

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    Bill.
    I think this may be my favorite quote of the year.
     

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