Stair parts for the heart of the home.

Glossary of Phrases and Terms Specific to Hand-railing

The following terms and references are the traditional names and descriptions for various components of hand-railing for staircases. Clive Durose use the latest CNC 5 axis machining technology and other woodworking machinery to produce exceptional stair parts including many of the items below. As suppliers to some of the UK’s finest stair makers, we can produce bespoke stairs and hand railing systems in classical and modern styles to suit domestic or commercial balustrade and staircase projects.

You will see from the extent of this glossary that staircase building is not a simple task. It is an involved process requiring a great deal of skill and experience. It is therefore critical that whoever you choose for making your staircase, they have the necessary experience and ability.

Clive Durose can assist them with staircase design and the overall look of the stair.


Arrises – The sharp or salient edges of the members of a moulding.


Balanced Winders – (see balanced steps in following section) Winders that do not radiate from a common centre. The application of the term is that the extended space for winders enables the user to keep his balance in descending the stair.

Bevelling a Wreath – is the cutting away of its square sides until they become vertical when the wreath is in the true inclined position over its plan.

Bevel Cut – A system of preparing wreaths in handrailing in which the sides of the wreath-piece are shaped by vertical cutting when the plank from which they are cut is placed at an inclination parallel with the pitch of the stair.

Blank – This is at the first stage of a wreath before it is shaped or set out.

Bracketed Handrail – A wall rail carried on metal brackets.


Cap Mitreing Block – An appliance for ensuring the correct centering of a mitre cap to the extremity of a handrail, and a guide to the saw when cutting the mitre.

Cylinder System – In handrailing is a method of forming, or lining-out wreaths by applying the “blank” directly to the drum, or centre; generally called a “cylinder,” although it may be of other shape, and scribing on the upper and lower surfaces of the blank, lines parallel or equidistant from the surface of the “cylinder,” so obtaining the true shape of the wreath sides.


Displacement of Centers in a Wreath – That is to say, arranging the centre of the bolt on one side of the joint higher or lower than the centre on the other side. A devise is used to avoid excessive thickness in the wreath-piece.


Easings – are the curved junctions made in a handrail to bring parts at different levels into one flowing curve. They are seldom regular or geometrical curves, being mostly produced freehand.

Easing Board – A mechanical contrivance for readily drawing curves of regular, or of varying flexure.


Face Mould – A templet for lining out the shape of a wreath-piece upon the shape of a wreath-piece upon the “blank”

Falling Compasses – An instrument formerly used for describing the elliptic curves of the sides of a handrail directly upon the plank.

Falling Line – is the contour (usually taken at the centre) which a wreath assumes whilst in “the square” actual or imaginary.

Falling Mould – A template for marking the side curves of the wreath-piece upon the plank.


Grasshopper or Handrail Gauge – A tool with enables lines to be marked on the offside of the work, the pointer, slider and scriber being adjustable for width and depth. Particularly to handrailing, the grasshopper is used in wreaths for making the depth of sinkings the moulding that are much below the crown or back of the rail.


Knees – A knee is primarily a vertical abrupt bend in a handrail whose purpose is to convert the inclined pitch of the rail over the step into a level one where it enters a newel post. When a joint is made in a knee it is generally a mitre, and if worked in the solid the mitre is also solid. By an extension the term is also applied to a curved easing.

Kneelings – are the reverse of knees, that is to say, are concave on the upper side and are made at the lower ends of handrails.


Level-Ordinate System – This is one in which the true shape of a face mould is found by locating on the plan sundry points which are projected perpendicularly to the plane of inclination, and the distance of the several points from an arbitrary line made to correspond with the like points in the plan, through the intersections; the curves of the mould are traced.


Mitre Cap – A mitre cap is a flat circular terminal, connected to the handrail by a mitered joint at the top of a newel post.

Monkey Tail – A handrail terminal formed by carving the back portion of a handrail moulding into a vertical scroll.


Profile Box – A square ended box templet, the inside of which is shaped to fit a moulded rail or similar object for the purpose of marking shoulders and straight lines on a curved surface.


Quoit Terminal – A vertical disc-like finish to a handrail.


Ramp – This is an extensive easing in a handrail, connecting a horizontal part to an inclined part. Ramps are usually made in solid, but in large rails may be built in several pieces.


Scribing the Plank – Old method of marking wreaths by application to a solid cylinder.

Scroll – The terminal of a handrail worked into a spiral curve

Shank – The shank of a wreath is a short length of straight moulding worked at the end of the curved portion of a wreath to correspond in section and direction with the straight rail, its purpose being to receive the handrail bolt perpendicularly to the joint.

Shank Joint – This is the joint between the shank of a wreath and the straight part of a rail.

Splice Joints – In handrails are of two classes: (a) The commoner, also known as a bevel joint, is a plumb joint when the rail is inclined at the same pitch as the stairs. (b) This joint, also called “dogs tooth” and “zig-zag,” is formed by cutting one end of the jointed piece into a series of semi-lozenge shaped projections, their points running parallel with the sides of the rail. The opposite piece is notched up in reverse, and when the two are brought together and drawn up by a screw bolt, or a double ended wedge, the joint becomes practically invisible and is very strong. I have seen rails over 150 years old with joints as close as on the day they were made. They would, of course, not be appreciated by the jerry-builder of to-day.

Springing – In architecture the point at which an arch commences, or leaps a opening (particularly to handrailing,) a line drawn on the face mould from the centre of the cylinder or intersection of axes to the end of the diagonal.

Springing Line – This is a horizontal line connecting the ends of an arch.

Square-Cut System – One in which the joints in the handrail are made square, or perpendicular to the surface of the material from which the wreath is so cut, so producing “butt joints.”

Stretch-Out – This is a drawing of the development of a curve surface upon a plane.

Swan-Neck – A Compound vertical curve of contrary flexure in a handrail, formed by uniting a “ramp” and a “knee” in one solid piece of handrail.


Tangent – A tangent in geometry is a line, or plane, touching a curve, but not cutting into it. Tangents in handrailing are the various planes on which the constructive lines and curves are drawn or developed.

Tangent System – A modern geometry method of describing face moulds for handrails without the aid of a cylinder, in which the basic lines are drawn on plane surfaces; these surfaces being made tangent to the plan curves of the handrail at three points in each wreath.

Trammeling Square – An appliance for drawing ellipse of various dimensions, used chiefly in setting out handrail moulds.

Turn-In – This is a small horizontal curve in a handrail to carry it into a newel or wall.


Under Newel – A newel post which fits under a rail without protruding above it.


Well Gauge – An appliance made by the railer himself to suit the particular job in hand. Its uses as described ensure correct joints in the wreath and consequently correct pitch in the rails on each side of the well.

Wreath – That part of a handrail or of a string which both in plan and elevation.

Wreathed Handrail – One with a portion rising over and around a circular or elliptic plan.

Glossary of Phrases and Terms used in Stair-building


Apron Lining – A thin wrought and beading vertical covering board to the rough trimmer in a stairway or opening in the floor.


Balanced Steps – Winders that do not radiate from a common centre (see also dancing steps). The application of the term is that the extended space for winders enables the user to keep his balance in the descending stair.

Baluster – A turned, carved, or otherwise ornamented vertical column, or division between the handrail and string or the steps of a flight of stairs. Collectively a complete series of balusters together with the connecting string and handrail is termed a balustrade or balustrading. When, as in common stairs, the balusters are plain thin rods or rectangular strips they are known as banisters. In both cases the object of the balusters and balustrade is to prevent users falling off, or over the side of the stairs.

Balustrade – (1) The combination of balusters, posts, handrails, and strings forming the fence or outside boundary to a flight of stairs, to prevent the users falling over the side into the well of the stairs. (2) In the case of stone stairs the balustrade is chiefly an ornamental feature, compromising a series of dwarf columns or heavy turned balusters, a continuous plinth and a moulded cap or black rail. (3) In the case of iron stairs the balustrade is frequently formed of a series of open, wrought, square, or flat bars and rails following the general contour of the stairs. Sometimes the bottom bar is omitted and vertical parts of the design are continued down to face the step into which they are sunk and cemented like lugs, as in the case of the King’s staircase at Hampton Court Palace.

Banister – a baluster (corruption of baluster).

Bevel Cut – A system of preparing handrail wreaths in which the “blank” has it’s sides cut vertical, or as they would stand when the rail is in its true position over its plan; now nearly obsolete, suspended by the square-cut system.

Block Plane – A comparatively short and heavy plane of either wood or metal used with the block mitre-shoot apparatus, chiefly for preparing hardwood joints, etc.

Box – Straight stairs with closed stringers.

Boxed Step – The ordinary step in stairs, formed by gluing a relatively thin riser and tread together at right angles, as distinguished from the solid step, which is formed of one block of wood or stone.

Blockings or Angle Blocks – Short piece of wood glued to the under-surface or angles of boxed steps to strengthen the joints.

Bracket Balusters – Those rising from the ends of, or outside the step, chiefly in stone or marble stairs, and necessarily of metal, as they are cranked over the moulding.

Brackets – Carved, shaped or otherwise ornamented imitation ends to the boxed steps which are planted up on the face of the string in open, or cut string stairs. These roughly triangular shaped brackets are, in modern practice, made thin, less than a quarter in. Thick, but in the old examples are often an inch or more thick.

Bullnosed Starting Tread – Sometimes called a scroll step. The bottom or first step of a stair because the ends project beyond the stringers and form the surface upon which the starting newels and handrail begin. The ends are semicircular in shape.

Bullnose Step – One with a quarter round end, returning upon a newel post.

Bullnose Winder – One in an interior angle.

Bump Out – Increasing the width of the stair to accommodate a partial wall. The stair is closed between the walls andbecomes open on at least one side.


Cap – often referred to as the newel cap and sometimes as a finial. This is an ornamental top end of a newel post. Carved, shaped or turned.

Capping – A moulded member planted on the top edge of a close string to provide a fixing for balusters thicker than the string.

Carriages – (Stringers, Cut Jacks.) The diagonal members that support the treads.

Caul – A Piece of wood, or metal, shaped to fit a curved surface that is to be veneered, so that it can be cramped up and the glue squeezed out when pressure is applied. Generally, cauls are heated when applied either by wet or dry heat as the job requires.

Circular stair – a helical stair. This type of stair has steps radiating from a common centre or newel post.

Closed Stringers – A staircase in which the ends of the treads are routed or housed so that they are not visible outsidethe stair.

Close Newel Stairs – An alternative term for a dogleg stair. Term also used in contradistinction to open newel stair.

Commode Step – One or more steps at the bottom of a flight having curved, usually segmental or elliptic riser, with wider treads than the average, hence derivation of the term; they are more commodious.

Continuous Stair – A circular or other curved flight of stairs composed entirely of winders uninterrupted by landings.

Cove Moulding – A length of moulding placed under the treads.

Cross Flights – See “Return flight.”

Curb – The rough timbers around a circular, or an elliptic stairway.

Curtail Step – The bottom step of a stair having a curved end corresponding with the curves of the handrail scroll above it, but cut short or curtailed at the front where it intersects the string.

Curved Stair – A broad definition for stairs thatform a portionor all of a circle. Most curved stairs have concentric lines for the stringers.

Cut Jacks – Stringers which have been simply notched out on their upper edges to receive the treads and risers.

Cut String – See “Open String”


Dancing Steps – Term implying that the winders, in virtue of the extended space allotted them, are so easy of decent that the user might dance down them.

Dextral stair – a stair that turns to the right during ascent.

Diminished Flyer – The top step of a flight adjacent to winders which, although tapered in length, is not radial from the common centre of the winders.

Dogleg Stair – A change in pitch of the stair because of a change in the length tread. The tread length causes the stringer to forma bent shape looking like a “dogs hind leg”. This is a stair with two flights separated by a half landing, and having no stairwell.

Double Newel – Two large newel posts of similar size and design placed close to each other on a landing. A historic device to avoid the cutting away of the lower handrail where it crosses the string of the upper flight in narrow stairs of the dogleg type, a precursor of the open newel type.

Drop – An ornamental end to a newel post which projects below the soffit. This is sometimes referred to as a finial or drop cap.

Dubbed Off – A short or abrupt easing to any part of a construction to permit its easy entry into an aperture, e.g. the end of a tread into its housing. Also a clumsy or careless easing at the joint of a moulding, etc.


Easing/Easement – The curved junctions placed in a handrail to bring the parts at different levels into one flowing curve. A fitting that curves in a vertical plane, used to change the angle of the handrail.


False End Treads – Treads which have a wood veneer on the surfaces and solidwood nose and return. False end treadswhen covered with carpet look like solid treads and areless expensive than a solid wood tread.

Fillet – A thin strip that fills the plowed (grooved) rail space between balusters in a hand rail or toe rail.

Finial – The ornamental top end of a newel post. Carved, shaped or turned.

Firring Cut – The process of fitting and fitting firings or firring-places at the backs of stair strings to correct irregularities, either in the wall or in the stair itself, also to the lower edges of wall strings to carry the latter into same plane as the outside string.

Firrings or Firring Pieces – Light strips of fir nailed across the back, or to the edges of the stair strings, either to make up their width and apparent thickness or to provide solid fixings for nails, screws or plugs as the case requires.

Fittings – See easing/easements. Sections of a handrail used at the beginning and end of a balustrade or wherever the handrail changes height or direction.

Flight of stairs – An uninterrupted series of steps and stringers reaching from one landing to the next. The flights may be straight or curved.

Flitch – A log sliced into thin veneer pieces, usually 1/16″ thickness, slices are then bundled back to sell as a unit

Flutes – Sometimes called reeds. Flutes are decorative vertical grooves placed in a wood surface such as a balusteror newel.

Flyers or Fliers – The parallel steps in a flight of stairs as distinguished from the winders, or nonparallel steps


Geometrical Stairs – The class of the stair in which the string and handrail is continuous from end to end, the straight portion being connected at the turns, or ends of the well by wreaths of double curvature, so called, because some acquaintance with the science of solid geometry is necessary to their setting out.

Going – run; the horizontal distance between two successive nosings. The sum of the goings of a straight flight stair is the going of the flight.

Gradient of a stair – the ratio between going (run) and riser; the angle of inclination.

Grand Stairs – The main stairs in mansions, public buildings, large shops and stores, etc, usually very elaborately designed and ornamented.

Guardrail – A protective railing designed to prevent people or objects from falling into open well, stairwell or otheropen spaces.

Glue blocks – Blocks of woodattached to the underside of a stair at the junction of the riser and tread. Glue blockssecure the treads and risers together and are used toprevent movement which causes squeaks.

Gooseneck – A combination of an easing and a fitting in a rail system which allows the handrail to change heights from an incline back to the level. Placed at landings or at the top of a stair.


Half Landing – A landing at about half the height of the staircase irrespective of the size in plan: not to be confused with half-pace landing.

Half-Pace Landing – On going right across the stairway to receive two reverse flights.

Half-Space of winders – Triangular steps that occupy the same dimensions in plan as a half-pace landing.

Half Turn Stairs – Those forming a half circle in plan or those with advancing and reversed flights starting and finishing at a common landing.

Hand – The direction a stair takes when at the first riser. Hand is determined by applying the hand to the handrail when ascending the stairs, i.e. if the stair curves to the right when the right hand is used the flight is called a right hand stair.

Handrail – A moulded rail following the pitch or rake of the staircase, and forming the top or connecting piece of the balustrade which protects the outside of the stair.

Hanging Stairs – Stairs in which the step is not visibly supported at the well end, but are built-in or otherwise supported at the inner, or wall end; chiefly constructed in stone, marble, or concrete.

Headroom – The vertical distance from the lowest point of the ceiling or soffit directly above the stair to the nose of the stair Most code require 6′ -8″, (80 in), (2.03 m), (203 cm)

Helical stair – A correct,but not the usual, name for a spiral stair.

Hollow Newel – A term sometimes used by non-technical writers for an independent circular stair in contradistinction to a solid circular newel stair. There is, of course, no actual newel, but a circular well in these stairs.

Horse – Another term for the stringer or supporting member of the staircase.

Housed stringer – The profile of the treads, nosing and risers is routed into a finished stringer.


Independent Stair – One rising from floor to floor without intermediate support from walls or staircase. Term is usually applied to circular geometrical stairs.

Inclined Planes – In primitive times these formed in rammed earth, then later with slabs of stone, were used to reach considerable heights, before the advent of steps constructed similarly in the sides of cliffs, etc, which were followed by portable ledged planes, from whence stairs were evolved.


Jack – another term for stringer or supporting member of the staircase; …cut jack.


Kite Winders – A triangular step in the angle between transverse wall strings.

Kneed Baluster – A metal bluster which is bent, or cranked, at right angles to the face of the string, then turned down behind the latter, where it is hidden by the tread.


Landing – A resting place or wide step at the middle or top of a flight of stairs. Landings are often used to change the direction of a stair


Margin – reveal; the distance between the nosing and the top of a closed stringer

Mopstick Handrail – a handrail that is circular except for a small flat surface underneath.

Mitred Risers – The vertical risers are mitred to the vertical notched portion of the stair stringer


Newel Stairs – Those in which the strings and handrails are framed, or connected to substantial posts called “newels” at each end of the flights. There are two types, “open” newel and “close” newel; the latter are known as the dogleg stairs. The derivation of the term newel is from a “nave,” the hub or centre from which the spokes of a wheel radiate; so the steps radiate from the newel in these stairs.

TYPES OF NEWEL STAIRS may be classified and defined as follows:

Newels or newel post – A solid rectangular, or circular section of vertical post at the centre and at regular turns andjunctions of a rail system. The newels provide the main support for the rail system. There is a starting newelat the base of the stairs and a landing newel at the turns or top of the stair. Other newels are described as: centre turned newel. Box newel. Pin top newel.

Nosing – The front edge of the tread which projects beyond the face of the riser. It is usually rounded, chamfered or sometimes shaped.

Nosing Piece – A narrow strip with one edge moulded similar to the step nosing, the other edge bevelled and fixed on a trimmer at a landing or other opening to cover the cross grain of the transverse floor.


To Offer Up, or Offered-Up – A preliminary trial of the complete stair to ascertain whether it fits the position correctly.

Open Newel Stair – See under newel stair.

Open risers – A staircase designed with only the horizontal surfaces of the treads fixed to the stair stringers. Vertical surfaces between treads are open.

Open stair – a stair that is open on one or both sides

Open stringer – A stringer that is cut out for the treads and risers such that their profile can be seen from the side

Opening cap – A fittingor portion of the rail system which begins with a round cap and is connected to the handrail

Open well stair – a stair with two or more flights around an open space


Pedestal Stairs – Those in which the outer string is framed into a dwarf square pillar at the start, and the handrail usually of a heavy description, is mitred around the pillar in from 2 or 4 breaks, moulded in the solid, but is sometimes enriched with floral carving.

Pin top baluster – A baluster having dowel type top rather than a square.

Pitch – The inclination or rake of a stair with or to a horizontal plane.

Pitching Plane – A rough timber under the head of a flight or junction with winders into which the carriages are fixed.

Plinth – A skirting or flat moulded piece at the base of a newel, column, pedestal, or wall.

Posts – Another name for a newel. Asolid rectangular or circularsection of vertical post at the centre and atregular turns and junctions of a rail system. The newelsor posts provide the main support for the railsystem. There is a starting postat the base of the stairs and a landing post at the turns or top of the stair. Other postsare described as: Centre turned post. Box post. Pin top post.


Quarter Landing – is a square or nearly so, landing at the junction of two flights.

Quarter-Space Landing – One reaching half across the stairway.

Quarter-Space of Winders – Two to four triangular steps in a stair, forming in plan a right angle turn, in a flight or at the junction of two flights. The term is also applied when the turn is slightly more, or less, than a right angle.

Quarter Turn Fitting – That part of a level rail that allows a 90 degree change of direction. The fitting may have a roundcap to accommodate the end of a newel.

Quarter Turn Stairs – A stair at two flights at right angles to each other.


Radial Step – A winder whose nosing edge radiates from a point outside string.

Rail system – The balustrade. Used to describe a complete rail system consisting of the handrail, newels, fittings andbalusters.

Rake – The angle or inclination of the stair as it climbs from one floor to the next.

Raking Balusters – Those of which the ends of the head and foot blocks are made to follow the inclination of the stair, instead of being horizontal, as in the more usual practice. Also the term is applied to metal balusters that are arranged other than vertical.

Raking Balustrades – are those in which either the main constructional lines or general features of the panelling follow the rake or inclination of the stair.

Raking Risers – A method of increasing the foot space of winders at the newel.

Ramp – A vertical curved easing in a handrail; an incline plane for passage of traffic

Respond Newel – A pilaster or half newel in a staircase dado corresponding with the newel opposite.

Return Flight – One crossing the direction of the main flight, usually at right angles.

Return Flight – One in which the user travels in opposite direction to that taken in the preceding flight.

Reveal – The amount of space between the top of a tread to the stop of a stringer or in front of the first riser.

Rise – The vertical distancebetween the upper surfaces of two consecutive treads.

Risers – The vertical face of a step.

Rough Brackets – Pieces of unwrought fir nailed to the sides of the carriages to support the middle of the tread and to prevent creaking due to shrinkage.

Rough String – The term rough signifies that the string board in question is not wrought or planed and presumes that it is hidden. The term is sometimes used instead of carriage rough. Rough strings are sometimes used where considerable strength is required in a stair of the open string class, where the visible string is weakened by cutting, also where expensive woods are used for the outer string, which in some cases are brittle, therefore not to be relied upon to carry the load.


Safety Rail – An additional handrail to a stair, lower than the ordinary rail, to accommodate children; generally confined to geometrical stairs, or when in public buildings placed above the ordinary rail.

Scroll Step – A common misnomer for curtail step, because no steps are scrolled.

Shoe rail – A plowed rail that is used under square end balusters when they do not sit directly on the treads.

Skrim or Scrim – Thin, or coarse mesh canvas, used for lining walls, backs of dados, wainscoting, etc. In stairbuilding, specially, for the purpose of strengthening backs of wreathed strings and other build-up circular parts.

Soffit – The visible sloping under-surface between the stair stringers.

Spandrel – is the more or less triangular space between the lower edge of a stair string and the floor surface below the stair, which is enclosed usually by a panelled or plain framing.

Spandrel Framing – A triangular panelled framework closing the space between a stair and the floors beneath.

Spandrel Lining – A matches boarded partition under a common dogleg stairs.

Spandrel Step – A solid step of wood or stone, triangular in section.

Spindles – The balusters or turned, carved or otherwise vertical sections placed between the handrail and the stairtread or stair stringer

Spiral Staircase – Stairs, which rise regularly around a cylinder, real or imaginary. Sometimes called helical.

Square Step – One rectangular in cross-section, without a nosing; alternatives, solid steps, block steps.

Square Top Baluster – Balusters with square tops rather than the more commonly used pin tops. Require plowed rail andfillets.

Starting Tread (Step) – The first tread and riserat the bottom of the stair.

Staircase – The framed panelling to the walls of the apartment, in which a stair is placed. In modern work this usually takes the form of a sunk panelled and moulded dwarf wainscot following the lines of the stair string. Frequently termed a dado framing.

Stairs – are a combination of steps, framed into strings and newels, which support the balustrade and handrails.

Stairway – a staircase, or a stairwell

Stairwell – The framedopening in the floor that incorporates the stairs. The long dimension affects the amount of available headroom.

Step – One unit of a stair, consisting of a riser and a tread. A stair is a series of steps.The step is the unit of a gradient. A stair is a series of steps. Steps are of two types, solid and built-up, or boxed; the former is chiefly confined to stone and brick stairs and consists of rectangular or triangular blocks of material built into the staircase at one end, and either resting on a parallel all at the other, or, in unsupported at the outer end but resting in a check or rebate in the surface of the step beneath. The steps, triangular in section, are termed spandrels, in masonry. Boxed, built-up or hollow steps consist of a substantial “tread,” the horizontal surface, and a thinner vertical “riser,” which are glued and screwed together.

Stepped Balusters – are those in which the plinths, or squares below the moulded portion, are kept of uniform height above the steps, resulting in a differing length to each pair in the moulded part.

Stepped String – One notched out on its upper edge to the profile of the steps.

Steppings – The rectangular notchings in a cut string, forming the seats for the treads and mitre angles for the risers.

Story Rod – A square staff on which is set out the number and height of the steps in a stair.

Stringer – (Carriages, Cut Jacks) the inclined boards or laminations in which the treads and risers are enclosed.

String of a Stair – is the inclined board at the ends of the steps in a flight, into which the steps are fixed in various ways.

Stringless Stair – Wood stairs constructed without strings

Square Cut – A system of handrailing in which the joints are all square to the surface of the plank.


Tandem cap – A connecting fitting usually outfitted with a circular cap to which horizontal end piece rails can be attached.

Toads Back – A flatly curved moulding to a handrail. Often called a frogs back.

Toe rail – A horizontal component of a rail system, parallel to the handrail. Balusters are placed on this component.

Another name for a newel – Veneers and the like, also their “grounds” or backings, scored, or scratched on the surfaces intended to be glued (either by means of a special toothing plane or by rubbing with the teeth of a hand saw) for the purpose of providing a key for the glue, to increase its adherence.

Tower Step – One at the foot of a flight, approaching a complete circle in plan and projecting, like a turret, or tower, from the angle corner of a building.

Treads – The horizontal part of a staircase upon which the foot is placed.

Turn out – A fitting used to start a rail system. Part of the handrail which is curved in plan and elevation views.

Tush Nailed – A workshop term for so driving two nails at opposite angles, that they act as dovetails and increase the holding power of the nails.

Twin Newels – A newel or pair of newels wrought out of a solid block with turned balusters supporting a return horizontal handrail at the foot of a semi-grand stair.


Under Newel – A newel post which fits under a rail without protruding above it.


Veneer – A thin slicedwood used to covertread ends and stair stringers.

Vice or Vise Stair – A French term for a twisted or spiral stair.

Volutes – Or Wreath – part of the handrail which is curved in plan and elevation views. Volutes are used to start railsystem.

Volute Newel – a newel post which arises from the curtail step to the under side of a volute or wreath.


Wash – A slight sloping of treads to throw of rainwater.

Wall Rail – Used where a stair runs alongside a wall and is attached to the wall with rail brackets.

Walk Line – An arbitrary line but generally 12″ from the inside radius of a curved stair.

Weathered Steps – Those with treads slightly inclined towards the front edge for the purpose of discharging rain water quickly. Only used for the outside steps and stairs.

Wedges – Ramp type pieces of wood used in the construction of closed staircases to help secure treads and risers.

Well or Well-Hole – The enclosure or space between the opposite strings of the stair. The latter term is usually confined to the aperture provided between the upper floor timbers for the passage of the stair to the floor below.

Wheeling Stairs – An obsolete name for spiral or winding stairs.

Winders – Treads that are narrower at one end than the other. Used to turn corners or go around curves. The treads of these are wider at one end than the other, to accommodate the difference in radii of the inside and outside strings. In circular stairs all the steps are winders.

Winding stair – A spiral star; a circular or elliptical geometrical stair.

Wreath – Part of a handrail or of a string which is curved both in plan and elevation. To distinguish between the two; the first is called a handrail wreath and the second a wreathed string. The term wreathed or writhed signifying twisted, concave curves in strings and handrails which are not regular or geometrical curves, but are graduated to satisfy the eye.