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timp 03-27-2008 10:39 AM

Correct wood for porch railings
 
I'm about to begin reproducing the front porch railings on our 1890s vintage home. The original railings were removed by a former owner but I have pictures to work from. I don't want to use pressure treated--typically it warps and cracks a lot, but also because I'm going to have to do a lot of turning, milling, etc. and don't want to deal with the hazards.

What would you recommend as a suitable wood that would be strong, reasonably rot-resistant (it will be painted and not in contact with the ground), and reasonably good for turning?

Thanks,
Tim

troubleseeker 03-27-2008 10:53 PM

Spanish cedar is pretty commonly used for outdoor turnings, as it turns well and lasts reasonably well. While heart redwood or heart red cedar may out last it, mosy guys I know do not like to turn them, because it is soft and tears too easily for them. (that is what they say, I have no personal experience).
Be sure to wear a decent respirator, as the resins in the dust from it are extremely irritating to throat and nasal passages, and very bitter in taste.

timp 03-28-2008 09:01 AM

Thanks troubleseeker. Given what I have been able to find online (see below), I'm wondering if I should make the top & bottom rails from a stronger wood and make the spindles and turnings from spanish cedar.

BTW, I've played around turning some 2x2 red cedar cutoffs (leftovers from the railing on my kids playhouse). It's very difficult to get a smooth surface and nice sharp cuts.

From http://www.exotichardwoods-southamer...darspanish.htm
Strength Properties
The bending strength of the species is considered medium, being much weaker than White oak or Teak in the air-dry condition (about 12 percent moisture content). It is weak in compression parallel to grain (maximum crushing strength), and is inferior to Mahogany. Surfaces may dent or scratch easily since the wood is soft.

troubleseeker 03-28-2008 09:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timp;111591
From [URL
http://www.exotichardwoods-southamerica.com/cedarspanish.htm[/url]
Strength Properties
The bending strength of the species is considered medium, being much weaker than White oak or Teak in the air-dry condition (about 12 percent moisture content). It is weak in compression parallel to grain (maximum crushing strength), and is inferior to Mahogany. Surfaces may dent or scratch easily since the wood is soft.

While that may make it sound like it is a very flexible wood, it is not. If you site has a list on many woods, you will see that the three you have mentioned will be superior to almost all of them, that is why white oak , teak, and mahogany were, an still are, the standard bearers for wooden ship/boat construction.

WesternSpindle 06-02-2008 12:16 AM

We have had excellent results with Douglas Fir, both for railing and turned spindles. It is very hard for a softwood and machines/turns beautifully. We have also turned thousands of Redwood spindles for porches with great success. True, Redwood is very soft and tears if care is not taken. We sharpen the lathe knives about 4x more often when turning Redwood than when turning Douglas Fir.

Also, the dust from Redwood is very fine and irritating, both to the machine and the operator. Excellent dust collection is an absolute must when working with Redwood. We have found that extra maintenance is required on bearings, etc. when working with Redwood.

timp 06-02-2008 08:43 AM

@WesternSpindle -- your message is timely. I just got the quote from my regular lumberyard for cedar for the project...$2300. And that would not include any machining, turning, etc. (I'd be doing all that.)

I see your site recommends doug-fir, which I think might be a fine alternative. I'm not sure it it would be less expensive, but I think so. Actually, I'm re-thinking the no pressure treated plan I started with. I might use it for at least the bottom rail.

I got your web site address before the post was edited. I'll get in touch with you for some pricing info. BTW, here's a picture of what I'm trying to reproduce (the railing only, the ball-n-stick above is still there).

http://www.poulsenclan.com/tim/railing.gif

NateHanson 06-02-2008 03:26 PM

Personally, I'd probably do it in clear white pine or mahogany. I can't stand working with spanish cedar. Too irritating.

HoweD 09-19-2012 09:54 PM

That's a beautiful aspiration, that porch reproduction. I don't know where to purchase Spanish cedar as the local lumber yard doesn't carry it. Western Red Cedar, I think, they told me can be had from another source. Pine is what they suggested but I also do not want a painted lady when I'm done. Since there is a flight of stairs out front I'll have to mix woods, I guess, but the finished effect, I hope, is all one stained color. I'd like to use a crown molding under the soffit that carries out the wood's beautiful effect, a little beefier size than what may be used normally. Again, I do not know how to source my lumber needs.

joecaption 09-19-2012 10:53 PM

Sure would help if you would go back and add where you live to your profile.
Someone may know some local sources.
I live in VA and within an hour I can find almost any wood on the planet due to all the boat building going on in my area.


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