Build a Gingerbread Balustrade
Photo: Anthony Tieuli


There are few things as inviting as a front porch detailed with fancy millwork. But there's no need to break out the wood lathe to make one: You can fashion your own flatsawn balusters with a jigsaw and a router. The style is a period-perfect choice for Victorian-era houses, yet it allows for a range of designs. That made it a natural fit for the This Old House TV project house in Arlington, Massachusetts, where project architect David Whitney came up with this custom pattern for the porch of the 1872 Italianate house.

Follow along as TOH general contractor Tom Silva and master carpenter Norm Abram demonstrate how they used the pattern and a homemade jig to construct this ornate balustrade. Sure, they make it look easy—but they also give you everything you need to know to craft your own custom railing.

Download the cut list to Build a Gingerbread Balustrade here.

Shown: Balusters: pine ½x5, $34 for a 16-foot board. Handrail: chamfered Douglas fir 2x4, about $2.50 per linear foot. Bottom rail: Douglas fir 2x4, about $1.85 per linear foot;
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    Tools List

    • jigsaw
    • drill
      drill/driver and bits
    • 1/8-inch bit with combination countersink
      combination countersink bit
    • hole saw
      2-inch hole saw
    • miter saw
      miter saw
    • router
    • router bits
      -by-2-inch straight router bit with -inch collar
    • random orbit sander
      palm sander and 180-grit sanding pads
    • 2½-inch angled sash brush

    Shopping List

    ½-inch plywood Get one 2-by-4-foot sheet for the template.

    ¾-inch plywood Get one 2-by-4-foot sheet for the jig base.

    ½x5 pine Get six 16-footers for the balusters.

    2x4 primed straight-grain Douglas fir bottom rail Get two 8-footers.

    2x4 primed and chamfered Douglas fir handrail Get two 8-footers.

    1x2 primed pine Get four 8-footers for the nailing strips.

    wood glue

    2-inch wood screws

    1½-inch stainless-steel screws

    2½-inch stainless-steel screws

    exterior latex primer

    exterior latex paint

    5/16-inch spacers