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repair of wharf handrailing ?

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  • Member since
    July, 2009
  • From: somerset, nj
  • 2,075 posts
repair of wharf handrailing ?
Posted by gregc on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 5:08 PM

i'd like to repair the railing on a wharf struture similar to the on shown in the upper part of the image below.   Both the vertical and horizontal pieces of the handrail are the same, tublular.

over the years (50+), bumping has broken the handrails from the structure, leaving stubs protruding up from the structure.

the railing is L-shaped, 14x5".

i'm thinking of cuting an L-shaped styrene base, maybe 1/16" wide, drilling holes for what's left of the existing railing and gluing (MEK) the railing to the base.

i believe some of the holes in the new styrene base will align with broken pieces of the railing protruding from the structure.  I wouldn't glue the base to the structure, just leave it sitting on the structure, allowing it to move if bumped since it is near the edge of the layout.

i don't have any real experience with styrene but think it would be a better than wood since the handrail is styrene.

interested in hearing of other approaches?



greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 8,629 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 8:48 PM

Hi Greg:

You have a couple of choices.

One would be to buy ready made railings like these. Scroll down to #8276 Pipe Railing:

Another option would be to make them from styrene strip. This would be a better option if you want the railings to look like wood like the ones in your picture. Evergreen makes styrene strips of all different styles and shapes, including HO scale dimensional lumber sizes. If you use the dimensional lumber stock you don't have to guess at sizes:

You can make the styrene strips look like real wood by scraping them with a razor saw to add some 'grain' to the smooth surface. I recommend that you use a thin styrene glue as opposed to the Testors stuff that comes in a tube. This is one example:

You can get it at most hobby shops. A little goes a long way.

If you really want wood rails then use real wood! There are a couple of suppliers. Here is one:

If you are going to stain the wood, it is best to do it before assembly. If you try to apply stain after the railings have been glued you will get light coloured spots where the glue will have prevented the stain from being absorbed.



  • Member since
    January, 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 8,419 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, July 12, 2018 1:09 AM

If you're referring to the pipe-like railings near the top of the photo, I'd cut them off completely, then fabricate new ones using brass or phosphor-bronze wire of a suitable diameter.
You could make them as straight sections, then solder them together at each intersecting corner after they're installed, or make them as a continuous piece, then bend them to suit prior to installation.

You can make a simple assembly jig using a sheet of 1/4" balsa and a box of straight pins.  Use a straight edge and pencil to draw the uprights and railings either directly on the balsa or on a sheet of paper, then pin it to the balsa. 

Take each length of wire, holding it at one end using pliers, then  drag it through a folded piece of not-too-fine wet/dry sandpaper a couple of times (use it dry), then redo this, holding the wire by the other end.  This removes the oxide, which will make soldering much easier.

Pin the uprights (or railings) directly over the drawn plan (and don't be stingy with the pins), then add the railings (or uprights) in the same manner.

Apply a minute dab of resin flux to a joint, then touch a hot soldering iron and some solder to it - the bond should be instant.  Add a small wad of wet tissue to each joint as it's completed - this will prevent the heat used to make the next joint  from separating the one just made.  Don't pre-flux more than the joint which you intend to solder - if the next one is nearby, the heat may cause it to burn off.

A good way to pre-cut the wire, with little need for touch-up, is to use a not-new #11 blade in your X-Acto, and, working on a hard surface, simply place the heel of the blade where you wish to make the cut, and apply pressure with the knife to roll the wire back and forth a couple of times - make sure to use your free hand to restrain the cut-off piece, lest it fly away.

The assembled railings can be installed in the base by drilling suitably-spaced holes to accept the uprights.  If the base is not solid (hollow), use temporary spacers under the lower rail to keep the height of the railing constant while adding ca to secure the uprights.

A railing constructed in this manner will stand up better to incidental contact than one constructed of more fragile materials held together with only glue.


  • Member since
    July, 2009
  • From: somerset, nj
  • 2,075 posts
Posted by gregc on Thursday, July 12, 2018 6:22 PM

appreciate the suggestions

i'm hoping for an approach that can be done relatively quickly during a work session with some home preparation

i forgot to mention that all the railings have been broken off.   Replacing them would require drilling new holes or drilling out the broken stems in the structure.   Attaching them permanently  make me wonder how long they would last before being broken again.   Of course metal would be more durable.

maybe this is another case of what's "good enough".

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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