Milling the mantel

The fireplace is progressing. It’s still just cinder block, but it’s almost up to mantel height. You’re going to have wait a little while longer to see a picture. In the meantime, let’s take a little detour into the making of the mantel.

We started with some big barn beams. These have been lying outside the barn as long as we’ve owned the farm. You can see them beside Matt in this picture from our first summer.

Barn beams

They are huge, heavy hunks of wood. They were more than 12 feet long, and it took my Dad, Matt, his Dad and me to move them, even after Matt cut them down with his chainsaw.

When I came up with my plan to use our barn beams for the mantel on the new fireplace, I hadn’t examined them very closely. I expected the beams to resemble beams. Instead, they were very round.

Barn beams on the forklift

To be a mantel, I was looking for something with some corners. One of the beams had one flat side, but that was it. My Dad found a local sawmill that would cut the beams square for me.

I love finding spots like the sawmill. They’re treasures of unique services and products. The variety of wood they had in their yard was amazing–trees, slabs, boards, logs, crosscuts, exotics, domestics. They mill custom flooring and trim. And of course they have cool equipment. I have to confess I’m looking for an excuse to go back.

After our logs went through the sawmill a few times, we ended up with two beautiful cedar beams 6 inches by 6 inches square. We’re going to sandwich them together to make one big 12 by 6 mantel. We were able to preserve the original flat side on the one beam. That’s going to end up facing into the room where its hand hewn face, complete with marks from the adze that originally shaped it, will be visible.

Attaching these two pieces and mounting them on the fireplace is a whole other issue–and tomorrow’s project. I think we’ve figured out our plan. Fingers crossed everything works out.

Anyone have any tips for installing the mantel? Have you ever custom-milled any of your own wood? Have you ever used reclaimed wood for a project?

6 thoughts on “Milling the mantel

  1. Your plan sounds really good. Can’t wait to see the finished work. If we can ever afford it, we’re going to hire one of those “sawmill-on-a-pickup-truck” deals to fashion up to eight planks from our huge dockwood beam that we salvaged from Hurricane Sandy and named “Baulk” (shown in our post of exactly one year ago, December 5, 2013).

  2. I LOVE that!! I just love that you’re using beams from the farm, that you found the local sawmill, and that the original flat side will be exposed with all its local history. So cool!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.