It’s rare enough to find one, here’s how I found 15?
We love old wood and we know you do as well. The character, the texture, and the warmth all contribute to the desirability of discovering 100+ year old material. Most of the fun comes in the hunt or the chase to find that perfect mantel or accent beam that will fit perfectly in your space. When it’s finally discovered you will do anything to get your hands on it.
I was no different, but my requirements were; I needed to find at least 7 beams that matched. This would have been easy to do if I just called up my local specialty lumber outlets and asked, but what’s the fun in that? …And I didn’t have $1500 to drop on accent pieces. It also seemed a little pretentious to me. I mean, I am trying to build something anyone can afford, so I can’t be tossing around money on vanity items.
So the hunt began. Google Earth got me off to a nice start finding a couple barns that had fallen down or were being replaced. These options would have been great if I had time to let them dry out for 3-4 years, but I didn’t have that time. Yes, I could have kiln dried them, but again, every decision impacts cash flow and that is cash out. The trips to the old barns were not always a waste. Oftentimes after talking to the property owner they would give me leads on where to find other wood or even other material I was looking for.
Some people say the universe gives you the things you ask it for. I don’t know if I believe all that but sometimes things work out and it is hard to argue with that philosophy and here is a perfect example. My girlfriend and I are both recreational beekeepers which I highly recommend to anyone. There is something peaceful about watching the organization and community of a hive that at first glance just looks like compete chaos. Any ways, I am getting off-topic. There is a well-known beekeeper in the Guelph area that runs the honey bee research lab in Guelph. We go to him for new queens and ask questions we might have about the health of our hives. Well I met with him at his home to discuss bees and I noticed he was a bit of a woodworker and mentioned about what I was looking for and turns out he had about 15 beams that were perfect for what I am trying to accomplish. He gave me a great price on the beams and I picked them up that day.
If your heart and soul are committed to something the universe will provide it for you in some shape or form – you just have keep your eyes open. So, that’s the story on how I acquired my beautiful 7×7 beams from an old farmhouse in the Guelph area.
Now, let’s get to the fun part: restoring them to their former glory.
It all starts by making sure your wood is dry. Kiln dried wood will always be superior to air dried but it is not necessary unless time is of importance or you have deep pockets. Our beams had been drying under a lean-to for about four years, but we wanted to get them indoors to further dry. They’ve been in our shop for over a year now and are finally ready to be processed.
We first did some design and planning selecting which beams paired up the best and which face of each beam would be featured in the living space. After that it was just pure old fashioned elbow grease and attention to detail.
We sanded every beam by hand starting with 80grit and did a once over with 120grit. I didn’t want any sharp edges or loose slivers that someone would catch their clothes on so I paid close attention to those spots making sure I didn’t take away too much. After all, you want the age and character to shine through or you might as well go to your local hardware store and buy new lumber.
Now that they’ve been fully sanded they need some mill work. Then they will be ready for installation, stay tuned……