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Advice needed on finishing handrails / newel posts

Hello, we have a farmhouse Victorian from the 1890s. We recently replaced all of the stair treads and will be doing the same for the spindles. We are preserving the newel posts and handrails, however, and have stripped them as best as possible. They were obviously stripped previously, since we found tiny reminders of an aqua lead paint in some of the crevices or dents. We are looking for a product to give that dark stained wood look (the spindles will be white) but are stumped as to how to go about it. Staining the wood isn't really an option, because despite our best efforts, in some of the cracks there are remnants of paint that need coverage. I also need to fill in some of the small dents the handrails have received over the years and that would be noticable, I think, with a stain. But I don't think paint would hold up or have that dark brown, shiny coat finish we are after. I don't know the wood type, exactly, and think the handrails may be different from the newel posts. Any helpful advice or tips would be extremely appreciated!

Re: Advice needed on finishing handrails / newel posts

The way I see it, you have 2 options.
1. Stain and appreciate it's "characteristics"
2. Paint

If you stain, you use the wood as is or take the time to get all of the little pieces of paint off using chemical strippers to help out. For dent in the wood, there is a trick of using a hot wet towel over the are which can cause the wood to swell back to its original form.

If you paint, you can use some good prep with wood filler to get a perfectly smooth hand rail. A high gloss paint will give you the extra shiny finish you are looking for. If you still want it to look like wood, you can try faux painting methods or hire someone that can paint it with grain and make it looks like wood. The results can be astonishing.

From a personal point of view, if I wanted a lighter wood appearance on the handrail, I would take the time to prep and stain. If I wanted the dark appearance I would probably paint unless the wood was mahogany or some rare species.

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