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Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:58 am
by wickedwjc

I have an oak staircase and the handrail has several hairline splits in it (see photo). Does anyone know what the best way to fill these would be? The wood needs to be oiled and ideally I don't want it to show once complete.

handrail split.jpg
handrail split.jpg (185.05 KiB) Viewed 1108 times

Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:19 pm
by yartin
I would you use 2 part wood filler off the shelf. Or if you have a piece of the same wood, sand it and use the wood dust with glue to make the wood filler.

Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:04 pm
by Dave54
It looks to me as if it's coming apart where it's been edge jointed.
If the splits aren't too far along the length, personally I'd go for coloured wax filler, such as the ones made by Liberon.
Go very slightly darker rather than lighter, it doesn't show as much.
Sorry to say that from my own experience I'd say you're very unlikely to get 2 pack filler to match, and using wood glue and wood dust will just give you a grey line that won't take finish or dye, and won't sand well.

Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:34 pm
by Job and Knock

For starters the wood dust and glue thing really comes from the flooring trades where they are going to sand the bejaysus out of the floor afterwards (normally starting with a 60 grit and working upwards so any glue spill into open pores won't matter as it'll all be sanded away) and where they can get away with a joint being a different colour. It's sort of become an Internet myth - I see it repeated so often - but it is so wrong! In work nearer to eye level, such as installed joinery or furniture it will often look absolutely horrendous, so don't do it

As to 2-pack filler, as Dave points out it'll never be anywhere near a match in colour and will almost always stand out like a sore thumb. As Dave says, the professional approach is to fill any minor cracks with coloured wax. Several colours can be combined to get a near perfect match; for oak this may mean a mixture of medium or dark oak wax, plus maybe a bit of red mahogany (if the timber has a pinkish tinge) or some pine coloured wax if the colour needs to be lighter (and BTW antique pine colour adds yellowness). Bear in mind that all timbers darken and yellow with age, so if it isn't at the 3 to 4 years stage it may have some way to go therefore your filler wax might need to be a tad darker and yellower.

Animal that I am I use a steel stopping knife (with the edges blunted and the sharp corners rounded off) to apply wax - a flexible plastic spatula does just as well for one-offs - and I warm the wax and stopping knife in a mug of hot water for a few minutes before slicing thin curls of wax of the different colours which I then roll into a small ball in the palm of my hand before pushing into the cracks with the stopping knife. Surplus material is scraped off carefully after a few more minutes when it has cooled off, again with the stopping knife (and may be re-used). A quick rub over with a coarse cloth (such as some hessian sacking or a yellow hi-viz vest :lol: :oops: ) completes the job. Avoid the temptation to use a cold, hard coloured wax block like a child's colouring crayon (another common error) - it just doesn't work that way!

Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:36 pm
by dewaltdisney
If I could make a couple of points, the splits are probably due to the wood drying out in the warm house ambient temperature. I have found oak to be quite stable but it is best if you seal it fairly quickly. I have used a clear water based lacquer on oak furniture I made for my house and it has not moved.

I think I would also recommend a clear water based non yellowing lacquer as a handrail treated with an oil finish may absorb hand grease over time and cause grubbiness. Also a hard lacquer will protect against ring scrapes. I am not sure how close up that picture is but if the split is a gnats cock then a good lacquer over will fill and seal it. it does not look any more than a shrink.

Just my view.


Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:40 pm
by Rorschach
Do the splits close up with a clamp?

Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 6:02 pm
by wine~o
Rorschach wrote:Do the splits close up with a clamp?
I was thinking along the same lines, might be possible to glue and clamp :dunno:

Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 6:46 pm
by OchAye
If I can stick my two cents worth ;-) in the discussion, I would go for filling with something waxy as there have been two suggestions above. However, do not bother matching the colour of the raw wood whatever you use. Oil some of the wood somewhere and it will get darker, it is the colour of the oiled wood you want to match (been there and done the mistake).

Re: Split in wood (oak) staircase handrail

Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2019 2:52 pm
by wickedwjc
Thanks all, clamping does nothing... gonna try out the wax suggestion!