Fitting Handrails to Fluted Columns

Ideas for fitting a handrail to a structural fiberglass fluted column. April 13, 2010

How are you all attaching 2x4 handrails to fluted exterior fiberglass columns? I don't want to dado a structural column. Is anyone coping the 2x4 to fit the flutes?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor L:
I usually fit blocks to the columns, something like plynth blocks you might use inside, and then bolt the rail to the blocks. This way I can have straight cuts on each end of the section of railing. If you cope the ends of the railing itself, chances are it won't go in between the two columns because of the projections into the flutes.

From the original questioner:
I had considered using something like a plinth. Then it becomes a matter of implementation. I suppose I could kerf the back of a board, use a non-bearing piloted roundover bit in the kerfs to match the radius of the flutes (in essence, producing a giant reeded board), and cut the finished product into blocks with a little chamfer on the face for decorative effect, right?

From contributor L:
Rob, here's how I fit blocks to fluted columns: First, you'll soon realize each column is rotated slightly from its neighbors so forget about making a batch of blocks all the same. I cut some half round the size of the flutes, fit it into the flutes, and tape it in place. I hollow out the back of the block to the radius of the column. Then I glue the plynth to the half rounds. I'm careful to prime the plynth so it looks like one piece and bed it in Dolphinite.

From the original questioner:
Very nicely done. The rotational issue was my initial headache. I considered making a jig of some sort for ensuring that a peak or valley of the flute would center and tangent to the handrail (easier said than done)! With the half-round and the Dolphinite, itís not so much of a headache.