Black Walnut Mantle help.....

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Forum topic by brownfish posted 12-10-2015 04:32 PM 707 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View brownfish's profile


3 posts in 864 days

12-10-2015 04:32 PM

Hey Guys, i’m new here and a complete beginner. I need some advice for a mantle I’m getting ready to finish.
Here’s the skinny:
Cleared off some property a little over two years ago and built (had built) my home. I took down a mature black walnut and decided to have three pieces milled out for a mantle.
I had the mantle piece milled to 8.5”x 8.5” and two 5×5 pieces for stiff knees and moulding around the insert.
They have been drying for a little over two years now. One of the smaller boards bowed. I had the millwright plain the two smaller boards down to where they are straight. There has been no twisting on the bigger slab and I am ready to cut the length to 67” which will remove the checked edges and paint from where I tried to seal them.
2 Questions…
Am I going to be ok with the drying time on the thick piece? The tree was dead when i cut it.
And.. Whats the best way to finish it leaving the natural purpleish color and to bring out the grain while maintaining the rustic look?
Thanks, and sorry for being such an amateur.

5 replies so far

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1196 days

#1 posted 12-10-2015 04:45 PM

Rule of thumb for air dry is 1” = 1 year. So you are twiddling your thumbs for 8.5 years. Everything depends on the environment it is in while drying. If its in a very nice hot building it will dry faster. If it is stickered outside with a piece of tin over it it will take longer. I would try to find a local kiln and just pay them to do it.

Millwrights set up machinery in industrial environments. Like Boilers.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5620 posts in 2778 days

#2 posted 12-10-2015 05:42 PM

I would recommend using kiln dried lumber around a fireplace. It’s not too hard to finish drying lumber that has already been air dried. All you need is a dehumidifier, heat source and some fans. A couple weeks in the kiln will make sure the lumber will be stable in the long run. In addition it will kill any bugs that may be present.

The only slabs I have used to make a mantel were laminated from 1” stock. I have seen people install beautiful air dried slab lumber on fireplace surrounds, only to have it move and warp once exposed to the first heating season. That would be a real bummer, so avoid the potential issues and get it dried to 6-8% core moisture content.

If drying the lumber is not feasible, you could build 3-sided posts from dimensional lumber using a locking miter joint. Just throwing it out there. There is always a way to get the job done.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View brownfish's profile


3 posts in 864 days

#3 posted 12-10-2015 06:48 PM

Thanks guys,
I’ll try to find a kiln. I tried to find one 2 years ago when I had the slabs cut but couldn’t find one within 200 miles. I was hoping (that with the thickness of the 8” slab) that it wouldn’t twist.
Any suggestions for finishing them once they dry? I’d like to keep them natural and rustic looking so I was thinking maybe just oil and wax.
not a great pic , but these are the slabs I’m working with….

View AandCstyle's profile


3027 posts in 2222 days

#4 posted 12-11-2015 12:12 AM

Any oil based product will make the walnut darker. A water based product will be much better to maintain the current colors. However, be advised that walnut will get lighter with exposure to light.

It is simple to make your own kiln: put the wood on stickers, surround it with a plastic tent, cut an opening in the plastic for the heat source and an exit to let the air out, add a small fan to circulate the warm air inside the tent. If you search, you will probably be able to find a more detailed plan.

-- Art

View brownfish's profile


3 posts in 864 days

#5 posted 12-11-2015 02:50 AM

thanks Art

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