Safe and beautiful, your wood porch railing can give your home the perfect look as long as you keep it sanded, painted, and well maintained. It is always a better idea to maintain your wood railings than to find that you have to replace it from excessive wear and tear.
Step 1 - Prepare the Surface
Put on your safety gear and inspect the surface of your wood porch railing. Every part of it can be touched by somebody and it is important to keep the surface smooth. If you do encounter a rough patch on your railing you can use the sandpaper to smooth down small splinter areas or the wood plane to remove the larger problems. Be aware that your wood plane will take more wood away than you wish if you are not careful with how you use it. If the damage is extensive you may wish to replace that piece of wood in your railing as opposed to planing or sanding it down.
Step 2 - Smooth All Surfaces
After you have found all the major flaws in the surface of your wood railing, use fine-grit sandpaper over the complete surface of the wood railing. Make sure you are wearing your safety gear because you could still encounter a splinter, get particles in your eyes, or breathe in paint or wood dust. As you run the sandpaper across the surface use your free hand to "feel" for splinters. Any rough patches will catch your glove and indicate a little extra attention is needed.
Step 3 - Prepare and Paint
After you are confident that all your surfaces are safe and free of rough splinter patches, rinse the entire wood rail with the garden hose to remove any paint and wood dust. Let the water completely dry from the wood. If you have any raw wood that you replaced from damaged rails, use a paint primer to help keep the wood from absorbing the paint into the wood and assist with a more even treatment. If you are going to stain the wood this is not necessary. Use a terry cloth and run it once more over the wood surface. If there are any snags the terry cloth will catch and you can smooth those places down with fine-grit sandpaper. Cover the entire surface of the railing with your desired finish. If you choose stain, follow the instructions on the container. Apply the stain, wait the allotted time, wipe off the excess stain, and finish with a waterproof clear sealant. If painting, apply the paint evenly. You will more than likely have to apply more than one coat of paint to fully cover and improve the appearance of the finished porch railing. When you are done painting put up a wet paint sign to ensure that others do not accidentally touch your paint and ruin their clothes or your hard work.