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October 21, 2012
New newels

Gail removes temporary stair rail netting as we prepare to disassemble the stair newels

When we last left our mountain home, we had encountered an embarrassing and distressing bump in the road to our occupancy permit. We had cut two of our stairway newels (and one half-newel) too short. Russell had forgotten that these newels needed to anchor to the stairs one tread lower than the tread they appeared to rest upon.

A month later (and several hundred dollars poorer) we returned to the mountain with two and a half newly cut pieces of newel wood. We were only up here for a short weekend, arriving Friday evening and leaving Sunday morning. On the other hand, we only had one task to accomplish.

Our challenge was that the two full newels were set into places where the stairs took 90-degree bends. First, this meant that each one had a lot of unique dados, grooves and miters cut into it. Second, the old ones had been screwed in place and reinforced with wood glue, so they might be difficult to remove.

We needn’t have worried. The process turned out to be much easier than we had feared (contrary to our usual experiences). Once the screws were removed, we knocked the old newels cleanly out of place with a rubber mallet.

For each newel, we then measured all of the dados, grooves and miters we had made. We used the old newel as a guide to cut the new newel, lining up both pieces of wood next to each other.

We simply made copies of the old newels to create the new newels

It’s easy to see that the new newels are more than seven inches longer than the old ones

By Saturday afternoon, we had completed both full newels and the single half-newel.

Our last task before inspection would be to reinstall the mesh netting that would serve as a “railing” for the purposes of inspection. We were too tired to do that on Saturday afternoon. We talked about trying to get it done Sunday morning, but decided that since the inspector wasn’t available yet anyway, it could wait until a subsequent trip.

Our final inspection – and our occupancy permit – remains a tantalizing milestone, just out of our reach. All we need to do is put some netting on the stairs and schedule a visit. Unfortunately, that will need to wait for a future trip.

Before and after

To see the difference in height, just look at how tall the half-newel (on the right) is compared to the window next to it


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