The Den of Slack

Upstairs porch trim

With work on the exterior towers (mostly) done, it seems safe to assemble the Victorianna’s second floor porch railing. I was putting it off to prevent knocking into it, plus the porch has made a great platform for holding tower pieces as I’ve been working on them…

There were some gaps between the porch floorboards and the crown molding trim that needed filling in. Normally I’d use wood filler for something like this, but I didn’t trust myself to paint over the wood filler neatly without getting dribbles of gray on the beige.

I was on the verge of doing it — against my better judgment — when I remembered the tub of gray mortar that I originally bought to grout the Victorianna’s bricks. (2+ years later, they’re still nowhere close to being ready for that!)

The mortar is darker than the porch gray, but it makes the gaps blend in, which is all I needed to do. Once the railing is glued in there will be too much going on to notice this (but if I’d left the gaps unfilled, I think you would have noticed them).

Since the porch has been a landing spot for construction debris for so long, before starting on the railing I cleaned it up with a damp paper towel and touched up the paint.

For the newel posts, I used 1/4″ square basswood with baseboard around the bottoms, like the ones on the first floor. Since these don’t support a roof they need some kind of cap and finial at the top. There aren’t many options for spindles, newel posts, etc. in half scale so I like cutting up 1:12 pieces and using the parts in half scale.

The Victorianna’s first floor staircase has a square newel post with a finial on the top that I cut off a 1:12 post. I’m not sure what style newel post I cut it off of and I can’t find any online right now (it might have been an old/discontinued package that I bought at a mini flea market). I had five of those posts left and that’s how many the porch needs, so it seemed like a good way to use them.

On the staircase newel post, I left a bit of the post exposed at the top and then added skinny trim, which I think was leftover window mullion pieces. For the porch, I initially cut off the finials a little lower intending to add the same skinny trim around the bottom of the cut off piece, to create that stair-step effect.

But when I tried that it looked really wonky. (No picture, sorry! Trust me, it wasn’t good.) I ended up cutting off the bottom part of the finials and using a thinner, slightly taller trim around the top of the post. I like the look of the staircase newel post better, but all five of these need to be the same and I didn’t trust myself to get the spacing right.

When I cut the posts, I did hold up the railing pieces to make sure they would be tall enough, but something got messed up — either because I changed my plan for how to do the finials or because I didn’t take the height of the red part into account. The whole assembly was a tad too tall to fit under the cap. Instead the railing bumped into the cap, leaving a gap where the railing pieces don’t meet up with the post.

To resolve this, I used the belt sander to shave down the tops of the spindle pieces (which are actually 1:12 spandrels) until the railings would just fit under the caps.

The next step was to glue in the posts. I wanted to do this before cutting the railing pieces to achieve an exact fit. I used the trim as a guide for where to glue the posts — an easy way to make sure the posts are all in the same plane.

When the glue was dry on those, I cut and then glued in the spindle and railing pieces. Because the spindles + railing exactly fit within the space between the baseboard and the cap, these were a little tricky to install. I ended up gluing in each railing piece first.

Then I put glue on the top of the spindle piece (as well as on the side points that touch the post), tucked the top part of the spindle piece into the railing, and gently pushed it into place.

Full disclosure: I’m making this seem easier than it was. I didn’t realize until after I took pictures that the center post was leaning backward, which looked fine head on and crooked if you viewed it from the left. I had to take everything apart (twice!) to fix it. At one point Geoff walked by to see what I was doing and I said, completely seriously, “Don’t bother me, I’m breaking something.”

I think I fixed it though! Good enough, anyway.

During this process, I also glued in the siding panels on the left tower. I haven’t touched up the seams with wood filler yet, so it looks sloppy compared to the finished siding on the right tower. It’s on the to-do list! (A list that somehow never seems to get any shorter…)


  1. Those darn to do lists never seem to end do they? Love how this looks though, all the breaking and redoing was well worth it for this result.

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