tips on building steel handrails?

I got a call from a builder this morning who wants me to build a bunch of steel tube railings. These include an interior stair handrail, an interior loft
parapet rail, and an exterior pocket deck rail. I have some experience fitting steel pipe, but not that much with steel tube to make pretty handrails. Anyone have any tips, or suggestions for sources for good hardware? Tube ends? Bending solutions? Types of tube to use? I'm familiar with laying out and cutting fishmouths.
GWE
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It depends on where they have to go. If it is industrial-looking, I wouldn't bother with bending. Just cut and weld together and make a nice smooth blending with the flap disk. At 90 "bends", you could do it with 2 * 45 and a short piece inbetween.
For the verticals, I wouldn't use tube, but some flat. Looks good (to mee, at last :-)), and is less work.
Nick
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On Fri, 28 Jul 2006 10:47:18 -0700, Grant Erwin

======================You sound like you know how to build more than adequate railings from a structural standpoint.
The problem in today's environment is the product liability problem, and a raft of regulations including but not limited to your local building codes and ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act].
While these were enacted/developed with good intentions, the fact of the matter is that someone who gets "knee walkin', commode huggin' drunk," and falls down the stairs or off the balcony where your railing is installed can now sue and may well collect.
It's a bad situation when the lawyers/bureaucrats have more to do with designing/installing a banister or railing than the architects/contractors/welders.
Unka George (George McDuffee)
...and at the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased, and the epitaph drear: A Fool lies here, who tried to hustle the East.
Rudyard Kipling The Naulahka, ch. 5, heading (1892).
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F. George McDuffee wrote:

This question isn't about liability or lawyers. Anyone doing contracting has to have a strategy for dealing with that already, as I do. But thanks for your comments!
GWE
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On Fri, 28 Jul 2006 10:47:18 -0700, Grant Erwin

Since Ernie's gone I'll pipe up here.
Try the following site. Request a catalog even if you don't by from them. The catalog has lots of good info even copies of the three different regulations that are out there.
http://www.wagnercompanies.com/Home.aspx
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i'm not a professional, you prolly know more about it than me, just, i did a railing project for my brother and found that drawing it out on a CAD program sure helped a lot when it came time to cut various weird angles (i already knew the exact angle, no trial and error). allowed me to have relatively (much) tighter fit-up. what nick said too about the flapper wheels, they sure helped. it's a *bitch* to get the angles in the same plane on the ends of a long round pipe. i've seen railings made out of 1" solid square stock, (also what nick said) they look nice and i bet were easier to cut (the angles at least) (on one of those 4x4 bandsaws)(not chop saw) (ah, i see you said "tube", how about maybe square tube? wonder what the price difference is between round and square)
wrote:

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For bent sections such as full returns at landings we send out short lengths and have them bent. We then cut out the angle we need from the 180 degree return. Invest in a tube notcher for your ironworker or purchase one that will fit under your hydraulic press. You can purchase standard elbows as well as ends. The shop I work in avoids flap wheels because of price but I think they do a superior job and save labour costs. Make sure you understand the level of finish required by the customer. A person can lose his shirt making handrail if he does not know the level of finish required. One shop I worked in got bit by a nasty erector who got a portable truck to come in and do the repair and then back charged the fabricator. It took the truck about an hour or two but the truck charged for the day. If you have a crane in your shop make yourself a railing lifter ... much like ice tongs. e-mail me for a picture. It is faster than wrapping chain to lift.
Randy
I got a call from a builder this morning who wants me to build a bunch of steel tube railings. These include an interior stair handrail, an interior loft parapet rail, and an exterior pocket deck rail. I have some experience fitting steel pipe, but not that much with steel tube to make pretty handrails. Anyone have any tips, or suggestions for sources for good hardware? Tube ends? Bending solutions? Types of tube to use? I'm familiar with laying out and cutting fishmouths.
GWE
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    --I've recently started using one of those H-F notchers; not bad once I got it dialed in. Had to add a shim to get everything to line up right tho..

    --Got any links? Our local welding shop specializes in supplies for grape growers and an elbow costs something like $30.- for 1"; the kicker being they're all stainless and probably hydroformed. "garden variety" takes on a whole new meaning! ;-)
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Here is an idea. unless you are thinking about going into the hand rail business full time then investing big bucks in machinery to do the job is nuts. So some pointers on how to bend, think about the muffler shop. They already have the nice tubing bender.
I would approach the problem of fitting in several ways. First the straight sections are no big deal, it is the curvy parts that get tricky. I think I would make some sleeves that would fit snugly inside the ends of the tube, then have the muffler shop make the curved pieces leaving a little straight on the ends.
You can fab, or buy the standoffs to connect the rail to the wall or the stair case, and then "dry fit" everything in place. Once you have the pieces assembled, scribe witness marks and then take it back to the shop to weld and finish.
This assumes that you need a continuous piece. You can also design joints with a coupler between sections that has a shoulder in the middle. Now when you do the dry fit just drill a few holes and pop rivet the sections to the coupler, this way you would save the welding and the welding clean up.
--

__
Roger Shoaf

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Use a flap wheel the a buffing disc (like a scouring pad), they attach to a velcro backed wheel for a 5 in grinder. I use them all the time where I work when we build anything that is to be seen. Nothing stands out undert paint and primer like grinder marks.
What kind of material are you using? Pipe or HSS?
Bert

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Bert Plank wrote:

I'm assuming you mean steel pipe or stainless tubing? Because if there is high speed steel tubing I don't even want to THINK about it .. :-)
For this job I get to pick the material. I'll probably just use 1" black pipe with weldable fittings. Unless I figure out there's a real good reason to use tube! (One of my main questions - when is pipe better/cheaper/easier and when is tube?)
Grant
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There are many sources for tubing and pipe fittings. http://www.mcnichols.com/products/handrail/weldon/elbows/pipeelbows /
Sometimes we are required to use schedule 80 pipe for simple handrail. In most cases a standard schedule 20 pipe is good enough. One inch diameter is usually too small to grip. Look for something about 50 mm diameter ( 2 inches) The specs for HSS ( hollow structural steel) and pipe are slightly different. Often HSS is cheaper because it doesn't have a service pressure requirement. "mechanical tubing" is very pricey because of the tolerance and surface finish. Randy
I'm assuming you mean steel pipe or stainless tubing? Because if there is high speed steel tubing I don't even want to THINK about it .. :-)
For this job I get to pick the material. I'll probably just use 1" black pipe with weldable fittings. Unless I figure out there's a real good reason to use tube! (One of my main questions - when is pipe better/cheaper/easier and when is tube?)
Grant
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wrote:

Better check regulations first. In the US there's 3 different sets of hand rail regulations and IRRC two of them do not allow anything over 1 1/2" dia for hand rails. It depends on which of the basic regulations your local government has chosen to base there rules on and then what modifications they may of made to them.
The local architect that I do most of my railing jobs for would prefer to use 1 1/4" pipe. But at 1 5/8" OD that's to big to meet regulations.
The main things that I've dealt with (and Texas uses the most strict set of the regs) is tubing size (must be between 1 1/4" and 1 1/2"), and the need for radius ends on the rails (so nobody stabs themselves if they fall against it). There's also distance from wall for wall rails, distance apart for railings on picket style railings, and many other factors to consider.

As far as I can tell tube is never cheaper or easier to use. The only time I priced out a set made with 1 1/2" OD tubing the cost was over double that of pipe when I got through figuring materials. Stick with 1" pipe and either get some place to do the bending for you or buy the ells from http://www.wagnercompanies.com/Home.aspx
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