This section is from the book "A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction Vol3: Stair Building, Ornamental Ironwork, Roofing, Sheet-Metal Work, Electric-Light Wiring And Bellwork", by The Colliery Engineer Co.. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction.
The making of hand rails is a part of stair building which involves complex geometrical problems that belong properly to the stair builder. The architect, however, should see that the rail - except where placed over winders, whether at the bottom of the stairway or around the cylinder in the well hole - is set up parallel to the line of nosings. The pitch over the winders will be more inclined than it will be over the straight rail, and as the amount of the inclination determines the height of the rail, it follows that additional inclination over the winders requires more height for the wreath; but this addition in height should never be such as to cause an unsightly crippled appearance where the curve of the wreath intersects with the straight rail. The architect should also see that each baluster is vertical, and solidly glued and nailed to the hand rail, so that when tested, there should be no noise, which would indicate the presence of loose balusters through imperfect fitting, poor gluing, or carelessness in nailing.
Where the straight rail enters the newel without a ramp, it allows the newel to be made from 4 to 6 inches shorter than would otherwise be possible, the reduced height being often a matter of some consideration. Where such is not the case, the hand rail may be bent upwards (in which case it is said to be ramped), so as to enter the newel in a plane perpendicular to it, and the angle of intersection between the raised level portion and the inclined plane of the straight rail is gracefully eased. This last method is the one most commonly adopted, owing mainly to its superior ornamental characteristic.