Bid for Mantle Seems High

paco6945September 15, 2007

We have a very contemporary fireplace and plan to use wenge for the mantle. The mantle is designed as 3 inches high, 11 1/2 feet long, and 16 inches wide. It's supposed to look like a solid wood slab and will be constructed sort of like a bowling alley (strips of wood on their edge).

The price we got from the woodworking place was $3,500. Does that seem high?

Would a wenge veneer be acceptable (looks-wise)?

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Jon1270

A quick check of one vendor just now shows wenge at over $16/bf at 1" thick, and over $18 at 2" thick. With the inevitable waste, that would probably be about $1000 worth of roughsawn wood, without any labor at all. Add shipping (unless you live in a city that has a big exotic wood dealer) and the price gets up there fast. It's also not the easiest stuff to work with. There are a lot of different levels of craftsmanship out there, done in places with widely divergent costs of living; the price you were quoted could easily be reasonable.

The same dealer lists veneer at $3/sf. It could work, at a fraction of the price, but you wouldn't get the butcherblock/bowling alley look you describe. The edges of a veneered piece will have to be left much sharper, and won't take impact well.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 2:36PM
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Jon1270

Is real wenge very important to you? Another way to go about this would be to use an inexpensive domestic wood with a texture you like, and have it stained and finished to a color similar to the wenge. The difference might be obvious close up (more to you than to your guests), but the look from a few feet away could be very similar if the finisher knows what he's doing. I'm not sure how much you could save this way, but it might be worth looking at.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 7:58AM
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paco6945

Thanks for the info and suggestions. I assume the ratio of labor to raw wood would be about 2 to 1, so $3,500 wouldn't be that out of line.

I'm going to try a less expensive wood and see if we can come close to the color of wenge with stain.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 3:02PM
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Jon1270

Labor and the cost of materials don't really have anything to do with each other, so don't expect the price tag to drop by 75% just because you choose oak or elm or something. It's still a big piece of wood that will be time-consuming to make and awkward to move around. Let us know what you find out.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 3:40PM
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pinktoes

Another suggestion for a domestic wood is ash; it has an open pore structure like wenge, and is frequently "ebonized" black with dye & stain. Aniline dye followed by wiping stain followed by top coat is one method I've seen.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 7:06AM
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