This is the first in a series of blog posts not yet written except for some random not very detailed musings on my Dead Wood Renaissance Facebook page (gonna have to scroll a lot in order to find all of the posts) on the process used in making a big fireplace mantel, much bigger than anything I've tried....ever!
Now that this project is pretty far along in making it a reality, I'm kind of left wondering whose idea WAS this anyway?
It's certainly taking a lot longer than anticipated.
It's been hard on my tools (more on that later).
It's been hard on my back and whole body (more on that later, too).
And, it's been many, many, many lessons learned in patience and in getting every detail right, for sure. Some of those lessons have been good, and some have been, well, not so good (and even more on that later, too).
But, wait! I just remembered.....it was kinda sorta my idea with a lot of encouragement from good family friend, Alan Wahl....sort of. So, I can blame him, right? RIGHT?
Seriously, though, it all started out with Alan asking if I'd be willing to make a fireplace mantel for him and his family. I won't get into the genesis of his request, but suffice to say, this guy has done so much for us over the years, there's no way I could possibly have said no. It was the least I could do to try and give something back that he and his family could enjoy anytime they stepped into their family room.
The original idea was to just have a slab of juniper cut to thickness by Scott Shaffer, owner and operator of Wilfer Mobile Sawmill (yeah, the same guy I mentioned in a previous post about "To Mill or Not to Mill....That is the Question") on his handy-dandy sawmill. His website is The Log Yard.
That log you see in the first photo below kind of resting apart from the others? That log is a svelte 9 feet long! And that's the log that pretty much jumped right out at me as being "the one".
As a little aside, yes, that mountain you see in the background to the far left in a couple of the photos below.....that's Pikes Peak --- just a random thought for the reader to cogitate on. No reason, really, for pointing it out other than Scott's location was waaaaaaay out there on the Eastern Plains, but still within eyesight of America's Mountain. No wonder it's the landmark that it is!
In the end, the slab for the mantel was cut to a 3 inch thickness right from the heart of that log, and is about 11 inches wide.
If I had to venture a guess, I'd put its weight at somewhere around 200 pounds, and that would probably be a somewhat conservative guess. I know I can't lift it all by myself....no way, no how!
That was really supposed to be the end of it....cut a slab, sand it down, put a really nice finish on it, and help Alan install it in his home on.....the wall (Pink Floyd anyone?):
If there's one thing I don't like, it's seeing a straight cut on a mantel's backside placed up against an irregularly shaped wall like Alan's. Those gaps and voids in that kind of configuration just do not have any appeal.
Being the stone facing on the wall is so irregular in shape, my initial thought was to try to scribe the mantel slab to try to carve and shape the backside to conform to those irregularities....another thing I'd never tried to do before, but would be willing to at least try.....not a whole lot of confidence in my ability here. There simply HAS to be a better way!
Hmmmm.....if only the back edge could be left as a live edge.....the wheels began to very slowly turn.
Hmmmm.....after a couple of revolutions of those wheels, it hit me that it might just be easier to install the mantel using a couple of columns that it could "rest" on instead of trying to rebar that behemoth onto the wall, itself. That way, a backside "live edge" might just be possible, and those gaps and voids would be more natural because the front and the back sides of the mantel would also be more natural....a true "live edge" all the way around with the exception of the two ends, of course.
Yep! That's the ticket!
I wanted columns! Columns that would support the mantel! Columns that would be unique and special!
Thing is, my friend really liked the pedestal I'd done for our daughter, Jessi, for her TV stand, a pedestal that I liked to call "Treebeard".
Well, DANG! It's off to the far reaches of our property to find just the right root systems that'll fit the bill, that'll look sort of like the "Treebeard" pedestal, that'll have the structural integrity to be usable (solid all the way through with minimal dry rot), and that'll both look good when finished and also be able to support some pretty heavy weight.
Some pretty strict parameters, for sure.
Next up....Root Systems That'll Work are Kinda Scarce!