Building Wooden Balusters
Balusters provide not only character, but also support to any balustrade. While they are most commonly pre-made, many homeowners are now opting to make their own. Because of the load-bearing nature of the baluster, it is important to build an object that is solid and durable.
A balustrade that is primarily for indoor decoration can be made of softer, more decorative wood. It does not have to be as solid. A balustrade that will provide support, either for people or for some other object, will need to be made of a stronger, perhaps less attractive, wood. However, it's still possible to create attractive, personalized balusters while meeting these criteria.
Step 1 - Decide on Materials and Design
You can make a baluster out of virtually every kind of wood. The kind of wood you use depends on your own needs. Balusters for indoor use can be made of softer, less durable woods such as maple. Those that will be used outside (such as in a deck) would be best made of pressure-treated lumber.
In addition, you must decide before you begin your project what you want your baluster to look like. You can decide on a very simple design, or you can create a very intricate one. The more intricate you make your design, the more difficult it will be to carve, and the more difficult it will be to maintain uniformity among your balusters. More complex designs will also require more tools.
Step 2 - Carving
In order to create your balusters, you must first use your router to carve a dummy baluster. With the router, you can hollow out areas or round out edges and corners. You can achieve many pleasing designs with the router alone; however, for very intricate designs, you will probably need additional tools.
When you're satisfied with the design, you can use sandpaper to smooth out any coarse edges and rough spots. You can spin it on a lathe, or you can keep it stationary while sanding it. If the design of your baluster is simple, using the lathe will save time. If your baluster has many complex edges and intricate designs, it is better to sand it by hand. Doing so will allow you a much higher level of precision.
Once you have your first baluster finished, you can use it to create a template which can be easily duplicated. If you do not wish to design your own baluster, you can create a template from a purchased baluster.
Step 3 - Finish
Once your balusters are finished, you can seal them, stain them, or paint them according to your designs. Be sure that the seal you select is compatible with the environment in which you are putting it. More delicate woods require additional maintenance. It is important that you frequently check on your balusters to be sure that the integrity of your balustrade is not being degraded.