When a friend told me he was going to install heart-pine beams to a vaulted ceiling and to a fireplace mantel, I jumped at the opportunity to help. Upcycled heart-pine wood is a real score because of its beautiful grain and it’s easy to work with. In contrast, today's quickly grown pine is softer and lacks any real character. Using large beams was an easy choice for bringing the high vaulted ceiling down into the rest of the room and using the same wood on the fireplace adds continuity to the room’s design. You could also use a variety of wood species to match your interior style. 

Step 1

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Go to a Reputable Source

The new mantel consists of three basic pieces: (2) legs and (1) crossbeam. We sourced (2) six-foot 8" x 8" posts and (1) seven foot 4" x 10" crossbeam from the largest heart pine reclaimer in the world, ET Moore out of Richmond, Virginia.

Step 2

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Plan for Cuts and Make a Jig

Who knows what life these pieces have had. The charm and challenge of working with reclaimed material is in their imperfection. Since these pieces are all thicker than your typical household saws, we had to get creative in cutting them down.

Start by squaring up the ends of the posts. Typically this step would be done by circular saw. But in this case, a 3-inch blade was just not going to touch this 8-inch post. Make a guide by cutting two short blocks of 2x stock and clamp them across your cut line.

Step 3

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Cut for Clean Ends

Use a chainsaw with a sharp blade and the proper protective equipment, cut the end of the post using the blocks as a guide for the blade.

The key here is to remove just enough of the end to clean it up and square the end. 

Step 4

Cut Along Guides

Let the blade ride along the 2x blocks as the expendable material. You can always flip it over for the next step.

Step 5

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Measure for Columns

Measure the height of your fireplace surround and move your cut blocks to this length. Repeat until you have the two posts square and cut to length.

Step 6

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Cut Columns to Height

We think this post must have been warehoused one side down for many years as all the sap and pitch was concentrated on one edge.

Step 7

Mark Notch and Adjust Tablesaw

Instead of trying to butt the posts against the brick surround or place them in front of it, we wanted to notch the posts so that they wrapped the brick and concealed the edge. However, cutting a 3" x 4" notch on a typical table saw is not possible. So, since a typical saw can make a 3" deep cut, cut a 3" x 3" corner out. Then make an additional cut at 4". This will leave a 1" x 3" piece of wood to remove.

Whatever you do, do not toss that 3" x 3" piece of reclaimed wood! These materials are often 100 years old produced from trees several hundred years old

Step 8

Remove Notch and Clean Cut

Without a zero clearance saw, we had to resort to a more basic method to remove the late piece: the chainsaw. Since the interior of the notch will never be seen, this does not present any problems. Using the chainsaw, slowly cut along this interior corner until you can remove the 1" x 3" piece. Go slow and lean the blade away from the finished face of the post.

Step 9

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Flatten and Clean With a Hand Tool

Clean up this interior cut with a chisel.

Step 10

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Try It For Size

Test fit everything together and trim the top mantel crossbeam if needed. We ordered this piece so that it had a 3" overhang on each side. Since we had a brick surround, reclaimed wood near the fireplace was not a concern. However, you should always consult local code for required combustion clearances. Many locations require 18" or more.

Step 11

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Mount Legs First

To mount the legs, find the jack studs on each side of the fireplace opening. Then drill three equally spaced 3/8" holes in the legs to correspond with those stud locations. Then drill a 1/2" x 3" deep pocket at each location. 

Step 12

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Fasten Then Plug

Using a level, plumb the leg and then fasten wood screws through the leg and into the stud. Use a 1/2" plug cutter to make six plugs and then tap them flush into the holes.

Set the crossbeam on the legs and make sure it sits flush to the leg on each side.

On the top of the leg, apply a bead of construction adhesive (but not so much that it will squeeze out) and fasten with one wood screw on each side plugging the holes just like the legs.