My contribution is complete, now it's time for the stone mason and tile guy to do their thing.
I'm really happy with how the final product turned out; once the poly dries (final pics = poly was still wet) the wood should lighten up a hair, and be a whole lot smoother to the touch than if it hadn't been poly'd at all. Everything is rock solid, and should look like a million bucks once the stone and brick goes up.
She's not done yet, but she's getting close. I'll wrap up our portion on Saturday with some poly and cleanup, then I can turn the work over to the masonry guys who'll set stone on the entire wall outside the mantel and fireplace surround, and the tile guys who'll build the hearth and set faux brick on the interior of the fireplace surround. It's going to be a pretty good-lookin' wall and fireplace when it's all said and done.
The reclaimed, hand-hewn mantel beam uses a french cleat system, which is inset in the back side of the beam, to "hang" on the wall. It also rests on two posts that were shimmed out from the wall a hair, by way of a couple 2x4 that are partially inset into the back side of the wood, to beef up the stance a bit. If all the measurements were correct, and if we get a little lucky in some spots where the reclaimed wood didn't do us any favors, all the gaps should be covered by tile and stone.
Started a pretty awesome little project today: building and installing a mantel in a new construction house, except it's not just any ol' mantel. It's a mantel that's being custom built using hand-hewn logs that were salvaged from a local, 200-year-old log cabin. It's not every day that I get to deal with that type of reclaimed lumber, so I'm having a blast with it.
Today's work was pretty much business as usual...lots of prep, lots of measuring, lots of thinking, and lots of getting everything cut and ready to go for the Thursday installation. The highlight of the day was discovering some roman numerals that had been chiseled into the log near the crown notch on one end of the beam that'll become the mantel. If you watch Barnwood Builders, you'll know what those roman numerals are for.
I have a bad habit, or maybe it's a good habit, of hoarding lumber and various reclaimed materials. If I catch some good pricing on hardwood lumber, I'll buy more than I have an immediate need for. If I come across some reclaimed wood that I think I might be able to put to good use down the road, I'll drag as much into the shop as I can find a place for.
The same thing applies to the scraps leftover from the bigger projects; any scrap that's bigger than about the palm of my hand, I'll hang on to it. Hardwood scraps come in pretty handy during cutting board season, and the reclaimed stuff I can almost always use in future builds. Every couple years I have to purge the shop of whatever scraps I've hung on to and haven't yet used - the shop is only so big, and when it gets tough to move around...it's time for the dead weight to go - but up until that point, I'll hang on to anything I have room for.
I recently finished a big reclaimed wood cabinet build, which required a lot of lumber. In a lot of cases, at least with the 2x material (which was a legit 2+ inches thick), I had to cut the "skin" off. For example, in order to square up the table top boards I had to first rip each edge - which were pretty rough - on the table saw, cutting off anywhere from 1/8" to 1/2". I'm not sure a whole lot of people would save scraps that were 8' long, 2" wide and 1/4" thick, but I did. There were other components of the project where I had to cut off thin pieces, and making a long story short when it was all said and done, I had quite a big stack of long, skinny, thin slivers of reclaimed wood.
I also had some OSB laying around from a recent contracting project, as well as more reclaimed 3x4s than I know what to do with. Add 'em up - the ultra thin pieces, the OSB and the 3x4s - and what do you get? This:
It's about a 4' x 2'...TBD.
Could be something that gets hung on a wall. Could be a headboard. Could throw a piece of glass over it and use it as a table top. Those decisions...up to the client.
I didn't put a lot (or any) effort into making all the thin strips a uniform thickness; I kind of prefer the texture and variation that comes with the nonuniformity. Plus, if you've ever taken apart or used or dealt with old or reclaimed lumber in any way, whether it's lath, studs, sheathing or anything else, you know that the lumber almost always varies in width, thickness, etc. When dealing with reclaimed wood, I like to stay true to how things were originally. Plus, quite a few of the strips I had were really, really thin - 1/8", 3/16" - and planing down the others to match...well, the idea is to use the scraps, not plane away 85% of the meat and just use what's left.
Anyways...gonna get back after it tomorrow; having spent the past few days cleaning out the shop and reorganizing some of the bigger tools, I ought to be able to operate in there a little more efficiently...which is good, 'cause there's a handful of small projects I need to get knocked out ASAP, and then a couple bigger jobs - reclaimed wood mantels and sliding reclaimed wood doors - I need to prep for, and then later this month I'm going to be teaching a couple cutting board classes...all of which might get a little derailed if I come up with any more scrap wood projects. :)
Some projects don't take a lot of time. Other projects are massive undertakings that require a ridiculous amount of planning and work.
And then there are projects that sort of take on a life of their own.
Like the reclaimed wood laundry room island I just finished up for a client in Kirkwood; I worked on this thing, off and on, for almost 3 months.
I've written some blogs, or at least shared some pics here (and instagram) of various parts of the project along the way, but for anybody that wasn't following along I'll go ahead and start from the beginning and give the abridged introduction.
A while back, through the magic of instagram and hashtags, I crossed paths with some people in Kirkwood that were in the midst of a huge house renovation and addition project. They had purchased a house (I typed out the word "house" but I really meant "mansion") that had been built in 1858 and was in mostly original condition. Maybe not immacuately maintained over the years, but original nonetheless. I can't really put into words - I make the sawdust, I'm not a wordsmith - just how rad the place is, but it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so that ought to tell you a little something. And here's what the front door looks like from inside the house:
See? Rad. You throw an arched transom on just about anything, and it's rad by default.
Anyways...part of the homeowners' project included a pretty substantial addition, which meant tearing into part of the original house, or at the very least, what had been a two story addition to the original house sometime during the 19th century. Apparently the addition had been the kitchen at some point, with servants' quarters above it. Being the awesome people that they are, the homeowners had their GC deconstruct the portion of the house/addition where some new work was going to be taking place, and all the framing/sheathing lumber was saved and stored off site.
I was given the privilege and responsibility of using that lumber, whatever I needed, to build what would become a fairly large island for the homeowners' laundry room.
The clients gave me some ballpark parameters to start with for the design: 6' long, 3' wide, 3' tall. Additionally, one side needed to accomodate six conventionally sized laundry baskets via some open shelving or cubbies, while the other side needed to have four bins, with glass fronts, that opened for access. After a few convesations and design iterations, I came up with this:
Everybody was on board with the design, so I went ahead and pretty much built that exact thing.
Except it wasn't all that easy; size and weight considerations meant building the piece in three separate chunks: the top, the narrow bin side, and the not-so-narrow cubby side. One side not mirroring the other further convoluted the process; I had to build this thing in such a way that the two completely different sides could be built as standalone pieces, put together to look like one solid piece, disassembled for delivery purposes, and then reassembled on site without having anything fall apart beforehand. It was a challenging build to say the least.
I won't walk you through the construction step by step, because for the most part it was a lot of the same thing over and over and over and over again: make 19th century reclaimed wood nail free-ish, flat-ish, straight-ish and square-ish, then make a bunch of cuts, then glue things together, then assemble, then wash, rinse, repeat. Or something like that.
But what I will do is show you some pics of the work that took place along the way.
The first chunk I built was the landry basket cubby side, which was about 6' long, 2' deep and 3' tall...and ate up a LOT of lumber:
Then I built the side that would get the four operable bins, which was an easier build than the cubby side in that it was a slightly different version of the thing I just built (and smaller!), but it took a minute to come up with a way to tie the two sides together so as to appear to be one solid piece, yet still be 100% separable for the purposes of transportation (and hauling this stuff up a LOT of stairs):
While building the bin frame was easy enough, the bins themselves...LOTS of joinery. Using glass front panels, instead of wood, took some joinery methods out of play and forced me to really think through the bin design before cutting up any of the reclaimed wood. Another challenge was that by using solid wood for every single piece, I had to factor in seasonal expansion and contraction, meaning I had to make sure that when Mother Nature decided things would grow or shrink, I provided enough room for them to do so. Long story short, the face frame of the bins is held together with bridal joints and glue. The face frame is attached to the bins themselves by way of sliding dovetails that nobody will ever ever ever ever see or know are even there, so you'll have to trust me, but sliding dovetails were used. The bin sides are joined together via rabbets (that's not a typo), glue and a couple strategically placed screws, while the bottoms of the bins sit in a dado (a little channel) that's cut around the perimeter of the bins. No problem, right?!
And then...there was the top. The tops - tabletops, countertops, any top - are always a lot of fun to build, especially after dealing with the mental side of trying to come up with a decent way to overcome the design and logistical obstacles of the more complex furniture piece components. Tops are (sort of) easy...get everything flat and square, throw down some glue, clamp everything together, and then a little detail work and she's done. I didn't have to use the bench (hand) plane too much on this one, which was nice for a change. Conversely, once it was all assembled and I realized one of the boards had a pretty healthy split right down the middle of it, I added five dutchmen to hold the split together, and every last bit of those had to be hand cut with a chisel.
Once I had all the components pretty well knocked out, I went through everything to check for any ways to improve what I'd built, or fix any little mistakes I might have made (I make 'em). One of the things that didn't sit well with me were a few holes that had been made by nails (where I attached the face frames to the cubby structure and the bin structure) and screws (I had to fabricate 4x4s for the corner posts since none of the reclaimed lumber existed in those dimensions, and I had to drive a few trim screws to hold things tight until the glue dried). I got to thinking...how can I make those holes go away? I happened to save all the square cut nails I pulled out of all the lumber before working with it, so I ended up using almost all the nails I pulled out...clipped the heads + another 1/8" or so off each one...and then drove them into the screw holes. I basically renailed the reclaimed wood after I denailed the reclaimed wood. In short, I used the original nail heads to cover the screws and give the piece an extra feel of having been made by hand. Another round of poly on everything, and those nail heads were sealed in pretty well.
At this point, all that was left was delivery and assembly. 17 separate pieces got transported to the clients' house in Kirkwood, along with a wide variety of tools, and I spent probably 8 hours getting the thing assembled, level and fully functional. Good times.
But really, it was a lot of fun. Maybe not the actual labor involved in carrying things to trucks and then from trucks into houses and up stairs, but everything else...it's pretty cool to see something you built - but never fully assembled in the shop - come together on site. And I still get geeked out a little bit thinking about how old that lumber is; there were a few boards in the stack that were crazy wide, like 15"-16", and counting the growth rings on one of those boards...it was like 9" from the outer ring on the board to the pith (center of the tree), and @ 20 rings per inch and 1 ring per year of growth, that means the lumber - that board anyhow - had been a tree for at least 180 years prior to getting cut down. Even if the original house's addition (where the reclaimed wood came from) was built in 1900 - and the National Register people say it was built no later than that - that means some, if not all of that lumber started growing as trees back in the 18th, maybe even the 17th century. It absolutely boggles my mind that I just built a silly rock solid piece of furniture out of material that's been around in one form or fashion for 300+ years.
Regardless, she turned out pretty well.
There's denailing...and sometimes there's renailing. There was no reasonable way to build the reclaimed wood laundry room island without using a few screws here and there, but you can't have exposed mechanical fasteners in a decent piece of furniture, right? So...the square cut nails that got pulled out to begin the project...some of 'em got snipped and went right back in to cover the screws. Another layer of poly over everything and the sins will be hidden. There's a little bit of work involved, but it does seem to add to the authenticty and character of the piece, so it's a price worth paying.
Browns, tans and saw blade marks: the official colors of the 19th century.
You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see how she turns out...
Got an early jump on an upcoming build today; there's an inch or two of snow on the ground, the temperature is down in the teens and my regularlay scheduled work was predicated on neither of those being the case. So...it turned out to be a good day to try out a new cold cut chop saw and fire up the welder. I had far more success with one than the other, but that's a story for another day.
I'm going to build a coffee table with a steel frame and a reclaimed wood top. I'm also going to give the thing some little reclaimed wood feet, partially as a design element, partially as a way to easily level the table if need be (it's a heck of a lot easier to shave 1/16" off a piece of wood than it is a piece of metal that's welded to a bunch of other pieces of metal). The frame itself is going to be 1.25" square tube (1/8" thick, which might be overkill; this little table is going to be relatively heavy), and the top, as mentioned, will be reclaimed wood, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5" thick.