Few people realize how simple it is to make spectacular shop-milled, hardwood staircase hand railings in traditional profiles using ordinary workshop skills and a router. All it takes is the right router bits. Freud pioneered router bit sets designed for milling hand rail, and I know from experience that they work very well. Milling your own hardwood hand railing is a satisfying and economical way to get what you need for staircase construction, and it’s simpler than it looks.
How the Freud Hand Rail Bit Sets Work
You’ll need three bits for making hand rails: one bit forms the curved top, another bit forms the indented finger grooves, and a third bit forms small chamfers along the bottom edges. Considering the cost of ready-milled hand rail about $10 per foot), total cost for these bits is still economical even if you’re just building one staircase. I used the Freud 99-444 bit (about $65 to $70) for the finger grooves, and the 99-452Q ($105 to $110) for the curved top part of the railing. Any kind of simple chamfer bit (about $30) works fine for angling the bottom edges of the railing.
Hand Rail Routing Results
I laminated three pieces of white ash lumber to make each 3” x 3” railing blank I needed for my most recent staircase job, and the Freud bits created flawlessly smooth results in a 3 1/4 hp hand-held router, even on the challenging curved top surface of the railings. One reason for this is Freud’s Quadra-Cut cutter design. The 990452Q includes four carbide cutters arranged around the perimeter, not just two. One pair of these cutters slice with an upward angle, and two angled downwards. This eliminates torn grain surfaces very effectively, even on wood with wavy or contrary grain. The only challenging issue you’ll face is keeping the router steady as it moves over the railing. There’s not much wood for the router to rest on, so you need a steady hand.
All in all, I recommend Freud hand rail bits without reservation. They greatly expand the capabilities of your router, they save money, and they let you create unique and extraordinary railing profiles. What could be better?