How to remove your staircase's spindles

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Closed String


Removing spindles is a little more time consuming than removing rails in a ranch style staircase.


  Diagram showing the spindles, string, infill strips and baserail   

A typical balustrade construction

A baserail is usually slotted along its length, top and bottom, and fixed on to the top of the string.

The upper slot of the baserail will be the same width as the spindles.

The spindles are mounted in the slots and spaced apart using Infill strips the same width as the slot.

  Diagram detailing the baserail and string  

You can see here how the base rail fits onto the string, and how the spindles fit into the baserail.

The underside of the handrail is also slotted to accept the spindle.

  removing infill strip from between spindles using a chisel and hammer  

Using a sharp chisel, remove an infill strip below one of the spindles from the baserail. In the same way, remove an infill strip from the handrail just above the same spindle.


Note that the infill strips may have been pinned, glued or both, so take care not to damage your chisel on the nails. If you look carefully, you may see where the nail was driven in.

  Detail section of baserail showing infill strip removed   The spindle, too, may have been nailed to the baserail and handrail - this will be evident once the infills have been removed.

Using a block of wood (because of limited space between spindles) and a hammer, tap the base of the spindle to free it from the baserail. Do the same for the top of the spindle, tapping it from below.

Remove the other spindles in the same way. With the end of the fillets now exposed they can be removed by simply prising them upwards.

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Section showing spindle with mortice and tennon fitting


Jointed Spindles

Where spindles fit straight onto a string, the spindles may be fixed by a mortise and tenon joint or possibly jointed with dowels.
In some instances, they may be glued and/or pinned straight into the string.
Removal of the jointed spindles is simply a case of cutting right at the base of the spindle with a handsaw resting on the top of the string. This will leave the remaining joint flush with the top of the string.
The saw will mark the top of the string but is not an issue when fitting a baserail.

  Sawing through spindles  

Nailed Spindles

To remove spindles that are pinned or nailed to the string, remove a section approximately 30cm above the string and 30cm below the handrail using a handsaw. 

  Removing stub by hand by moving to and fro until free   Carefully remove the remaining stubs by levering them back and forth by hand until free, or ...  
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  Removing the stub with a claw hammer  

....prising them off with a claw hammer.


Remove the other spindles in the same way.

With the spindle removed, use a chisel to prise up the remaining fillets.