I was in a state of baluster frustration last week as I came across a couple of things that flustered me for some time until I realised that I wasn't losing my mind!
Railings can be quite complex and I see users struggle with them quite often. You can pretty much achieve any design you want, but it takes some serious muscle to master this tool and a lot of trial and error.
The railing tool is a System Family made up of a series of horizontal Rails and vertical Balusters. Rails are defined through Profile families - imagine them as beeing sweeps. You define a vertical height, a horizontal offset, a profile & a material and you're done. Balusters are a little more complex and we need to assign the main pattern and then define the posts by selecting a Baluster family and defining the spacing rules, offsets and materials. Balusters could be a simple round or square post or a complex panel, depending on your design.
To master this tool, you have to spend some time experimenting and trying out what each parameter does. The most challenging part is building a complex baluster panel family that flexes correctly with the angle of the stairs/ramp in your project. But here, I'll highlight just a few problematic baluster issues so you can steer around them and not get stumped.
In the Railing Type Properties dialog, the parameter Baluster Offset offsets the baluster in the same direction as the Offset value in the Edit Rails Dialog. However, the Offset value in the Edit Baluster Placement dialog moves the baluster in the OPPOSITE direction of the other two parameters. This was reported and confirmed as a known "defect".
The main problem with this is that for example, if I use an offset of 3" for my rail and then I type in an offset of 3" inside the Edit Baluster Placement dialog, I end up with a 6" gap between the centerlines of the rail and baluster, whereas you would expect their centerlines to coincide! If I then type an offset of -3" in the Edit Baluster Placement dialog instead, the rail and baluster centerlines coincide, but the baluster top will not stop at the underside of the rail and will instead go to the top of the rail.
For the post top to properly clean up, the two baluster offset settings have to be either the same value, or the offset in the Edit Baluster Placement dialog has to be zero. This means that one should avoid the use of that offset value and instead use the type parameter "Baluster Offset". If you have multiple baluster patterns with different offsets, that might not be possible.
Another issue is that the Baluster family origin seems to be fixed. If you move the reference planes that have the option "Defines origin" checked together with the 3D geometry and then you reload the family back into the project, the baluster geometry will move. This shouldn't happen because these reference planes are supposed to define the origin. Since the relative distance between them didn't change, the geometry shouldn't move when the family is reloaded in the project. This seems to be an issue with the baluster family templates.
One last thing...in the stair image above, notice that the leftover spaces are filled with vertical baluster posts that go all the way down to the host surface. If we look in the Baluster Placement dialog, you'll notice that there is no control over the Top and Base (plus offsets) of the "Excess Length Fill" optional balusters.
If you want the vertical fillers to be located off the host surface, you might have to create a custom baluster with the correct offsets and number of balusters built into the family. I'll go into more detail about this in a future post.