Cheap cable rail system revisited

philodogDecember 4, 2010

I posted a while back looking for cheaper alternatives to stainless cable rail systems after getting prices of $6600 for the complete system installed, including posts, or $1200 for just the cables and stainless tensioners for 90 feet of rail. No alternative ideas were suggested so here is what I came up with. Galvanized 1/8" cable was swaged onto galvanized eyebolts that were used as tensioners. A swaged stop was used at the other end of the run with excess wire cutoff with a grinder. Eleven cables, 3" apart, were run through 1 1/2" square steel posts that I had galvanized. The posts were 3/16" thick at the ends where all the tension was and 1/8" for the intermediate posts. The posts were thru bolted thru the 6x8 beams underneath with 1/2" bolts.

Everything was tensioned up tight and passed the building inspector`s tests with flying colors. It`s not as clean as a prefab stainless system but I kind of like the more industrial look.

Total costs;

1000' of cable at .08/ft = $80

33 eyebolts@ .90/ea = $30

Swaging tool = $27 at Lowes

Swages = $5 for hundreds

Cable total = $142

Posts = $200

Galvanizing = $200

Bolts and misc hardware = $100

Posts total = $500

Total cost = $642

Satisfaction for doing it myself and saving 90% = priceless

In the pictures it shows bolt ends sticking out that will be cut flush eventually. The top rail is 2x4 studs that will be replaced with 2x4 ipe when I find a cheap supply on Craigslist. The bottom of the ipe will be routed so that the top flange of the posts will be invisible.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cable rail pics

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Nice job on the rails. One thing you did not mention, how long did it take to complete the rails?

Let us know when you find a cheap supply of ipe on craigslist.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 8:29AM
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I`m not fast, just did bit by bit on a retired person`s schedule. Cutting the 21 posts on the chopsaw and measuring and drilling the 273 holes in the posts on the drill press was the most time consuming. I never welded before so welding the flanges on top was a learning experience but rewarding once I got the hang of it. Making and running the cables was pretty quick, half a day or so. I used a cutoff wheel on the hand grinder to cut the cables. It gave a very smooth cut which made feeding the cables thru the holes easy. If I had to do it over, knowing what I know now, it would probably take three or four days.
I`m looking for used stuff on Craigslist that I can clean up. I`ve seen great bargains but you gotta be quick.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 1:34PM
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Good Job Phil.

Depending on where you are I have a stack of 1/6 ipe just waiting for you.

John Hyatt

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 1:50PM
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Good job Phil! Not bad for a first time cable swager.

I didn't mean to discourage you when you first asked about making your own cable system. I just wanted you to know how laborious it can be.

The rough industrial look works for your location, it seems like you live in a remote mountanious area.

If I could make one correction though, you saved 50% in material cost by switching from stainless steel to galvanized. $600 vs $1,200. The rest of the savings is in labor.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 11:14AM
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Very good Phil. Where are you located? I have some 2x4 ipe available at a very good price.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2010 at 1:42AM
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Dooer, I live in the Columbia River Gorge. email me at Thanks

Aidan, the cost of the galvanized cable system was $142 versus $1200 for the stainless system. The $1200 didn`t include the posts.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2010 at 12:41AM
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Pics of the final railing. I found a pallet of damaged Massaranduba railing at a bargain price. I was able to work around the damaged parts so that none are visible. It has nice rounded edges and an inset on the bottom to hide the mounting flanges.

Here is a link that might be useful: Railing pics

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 11:49AM
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Nice work!
Can you tell me where you purchased the posts you used? And any other vendors you'd recommend for the parts? Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 5:51PM
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Phil, that is really some nice work. If your still out there.

Just shows what a Man can do with skills and hard work.

Its good to see Ya dig in, figure out how to do it, make yourself a few bucks, and have that good feeling when you go on out there and have a beer.

You Done Good Ol Son. JonMon

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 7:00PM
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Hi Phil
Can you tell me where you bought your posts? And for that matter any other useful vendors you found? Love the railing!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 4:29PM
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I also am interested in where you purchased your posts, and also I was wondering what distance the posts were centered. I was thinking the wood cap rail might start sagging dependent on what distance you have on center for the posts.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:13PM
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Sorry, I emailed the last guy asking about suppliers directly. Should have put it in a post.The posts should be easily available at metal supply places. The hard part might be finding a place that can galvanize them if you`re not near an industrial area. A Google search would show any nearby. I can`t remember exactly where I bought the cable, hardware and swages but it was all from online vendors. It pays to search thoroughly since prices and shipping vary widely. I know I bought from several vendors. I'm such a cheapskate I`ll spend an hour searching to save a buck! The cable was from but their hardware prices stunk. As for the distance between posts the max I have is 64" and that is no problem. I have 1" Massaranduba cap rail, a plastic product or softer wood might not be so stiff. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 10:11PM
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Dumb question, perhaps.... but how did you get the tension on the cables?
We are looking to do the same sort of DIY system on our deck. It looks great!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 11:26AM
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"how did you get the tension on the cables? "

The nut on the eyebolt threads through the post.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:15AM
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This is so excellent. I'm glad the post got bumped up.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 10:09PM
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