Building hand rail sections with a jig. Shop Technique:

Using A Simple Jig To
Assemble Sections Of Railing

In This Article:

Blocks of wood are clamped to scraps of OSB to create a fixture that helps in alignment and layout of handrail spindles.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 2-3 (Beginner to moderate) Time Taken: Less than one hour

By , Editor


Whenever I need to build railings or fences, or any product with repeating elements, I immediately think about finding a shortcut. In a factory they would use some sort of jig or fixture to accurately position the items being assembled.

There's no reason why a carpenter or handyman can't borrow those techniques.

I began the jig by placing two long scraps of OSB on top of a pair of saw horses. More precisely, the OSB is resting on several old deck spindles, which are resting on a pair of 2x4's, which are laying on the saw horses. This makes the surface stiffer.

I placed an 8-foot 2x4 on edge and clamped it to the edge of one of the pieces of OSB. This will form the top surface the holds the spindles and rail in place.


At one end of the OSB I clamped a long straight spindle to both pieces of OSB...


I also clamped a short scrap of spindle material to the front edge of the OSB (the piece held by the red clamp). This will create the limit for the bottom rail.

There's another block like this farther downstream.

At this point I carefully laid out the two pieces of OSB so the distance between the 2x4 and the clamped blocks was exactly the dimension that I needed for the overall height of the railing section. In this case the distance was 31½ inches.

A closer view of the 2x4 and the straight spindle.

That spindle isn't wood... it's one of those synthetic plastic spindles. I bought a couple just to show clients. They are great when perfect straightness is needed.


A closer view of the 2x4 on edge. I used 3 or 4 bar clamps to hold this board securely to the OSB, which has a good manufactured edge.


I cut a pair of 2x4's to the desired length and set them in place against the stops.


Using a pair of gauge blocks, which I carefully cut on the miter saw, I established the position of the first spindle. 

I just held the gauge block flush with the end of the 2x4 rail.


I did the same thing at the top of the spindle, I used two screws at the top and one screw at the bottom.


This gave me a starting point to rapidly and accurately position and screw all of the remaining spindles.


But first I wanted to pre-drill all the holes, so I laid all the spindles tightly against the first one.


I used a 12" speed square to transfer the screw location to each spindle.


I pre-drilled all the holes.

Pre-drilling is important to prevent the ends of the wood from splitting when the screws are driven in.


I set the gauge blocks in position and placed a spindle next to them, pushing the spindle against the 2x4 on edge.

Then I fastened the spindle with 3 screws.

I did the above step 10 or 12 times over, and I was done.

The completed section of railing.

I like labor-saving fixtures.


The pre-assembled sections of railing after installation. Read that article.




Tools Used:

  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Miter Saw
  • Clamps

Materials Used:

  • Lumber, 2x4
  • Deck Spindles
  • 2½" Deck Screws

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Copyright © 2003

Written June 3, 2003