When it's all said and done, it looks like a few (massive) simple pieces of wood connected in the most basic of ways.
What most people don't see, or maybe won't ever see, is the 20 or so hours of work - a lot of which is done with chisels and planes - it takes to get those pieces of wood in place, fit together reasonably well and above all else, secured safely to the wall behind them.
I generally start these projects by first attaching 2x6s to the wall where the surround (the legs) will ultimately land. I then hollow out the legs to envelope those 2x6s and get them temporarily attached. With the legs roughed in, I can then temporarily set the mantel beam in place to gauge - based on what my level and tape measure tells me - how much each leg needs to get cut to 1, allow the mantel to sit at the desired height and 2, allow the mantel to sit level. I prefer doing things this way, instead of doing a lot of crazy measuring ahead of time, because these reclaimed wood beams are never completely square, flat or even a uniform thickness and relatively speaking, all the math in the world can't account for the imperfections and irregularities. Given how challenging the cuts can sometimes be (i.e. and 8" thick beam and a circular saw that only has a depth of cut around 2.5"), it's easier to just get everything close, set everything in place, see how it all fits and fine-tune it from there.
Similarly, I like to use a French cleat system in the horizontal piece - the mantel - and with that pretty much needing to be dead nuts accurate for the system to work, I generally hold off on installing the portion of the system that goes on the wall until I know exactly where it needs to go for everything else to work out right. That French cleat system involves attaching an angled piece of wood to the wall, hollowing out the back side of the mantel and insetting a corresponding angled piece so that one piece slides over the other and the mantel essentially hangs from the wall.
Once everything fits the way I want it to on a dry run, I'll go ahead and throw down a little polyurethane and then use glue and a handful of discrete trim screws to tighten everything up.
Long story short...it's a lot of work, and dealing with super heavy chunks of reclaimed wood doesn't make any of it real easy. But it's fun, and if I've done my job, nobody ever sees any evidence of all the work that goes into getting these things built.
I started my morning by picking up a 15'-8" (legit) 8x8 reclaimed oak beam and setting it on a couple sawhorses.
Oak weighs around 45 lbs/ft^3.
So...15.67 X .67 X .67 X 45 = 313-ish pounds.
Not a crazy fun way to start a Monday, but aside from that, this is going to be a fun project: another reclaimed wood mantel and fireplace surround. I got one leg hollowed out and the inset cleat installed in the mantel beam today; I'll have everything dry-fit by lunchtime tomorrow and if everything goes like I hope it does, fully installed by the end of the day.
The glorious south city street, not the northwestern state.
That's where the latest batch of reclaimed lumber came from.
The lumber itself isn't anything too remarkable - just a bunch of 2x4s riddled with square cut nails - nor is it a huge load, and the structure it came from is a relatively modest single-family home. Similarly, I don't yet have any grand plans for the lumber; I'm simply trying to stockpile whatever I can following the annual post-Christmas shop reorganization.
But...I always sorta nerd out a little bit when I get to do the homework on the building where the reclaimed lumber came from.
This particular house was built in 1886. Given the character of the neighboring houses, I'd guess most of them were built around the same time. But just 10 years earlier, the area was still largely unpopulated as can be seen in the map shown below:
The Compton & Dry maps are absolutely bonkers. I've looked at them a bajillion times, and I still can't wrap my head around the time and effort that had to have gone into drawing each structure - with a pretty high level of detail and accuracy - and surrounding landscape. Sometimes it's tough to pinpoint modern locations on these old maps given how undeveloped the area was at the time, but the intersection closest to the house this batch of lumber came from is California and Pontiac (which is now known as Russell). Oregon didn't even exist back then, but it now lays between California and what was about to become Nebraska.
Fast forward a few decades and in 1909 the area looked more like this:
I won't give away the house's exact location, but it's shown on this map. By 1909 the area was relatively developed, although unlike a lot of other areas of the city, this neighborhood (Fox Park, named for the Fox Brothers Manufacturing Company located a few blocks away from the Oregon house and shown in the map below) was largely residential. There was very little commercial land use in this area, which means getting groceries and everyday household items must have been a pretty laborious task.
Regardless...the house I got lumber from today is being rehabbed and will hopefully get returned to something reminiscent of its late 19th century glory days. While I can't say for certain that it will, I do know that I'll be able to do something pretty cool with the lumber I got.
This project started about 4 weeks ago, and was worked on in between a number of other projects. There were some minor delays along the way, like running out of flux-core welding wire with all of about 3 tiny welds left to do, but otherwise...this little table went together pretty well. It's a simple design, so I added a couple curveballs just to dress things up: the stretcher is made up of 2 different pieces of square tube with an oddball, completely random and off-center angle thrown in, and the table has reclaimed wood feet, which is a pretty subtle detail but one that I thought might help the piece not seem so reclaimed-wood-top-heavy.
The other delay in getting this project completed was the fact that I filmed the build. Once I'm done editing the video, I'll get that up on YouTube and link to it here.
We started a kitchen remodel several months ago, a project that for a variety of reasons needed to be knocked out in several phases. The first phase was replacing the upper cabinets, followed by replacing the existing tile floor (and tearing up about 5 layers of old floor) with a new slate floor, replacing the lower cabinets, getting new countertops installed and then setting subway tile for the backsplash. I'm glad to say that our chunk of the work is now complete, and I'm pretty confident that the new kitchen looks a whole lot better than the old kitchen.
Unfortunately, as is the case with some of the bigger jobs we take on, I didn't get a whole lot of pics. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the work, or in dealing with unforeseen issues that typically come with working on 19th century buildings that I don't stop to document a whole lot of the project. Luckily, the client snapped a pic of the final product, and it does a pretty good job of showing off the work we did.