How to Make Log Railings for Your Rustic Cabin Stairway

Updated on January 26, 2017
Log Railing
Log Railing

Clearing Land: Make Use of All Those Trees

When we built our cabin, we first had to clear our wooded lot of all the trees for the building site. We had lots and lots of pine trees to make use of. We also had to make a stair railing going up to our loft. These two issues came together in the form that we were going to build our own log railings. However, this was no small task!

There was one thing that kept us motivated through the entire project - Money! It wasn't going to cost us a thing in materials or labor. My husband already had the tools from other projects so we were all set.

I must say that the project did go much smoother than what we had imagined. There were a few little snafoos but since we were only working on the cabin on weekends, we could go home and start fresh the next weekend with renewed vigor.

To do a project like this there are a couple of important tools that you will need, tenon cutters and a drill with a circular blade bit or a drill press. An angle gauge is also a good idea for measuring the angles to drill your holes.

Rustic Railings
Rustic Railings

Where to Start the Log Railing

Before starting the actual process of putting together the railing, we cut all of our spindles to size and tooled the ends with the tenon cutters. To determine the size we calculated how far the bottom rail would be off the ground, the width of the rails, and the building code requirement.

In our cabin we have an open loft and figured the best place to start was right at the top. After cutting and tooling the ends of our first rail pieces, we drilled two holes into the wall at the height that we wanted the rails to be. The rail height needs to be in accordance with your local building code. These holes were easy because the rails were going in straight across.

Our next step was to assemble our first rail section. First we laid out the two premeasured rails on the floor. We then spaced the smaller tooled pines evenly across, making sure to not have any more than four inches of space between the spindles. Once we were happy with the spacing, we marked on the rails where to drill holes. Keeping the spindles laid out on the floor, in order, we took the rails out to drill the holes. This part of the job actually became difficult with a hand drill and we ended up taking rail sections home to use the drill press as the job went on. It can be done with a hand drill but definitely became tiring.

When we brought the rails back in we inserted the spindles in the same order. This is important because the spindles all varied in width, by just a little, and could mess up the spacing if they were switched around. We had to put straps around the rail section to hold it in place because we weren't ready to secure it with screws until we knew how everything was going to fit between the wall and the log post.

Now we inserted one end of the rail section into the two holes in the wall. The whole section had a little give because is wasn't fully secure yet so we could fit it into the holes easily. Next we inserted the other end into the log post putting wood glue under the post. We picked larger pine trees for our posts and opted to skin the bark for a unique look. Once we had the whole section in place, we secured the whole thing with screws and nails.

We continued this process all the way down. The only difference with the remaining sections was that we had to drill the holes in the rails and posts at an angle so that the spindles would stand straight. This is where the angle gauge came in handy for marking.

The final step was to first clean the peeled logs with a mixture of bleach and water since they were pretty sappy and then polyurethane over the entire stair rail.

We had to make little adjustments here and there throughout the process since it was a little tricky with spacing and angles but overall the project went well. The money we saved was well worth it and we can now say that our stair railing came right off our property.


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    • profile image

      Amy 7 months ago

      Love it! This is similar to a project I'm working on. But I'm surprised that your posts are so secure - am I understanding correctly that all you did was glue them to the floor, and all other stability comes from connections to the rest of the railing? It seems like the whole thing would wiggle side-to-side substantially. I think I must be missing something.

      Thanks for posting!


    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 7 years ago

      Beautiful. I love your craftsmenship. Great info. thank you.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Totally love the photographs and what a beautiful addition for your cabin! I live in Oregon, and can imagine a staircase like this in several locations (Sunriver, Black Butte Ranch, etc.) Lovely and great explanation, as well!

    • Song-Bird profile image

      Renee Hanlon 7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Schneider! We are glad the job is done but are happy we tried it and if we had to do it all over again, we would do it just the same.

    • profile image

      Schneider 7 years ago

      You did a terrific job on your log railings for your stairway. They can be challenging, but you did a good job with explaining the proceedure. Kudos to you.