Timber beam mantel?

brickhouseMarch 6, 2010

I am hoping to make a timber beam mantel for my newly remodeled fireplace.

Would a landscape timber work for this? Or do I need to find a beam that has been kiln dried?

Any other requirements I need to keep in mind? I am hoping to stain in a med-dark color.

Any advice would help.

Thank you!

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Landscape timbers are only 4" in diameter and are usually treated wood. Not good.

The kind of wood makes a big difference. Pine is inexpensive, but stains badly. Oak stains well, but many people don't like the grain characteristics in a big piece like a mantle.

Maple is ok, but stains badly. Ash looks like oak.

Other woods depend on the location for easy availability.

The biggest problem with drying a piece that big is the cracking/checking that happens naturally when wood dries.

Find a sawmill, that is the best place to get a slab of wood that is mantle sized. The folks who run sawmills often have good ideas about wood for wood mantles.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:39PM
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Don't know where you located buy I have oak hand hewned timbers. All different sizes. These are from old barns that were taken down. Depending where you are, these are available in the country side towns. I am in north central NJ.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 10:03AM
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We are in the Pac NW. I have looked for some reclaimed beams in my area but not found what i am looking for.

I should have been more specific about the landscape timbers I am looking at. It is made from untreated juniper (local product) and I can get it in either a 6x6" or 6x8" which both would work.
They are green though, not dried. Do I need a wood that has been dried? And what does that mean actually, physically dried in a kiln or just not recently cut down? If the latter, does it need to be stored in a dry place? The ones i have access to have been stored outside all winter. Would this not sand down well or take a stain?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 11:40AM
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Wood changes dimension and shape as it dries.

Wood changes a lot in dimension as it goes from wet as a tree to dried in the interior of a house.

Interior wood settles around 5-8% water in most houses, but starts off with greater than 100% water content.

The 'greater than 100%' is because of the way wood water content is measured.
A piece of wood is weighed, then baked in an oven to dry it out.
The water content is defined as the initial weight over the final weight.
Since the actual weight of the water is more than 50% of the weight of the wet wood wood can have more than 100% water content.

The Wood Handbook has all sorts of tables to determine how much shrinkage will occur.
Figure 3-3 shows how the shape of wood changes from wet log cut to dried out.

Woof often has checking during drying, and large pieces are more susceptible.
Checking are cracks along the grain of the wood caused by differential shrinkage.
They can show up even in kiln dried timbers years after installation.
They are occasionally rather loud when the open up.

Kiln dried wood would be more stable, but if you want a more rustic look letting the wood dry in the house will work.

For air drying outdoors the general guide is one year per inch of wood thickness to about 10% moisture content.

Unless you are in an arid region you will not get much lower than that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood Handbook, Chapter 3

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 4:58PM
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