diy newel postTraditional & Victorian Styles

This is a decorative newel post.  That’s what I call this one because it doesn’t support a stair rail.

It’ there just to look pretty.

You can make your own decorative newel post this weekend.  Because this page shows you step by step how I built this one.

This newel post is mostly Victorian style.  The finial at the top and the base plinth height inclines it that way.

Posts in this Series

1.  How to Build NEWEL POST-100 for About $60.46 Part 1

2.  How to Build NEWEL POST-100 Part 2

3.  Before & After: Newel Post on a Half Wall


But the rest of the moldings on this upstairs landing, though found in Victorian homes, are also very traditional.  They swing both ways, so to speak.

how to build a newel post on half wall

Rectangular rosettes in the capital with a finial on top.  Neither has their final coats of paint.

The original idea was to just make a nicer cap for the half wall (pony wall) than what the builder installed, because what the builder installed looked like it was made with wood from an old cargo pallet.

  • Then I though why not install some nicer baseboards too?
  • Then I thought why not make a newel post out of the mdf board scraps left over from the baseboard?
  • Then I thought why now put some ornate appliques in the capital to dress it up some?
  • Then I thought why not put a Victorian finial on top?

Scope creep.  No one is immune.  Especially when the materials cost so little.  Read (Jennifer’s fun article about scope creep here.)

newel post diy walf pony wall

Why have a plain old half wall when it’s so easy to dress it up with moldings!

The large baseboards I installed on the stairs are the same pattern I installed in the rest of the house.  All I did was lay them on top of the original stair stringer.

how to make newel post

These new moldings have been sanded, primed and caulked and are now ready for paint.

This view shows all the moldings I installed on the upstairs landing.  The door trim is a combination of door casing and backband.

newel post at top of stairs

The moldings were eventually painted Benjamin Moore’s, White Dove #OC-17, and the walls were all painted Benjamin Moore’s Muslin #OC-12.

how to install easy large mdf moldings

We tore out the insipid “starter trim” that came with the home and installed some real moldings.

Materials Needed to Build this Newel Post

Special Order Woodworking Ornament

You can see all the details for the small flower ornament that fits in the capital here.

Pre-Cut MDF Board from Home Depot

I built this newel out of scraps from the rest of this project.  But if you don’t have a bunch of mdf scraps lying around, then you can go to Home Depot and buy some 2′ X 4′ pre-cut mdf boards to make your newel post with.  (This is not a paid endorsement for HD, because we don’t write paid endorsements on The Joy of Moldings.)

These mdf boards are usually somewhere between the lumber isles and the molding aisle, and are usually in a slotted shelf.  I’ll try to remember to take a picture next time I’m there.

It’s a little more expensive to buy these smaller, pre-cut boards, but they sure are convenient.  So I’ll price this project based on what those pre-cut mdf boards cost at my local Home Depot as of July 2012.

[You can find more detail about these materials on our DIY Projects & Inventory page.]

MDF-300 3/4″ thick 2′ X 4′

$10.87 ea. (1 ea.) = $10.87

More about MDF-300 here >>

MDF Board 1/4″ thick 2′ X 4′

$5.67 ea. (1 ea.) = $5.67

More about MDF-100 here >>

Edge Molding for the Half Wall Cap’s Edge

Panel moldings like this one running along the edge of the half wall cap can be purchased for about $0.60 per foot.  This one had some nice detail on it, but don’t worry if you can’t find one just like it.

Because the point of this molding is to cover the flat edge of the 3/4″ thick flat stock.  A small cove molding like CM-003 would work equally as well.

small panel molding

$4.80/8′ stick (1 ea.) = $4.80


This is a large cove molding that’s available most any place that sells moldings.  This image shows it installed on WAINSCOTING-100.

More about CM-006 here >>

cove molding for craftsman style moldings

$11.00/8′ stick (1 ea.) = $11.00


This is the same small ogee crown molding we used for our kitchen baseboard.

More about CM-005 here >>

crown molding small pine material lowes

$11.96/8′ stick (1 ea.) = $11.96


This is a classic bed molding profile.

More about CM-001 here >>

molding & millwork

$11.60/8′ stick (1 ea.) = $11.60


Another cove molding, but this one is smaller than CM-006.

More about PM-003 here >>

how to install moldings

$4.16/8′ stick (1 ea.) = $4.16


How to Build the Newel Post Core

The foundation of most of my molding designs is a mdf core.  This one is made from the 3/4″ mdf flat-stock, but you could use 1/2″ thick mdf too, I think that would work just as well.

I don’t have my usual number of step by step photos for this sequence, but there’s enough here to get you started on the right track.  I think the hardest thing for you to overcome is realizing how easy these things are to build, once you get the basic concept figured: mdf core wrapped in moldings.

Think From the Inside Out

This was one of my all-to-familiar improvisational projects where I was figuring out dimensions as I went.  And since each project has its own unique limitations, then you’ll probably have to do the same thing.

So start with your core.  I built this one in a “U” shape so I could slide it over the end of the half wall.  Once the core is in place then you can wrap the rest of the moldings around it.

how to build a diy newel post

diy newel post

Wrap the Core With 1/4″ MDF

Wrapping your core in the thinner mdf flat-stock is really pretty easy.  Mine is kind of pieced together because I kept rethinking things as I was building it.

The open panels at the bottom of my core ended up getting covered with the plinth.  You’ll see what I mean in Part 2.

diy newel post

Everything gets glued.  Every single contact surface.

The 45 degree miters that make up the core of the box get glue on both contact surfaces.  All of the 1/4″ thick mdf also gets glued to the face of the core.  I used my 23 gauge micro pinner to hold everything in place.

Victorian newel post


Posts in this Series

1.  How to Build NEWEL POST-100 for About $60.46 Part 1

2.  How to Build NEWEL POST-100 Part 2

3.  Before & After: Newel Post on a Half Wall