A newel post is an upright support of a staircase. In this type of support, one post is placed at the foot of the stairs and another is placed at the top. If there is a landing between flights of stairs and a change of direction, another newel post further adds support there. There are several types of newel posts. Differences among types of newel posts include aesthetic design as well as structural use.
Two types of designs for newel posts are box posts and turned posts. Box newel posts are rectangular in shape. Turned newel posts are cylinders, which are made on a wood lathe. Of the two, turned newel posts are the most ornate.
There are also solid and hollow newel posts. These are differentiated from one another structurally. Solid newel posts are solid wood and serve as a support for the staircase and landing. A hollow newel post is not supportive of the stairs. In this case, the stairs use the walls as their main support; therefore, a hollow newel post is strictly ornamental.
Newel posts not only lend structural support for a staircase and any landings between flights, but they also provide a base for balustrades which help to solidify and decorate a handrail.
There may be some minor differences, but a true newel post supports the frame of a staircase at the top, bottom, sometimes the middle.