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Old 03-21-2013, 03:20 PM   #1
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Simple question, not sure why youtube can not answer it. I want to put some returns on an oak hand rail I am installing. I want to drill and cut a wooden dowel as to have no screws or nail showing. First question is should I cut a groove in the dowel rod for the glue? How exactly can I line up the dowel holes in the two pieces. I mean the tolerances are tight. Even a 1/16 of an inch is a lot. Should I get one of those little metal trim rules and be that exact with my hole drilling? Any advise is greatly appreciated. Last resort I have some trim screws.


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Old 03-21-2013, 03:24 PM   #2
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You use rail bolts for this.


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Old 03-21-2013, 03:26 PM   #3
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Ideally dowels should be grooved (fluted) all round to allow the glue to run all round the circumference.
You can align the holes up using dowel pops - see the attached; its from an old book but shows the pop - it's on the r.h. side of the diagram.
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Old 03-21-2013, 03:45 PM   #4
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Just a thought----modern wood glue is stronger than the wood itself-----you could just glue it---and forget about the dowels and screws----
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Old 03-21-2013, 04:34 PM   #5
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Or you could clamp the return in place and drill a small pilot through both, then drill out for dowel, plug the front of the rail and done deal.
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Old 03-21-2013, 05:37 PM   #6
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A plug cutter is a pretty coll tool.
Is often a plug is cut out and reinstalled in new counter sunk location.
Kinda sucks using this method, The plug will sit proud and needs to be sanded down to match the surface.
So you pick out the perfect area to cut a plug from a drop off.
You glue it in place and grind and sand it to the surface level it needs to be at.
Holy crap the viens of the grain can change ... you may need a few plugs to get it correct.
But for a hand rail along the wall, is no dowel needed.
Simple glue and brads will work.
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Old 03-21-2013, 06:13 PM   #7
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Oh boy. I am now thinking just a few trim screws and glue. Maybe tonight I can fool around and see how well I can measure things up. Are the days of dowels over? This is an oak rail at least 100 years old so I wanted to do something real nice with it.
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Old 03-21-2013, 07:11 PM   #8
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They make dowels that already have the slots in them. It's one of those items I keep on hand.

The make dowel centers that make getting the other side centered real easy

For what your wanting to do....dowels are the easiest. I try to avoid using them.... preferring pocket hole screws or biscuits....but in your case, dowel is the way to go.
Even if you are on the right track, you will still get run over if you just sit there.

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Old 03-22-2013, 09:41 AM   #9
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The dowel centers would give you the mark for drilling but you still have to line them up. I would try four 2x blocks screwed to a piece of plywood. Two forming the outside corner and two forming the inside corner at a right angle. The ends of the rail and return should fit snug into them. drill the rail, set the center and slide the return in and tap with a hammer. The point should mark the exact spot to drill. At 100 years old I would use a depth stop on the bit or at least a wrapping of tape so you don't go through. An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.
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Old 03-22-2013, 01:42 PM   #10
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Is the end of the return hidden against a wall? If so, I'd glue it and clamp it, then drill from the end of the return and install a couple of hidden screws. That is assuming that the return isn't too long.
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Old 03-22-2013, 09:58 PM   #11
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I just glue the return on and drill pilot holes, then screw them together from the face side, because the returns are long. The screws clamp the two pieces together.

Then later you can remove the screws and you won't have much of a hole to fill.
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Old 03-23-2013, 12:19 AM   #12
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I have not decided how to do the returns, the returns are going into a stud in the wall, through plaster. I will either cut them at 45 degrees, or the simple 90 degree cut. These will have some sort of clear stain, or just urethane. No wood filler, no plugs, just tight fitting joints. So far, I am thinking of building that jig setup with the dowel centers. I figured to be dead on that would be the way to get it right. If that fails, probably glue and brads. I have been checking out many handrails and the methods of using hidden screws and screwing through the returns is what is most commonly used. It looks real good, even with stain. But I want something real nice that I managed to do myself, in my own house. Every time I go up and down the stairs I will grab that rail with pride.
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Old 03-23-2013, 07:01 AM   #13
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This is a return that I did a few years ago. I think I used a screw and some finish nails along with yellow glue. I had to tune the cut on my compound miter saw a few times.
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Old 03-23-2013, 10:56 AM   #14
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Response Number 2 is the first and best answer, unless your condition does not lend itself to their use. I would then use hot melt to set, and pocket screws to secure.
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Old 03-23-2013, 11:26 AM   #15
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Would never use hot melt glue on a joint. It doesn't penetrate the pores and will never be a tight joint. Pocket holes will leave ugly holes. Glue and nail is common practice. For stronger joint you can screw and plug, making sure screw is on least visible side and that your plug is taken from a cutoff of the same rail. Dowels will work fine if you have time to spend I guess, but just doesn't seem necessary. You could use a spring bolt too.


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