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29 June 2015

Hand/Toe Rails from 2x Stock

Flash forward to the finished rail.

And when I eat bananas,
I won't peel them with my feet,
'Cuz I will be a man-cub, too,
And learn some et-i-keet!
- King Louis, from Disney's Jungle Book

Hand/Toe Rails from 2x Stock

A tall, solid toerail is a fine thing on a plunging deck. when you like deck crown as high as we do, it's a positive must!

And, we figure, if we're building such a thing, why not shape it like a handrail?

Handrails give a place to get a good positive grip from anywhere along the sides. If we go swimming - intentionally or not, this is handy. If we stand on the guard for any reason (and there are many), it's handy. If we wish to tie a line anywhere along its length, it's handy. AND they drain water just fine.

They're just plain handy!

2x stock works just great. It's thick enough for good strength, and (carriage) bolt holes don't take too big a bite. It's a wide enough base for good stability without further ado. For reasons unclear to me, a couple of 2x4s have been cheaper than a single 2x8, which is why you'll see us working around the clamps.

We like to cut stock to 3in, with half grip/half hole. That's enough to fit mittened hands with a comfortable grip. Being a bit shorter than 2x4, it doesn't stress the bolts with as much leverage, and we've felt 1/4in galvanized (hot dip) has been plenty. They could easily take up to 1/2in, however, if you prefer beefier.

We prefer to mount ours perpendicular to the deck, so our offcut is square edged... makes a good early cut from CVG for use as batten stock. Later it can be recycled as shelf railing, lattice stock and the like.

NOTE: We splurge on CVG with good grain since it may have to bear a heavy load, and is our 'window dressing trim'. We usually leave it unfinished, letting the red cedar silver out. But any solid lumber would do.

We like 6in minimum ends and give them two or more bolts. We use a 9in opening, which we think of as 'paired' with a 3in post for 12in/pair. Only consideration is that that last post is part of an end.

To figure layout, we use the following approach:

Let LENGTH be the total length of rail.
Let N be the number of open/post pairs (feet) 
    [Or total length of open/post pairs if using other numbers.]
Let P be the post width.


Start layout at one end.

For the rest, I'll let pictures do the talking.

Each rectangle borders two, mirrored openings.
We find the rectangle helps keep us oriented, since the holes space evenly...
Otherwise easy to lose track in the middle.

Here we've started holes from one side...
will flip to finish.

This 'armbuster' half inch drill lives up to its name...
We quickly learned to do most of the cutting with it,
but finish off with a more docile 3/8in drill.

Here we're beginning the plunge-cut/handsaw pass
connecting the half-hole at each end of an opening
(we see full holes since the pieces are mirrored).

Edges routed with round-over bit and hand sanded.
A bit of rasp-work, here and there, to clean up any rough bits.

Clamps off and done.


  1. Simple,functional,beautiful,and it works! I've followed your site a while now and really enjoy it. My sailing now is confined to a Minnesota like but when on the water it can be any where in the world..Thank you Jerry

  2. Thanks for this. It's just what I'm about to do for the Kairos, after the tabernacle install. Only difference I'd planned, was to use a 2x8, and then rip it lengthwise afterward to make the two. I like your way better. I will be having to sort through the 2x4x10's here, to find good, clear pieces.

  3. BTW, I'm curious what you'll say about the latest done on the Kairos over there on the FB Trilobuild page... A bit of a change to the basic Triloboat plan, admittedly, but I think workable, and for a permanent live-aboard with a small child (coming), necessary, I think. I'd like to know your views, though.

  4. When reading this, I had the idea to do the same for the guard boards, as they would be the right height to grab while in the water. What is the height that you install your guard boards, and is there any drawbacks to having the same style holes in them? Possible weed collectors, but would that counter the obvious usefulness of the hand holes?


About Me

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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, our T32x8 ketch. We sail by wind, tide and muscle in the waters of mid- to northern Southeast Alaska. We try to maximize the joys of life, and minimize the chores. ........ We live between the communities of SE Alaska, but drop in to visit with friends. Lately, we've worked, every other winter, care-taking Baranof Wilderness Lodge in Warmsprings Bay. This has given us a window on Web. ........ We're working toward a subsistence lifestyle, somewhat impeded by addictions to coffee, chocolate and cheese. ........ We think TEOTWAWKI is looming, and while we won't be ready, we'd at least like comfortable seats.