Wednesday morning, my banister was removed. It was not a pretty process. My handyman, John, and I sat and stared for a bit at the giant oak banisters, and the four-inch-thick spindles that were built right into the staircase. After a few moments that seemed like a lifetime, we shrugged, wished ourselves luck, and got to work.
The first task was the easiest. Coming from a house that was 120-some years old, I was not naive enough to think that everything in this 30-year old home was built symmetric, even measured, or perfect. We labeled each of the 18 spindles.
** spindle-labeling at its finest **
Then, it was time to try and remove the oak banister that ran the length of this part of the staircase- 8′ of solid, well cared for oak that could not be broken apart due to the angles and curves of the craftsmanship. It was going to be tricky.
We used a saws-all to cut through the nails holding one end of the banister to the wall. There was a struggle, sans camera, that developed when we tried to move down the steps to the lowest of the three oak spindles. Not only had each of the three oak pieces been glued and dowel-ed into the banister, but they had been nailed in as well! Shims were used, splintered, used again. A heavy hammer was traded for a small sledge hammer. The dogs took cover.
Slowly, we worked the banister a little bit looser and a little bit higher by the minute, and one by one, the white-painted spindles began popping out of their home in the banister, and it only took a little bit of tugging (by me) to free them and the nails holding them in place from the stair case.
After an hour or so, I was banister free.
** home sweet home **
Poor John the Handyman. This was not an easy job, and he was pouring sweat (as was I) by the time we finished. A post-removal conversation went like this:
Me: You want something to drink?
JTH: Whaddaya got?
Me, looking in the fridge: Water, Diet Sierra Mist, Coke Zero…
Me: Milk? Chocolate milk? We have syrup. Orange juice?
Me: Beer? We have High Life.
JTH: That’ll work.
Our morning ended with both of us sitting on my banister-free steps, him nursing the champagne of beers, wondering how hard it would be to rebuild the staircase we just destroyed, and myself wondering how in the hell I would convince anyone to lift the damn mirror up onto the landing…