Around our house we call them spindles, actually. But they are properly balusters. The OED gives us for baluster:
3. (Usually in pl.) The upright posts or rails which support the handrail, and guard the side, of a staircase; often applied to the whole structure of uprights and handrail. Now more usually BANISTER(S, q.v.
and for banister says
Usually in pl.: Slender upright posts or rails, esp. those guarding the side of a staircase, and supporting the handrail; often applied to the whole structure of uprights and handrail.
I love having access to the OED, by the way. Take my advice: get yourself an Arlington VA library card.
I always thought that banister meant the railing itself, was just a synonym therefor. But apparently banister means either the whole structure, or just the thingies that hold up the railing, also called baluster, which can also mean the whole thing.
I’ve been thinking of metonymy and synecdoche lately, for other reasons, but let’s leave that for another day.
The whole point is, whatever the things are called, today I’ve been making them. Remember that I had bought rough-cut 6/4 eastern white pine from the lumber yard. And then I had dressed the wood with belt and random orbit sanders. Well, today I finally cut the planks into them things what hold up the railing on the stairs.
Actually, they don’t really hold up the railing. Railings are anchored quite firmly on their own. Balusters are there, required by code even, four inches on center, as a safety barrier, to keep small children from toppling down into oblivion from under the railings.
Dawn’s been staining and varnishing the newel posts, so I can’t attach the railings to same until the varnish dries. I’ve got the Kreg Rocket that I’m going to try to use to attach the railings, with 2 1/2″ coarse thread pocket screws. But, meantime, today I cut the balusters.
It’s my first major use of the new saw, too. Oh, sure, I used it to crosscut the railings, with miter and bevel. But here I just set the fence to the thickness of the boards and rip away. I’ve attached the shop vac as dust collection, plugging the saw and vac both into the same power strip, and using the reset button on the power strip as the power button, so I’m able to turn on and off the saw and the shop vac at the same time.
The power strip reset button trips a couple times, when the saw starts to bog down during a cut. The first time it happens I think I’ve tripped a circuit breaker, and I go trudging inside the house to reset it. But none of the breakers is tripped, and I finally figure out that it’s just the power strip itself. It’s much handier though resetting the power strip each time, rather than trekking into the house.
Is fun, ripping the balusters. And the shop vac collects a huge amount of sawdust. Much better than the grass-killing piles of dust that I used to leave on the lawn with the Delta saw. I get nineteen and two-thirds balusters from the planks. Good thing, since I need nineteen.