Wrought iron spindles, also known as balusters, support railings along stairs, balconies, and patios. Using spindles and balusters provides both security and aesthetically appealing accents. Typically, balusters connect the upper hand railing to either a lower railing or the floor. Enclosing the edge of a balcony or stairwell behind spindles of wrought iron prevents a person from slipping and falling over the edge. Attaching a handrail to the tops of the spindles provides stability for especially steep stairwells or high balconies.
Builders typically use wrought iron spindles between an upper hand rail and a lower foot rail. Depending on specific materials used, spindles attach to railings in a variety of ways. For example, old wrought iron railings are often crafted completely from metal, with spindles and railings forged independently, then welded together. Newer designs feature wrought iron spindles or balusters anchored to adjoining pieces with concrete, screws, rivets, or other fasteners.
Railings along stairwell edges and around balconies or other open above-ground areas require less building materials than a solid wall, while still providing the required safety. Such building features illustrate how functional design elements provide aesthetic appeal, often at a reduced cost than other building options. In fact, the use of iron balusters and other wrought iron accents most likely stemmed from the ability of local blacksmiths to forge such materials easier, faster, and more economically than laboring to quarry stone or fell timbers.
Historically, stair and balcony railings made from wrought iron featured both spindles and railings fashioned from the same material. In modern times, however, metal accents combine with stone, wood, and other building materials to provide contrast, added structural integrity, reduced costs, and other benefits. In many designs, the use of iron balusters connected to wooden hand rails creates an attractive contrast between the two materials. Mixing wood with metal accents such as wrought iron spindles also allows each material to compliment the other in terms of stability and durability.
The use of wrought iron spindles in private and public buildings is a practice that can be traced back hundreds of years, through numerous cultures around the globe. From post-modern high rise apartments in Paris, to centuries-old country estates in Tuscany, to 20th century suburban homes in Detroit, the use of wrought iron railings, balusters, and other metal accents appears in buildings and residences old and new. Depending on current popular decorating trends, these railings and iron balusters accentuate stone, wood, brick, and other building materials with universal appeal.