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Thirty years ago, in a fit consisting of equal parts hubris and innocence, I let a builder convince me to install his stair rails. I was newly self-employed and saw installing railings as an opportunity to expand my offerings, even though I knew next to nothing about them. While I lost my shirt on that job, these step-by-step instructions will help you keep yours on. For me, one of the more intimidating parts of the installation was cutting and attaching easings, volutes, and goosenecks to straight rails. These parts are expensive, which makes cutting the correct angle even more stressful — and then you still have to fasten the fittings and rails together both invisibly and stoutly. The fittings come with instructions, but they don’t tell the whole story. The key thing to remember is that fittings have to be cut at the point where their curves are tangent to the line of the rail, and each cut has to be square to the rail. A pitch block — a right triangle with one leg the height of the stair’s rise and one leg the length of its run — is used to lay out the cut. Pitch blocks are…
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The angle is the angle. If you take off 1/8" off the rise and 1/8" off the run, all the angles will still be the same. But, I must say, I never use a pitch block, there are more accurate ways to get the correct angle.
Andy is absolutely correct that the easings have to be cut at the tangent point, perpendicular to the stairs, or in the case which some people do,perpendicular to the newel. If done correctly, the cut on the rail , or the cut on the gooseneck will always be a 90 degree cut.