Crabtree Woodworks

Custom Wood Furniture / handmade in Wichita, Kansas

Turning my own porch newel posts – (honey do project)


The last couple of months, we have been involved with the exterior repair and repainting of our home. After about eighteen years it was time. My wife and I are pretty hung up on Victorian era stuff, but we live in a ranch style house.  This presents a challenge. Victorian homes can be classified as painted ladies. Painted lady homes are usually  two story and very abundant in color and roof line. They feature lots of gable, porch and siding decoration that a modest ranch style home can’t pull off .

Because of this, during our outside remodeling and painting,  we chose a few subtle alterations to quench our need for a Victorian touch to our home while staying in tune with the conservative nature of the other homes around us. We changed the main gable over our double car garage from conventional siding to the addition of  fish scale siding.

Old colors and new colors with fish scale siding.

NOTE: Left Click on the Pics to enlarge. When finished click back arrow to go back to page.  The Crabtree Woodworks  logo will  always take you back to home page

Our next idea was to spruce up the porch railing with a bit of  Victorian charm. We started by installing new porch posts my son Matt gave us that were leftover from a home he had built earlier.

By the way its a very nice house he built. Here is a pic of it under construction , my two boys are on the roof.

The new porch  posts  really look nice and are awaiting the newel posts I am turning as fast as I can due to the fact that winter is coming on.

Turning all these newel posts will give me a  much needed practice in lathe turning and it also saves a tremendous amount of cash. We priced the newel posts we liked from several different locations.  Small newel posts that are 1.5 to 2 inch diameter are only about 6 to 8 bucks a piece. That is what we had. We wanted  a three inch diameter post , my wife calls them chunky posts, with a bit of turned flair that would compliment our five inch porch posts. They average about thirty four dollars each. I need about forty of these in all. Do the math that’s not going to happen. I went to one of our local lumbar stores and found some really nice clear yellow pine 4*4s.  that are 96″ long. That is enough for three 32″  long newel posts. The 4*4 post are about 10 dollars a piece making each 32″ newel post about 3.30 dollars each, not counting my labor.

The first thing was deciding on a design that was simple to replicate.   I bought a gizmo I thought would help, a lathe duplicator. This thing attaches to the lathe and uses the master to trace and cut  the turning over and over for you. It worked very poorly, was cumbersome and very time consuming. Cost several hundred bucks too. I took it back to the store and got my money back. So now I will depend on calipers and a story stick to get as close as I can. In modern day technology, table legs and other turnings that have to be exact are cut by computer controlled lathes.  I Imagine a couple of centuries ago a home contractor would have a lathe man on site that was skilled at creating any turning needed for the job.

After cutting the 8 foot posts into 3rds, the next job was to cut them down to 3″*3″ .  I used the cheapest blade I owned to cut these down to size. This yellow pine is green and sappy and with this much to cut you will more or less use up your blade. Better to use up  a thirty dollar black and Decker than a 100 dollar nice carbide blade. I had to clean the blade about every five posts. I could feel the blade working hard once it got gummed up.

Here are pics of  the blade gummed up after about five post cuts then cleaned with a wire brush.

After all the posts were cut, I had stock that was ready to turn.  40 posts in all  here is 21. The pic also shows one of the newel posts.  You see the basic design we came up with. Easy to replicate. After they are all turned I am also going to add fluting to them. Here is an example of fluting.

My wife has the job of primer and paint. Below is a  batch she is working on. Everything is a mess right now as you can see.

My next blog posting will go into the turning process.  then on to fluting, painting, and  installation.

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