Nuts for bolts

Our story so far: As the drywallers and the concrete finishers worked, we crossed things off our to-do list in our church conversion project.

# # #

With the drywall up and the driveway complete, Tyler returned his attention to the church interior. It was time to get another beam out of the way: The two-hundred-pound barn-beam mantelpiece he’d found on Craig’s List. Unlike the polyurethane beams on the ceiling, this project required a heavy-duty approach to fastening it.

Tyler determined the optimal height of the mantel by researching the firebox manufacturer’s recommendations. The beam was real wood after all, and wood is combustible. Then he enlisted You-Can-Call-Me-Al’s carpentry skills; this was no one-man job.

First they reinforced the mounting area behind what would be the stone by installing two four-by-sixes stacked on top of each other as a mounting plate. Then they drilled holes in the backer plate for eight ten-inch lag bolts.

mantel closeup
That’s rough hewn, baby.

As he handled the beam, Tyler admired it. The Iowa barn from which the beam was removed was 122 years old, according to the Craig’s List seller, but the beam itself could have predated our 126-year-old church. Either the steam-powered saw mill hadn’t been invented yet or it wasn’t available, so the beam had been hand hewn from a red oak log with a broad axe.

Because the beam was so thick (eleven inches square), Tyler cut it to length with a chain saw. Inside the church. In any other circumstance, a chain saw wielded inside a building was the stuff of horror movies, but in this case it was simply convenient.

You-Can-Call-Me-Al and Tyler created temporary wooden brackets to prop up the beam in which they partially predrilled holes for the lag bolts. Once they secured the mantelpiece in place, You-Can-Call-Me-Al tested their work by standing on it. You-Can-Call-Me-Al might be described as wiry, but still, this was a good test.

Built solidly, indeed.

mantel faroff
This shot gives you an idea of where we’re going with this.

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Tomorrow: Hardware for the front door. See it here.

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