Reclaimed Beams are for Design – Not Just Structure Anymore

Once the backbone in Old Barns & Buildings

Now the framework for stylish surroundings

Reclaimed beams warm a room and define their space

Choose your surface texture                                   Choose Solid or Faux Beams

(4) Surface Textures

Smooth Surface

Rustic Sawn

Original Surface

Hand Hewn

(2) Construction Styles

Solid Wood Wall & Ceiling Beams

(reclaimed from old buildings & barns)

reclaimed wood beams_heart pine

Real Wood Box Beams

(lightweight, 2, 3 and 4-Sided)

reclaimed hand hewn box beams

Reclaimed Beams were the backbones in  factories that fueled the Industrial Revolution over 100 years ago.  Now they support Design in  new undertakings.

Before modern woodworking equipment standardized the process, reclaimed beams were often rough sawn or hand hewn with simple tools that left imperfect cuts, that constitute a large part of their appeal.

Today reclaimed beams & timbers are no longer used for actual structural support (building codes wouldn’t allow it),  but instead supply super structural accents in homes & commercial spaces.

It Starts with Velvet Deconstruction

Reclaimed wood beams are carefully salvaged from old buildings and large barns in long lengths upwards of 25 linear ft. Their dimensions may range from 4”x 4” up to 12”x 16” and even larger.

Salvaging them, or velvet deconstruction as we call it, consists of somewhat delicate processes that maintain the integrity of reclaimed beams while transforming them into sophisticated pieces that reflect on warm atmospheres from high places.

Moving them, as well as removing them, from place to place can become a project in itself.  Consider a reclaimed beam that’s 10″ x 10″ x 15’0″ long.  It’s weight will tip in at roughly 500 lbs.  Just rolling it over a few times to remove large nails & sometimes larger bolts can require several heavy hefty turns just for metal detection.

Another important aspect of the beam reclaiming is kiln drying.

Though reclaimed beams have cured for decades (or centuries) and become stable and so less likely to warp or shrink,  it’s important to kiln dry old wood to high enough temperatures to kill powder post beetles or other bugs that may have been over wintering there for many years.

Overall, we’ve found that before we actually do the bugs in, they’ve often generated some really special effects on the beam surface that lots of folks love, love, love.

Reclaimed Beams of Many Species

During the U.S. Industrial Revolution beginning in the 1890’s, and even before,  builders didn’t always find it necessary to discriminate and use just one wood species of wood for a specific project.

They’d use whatever was readily available.

And while they may have held quantities of oak or pine in their timber supplies, these were likely supplemented with elm or ash or chestnut or another hardwood species.

If you examine several reclaimed beams that have been deconstructed from the same location,  they may look very similar.  That happens, even when they’re originally from different tree species because they all came of age in a nearby place and have similar saw marks or ax marks that were made at the same time.

If the outer surface gets sheared away in search of ancient grains, ( and also obtain a smooth surface texture, as shown above ) you may find a  superior variety of grains and inner color even as you learn you’ve got a variety of species as well.

A quick and easy way to identify the species of a beam and get ahead of this, is to cut off the end beam and check the end grain.  This is usually helpful & accurate but isn’t always totally reliable.   That’s part of the mystery within reclaimed wood.

The exact species of reclaimed wood beams gains importance when your intention is to shear away the rustic or original patina texture and get down to the grain for a smooth surface texture. This is when you want all your beams to be exactly the same species and particularly when customer preference is focused on heart pine or oak.

Reclaimed Beams & Surface Textures

If customer specifications are for Original Surface, Hand hewn or a Rustic sawn texture, it can be difficult for an untrained eye to identify these as specific wood species .

An original surface wood texture is characterized by a natural patina that’s developed over time.  Beams of this texture were likely shaped by an early saw mill making the beam relatively uniform.  It’s characterized by how well it’s been influenced by the elements and other naturally occurring factors that can’t be duplicated.   The environmental conditions & production nature of the decon site where it’s been removed has a bearing on the natural surface also.  For instance, it would make a difference if from a plant that processed sorghum rather than corn.  The effluents or lack of them in the air, can have a direct effect  on the original surface of reclaimed beams.

An evenly aged original surface is always preferable to one that might be blotchy and unbalanced.  But of course these one-of-a-kind aspects are what make these pieces unique.  Alternatively, a less than lovely original surface reclaimed beam might get  it’s undesirable exterior surface planed away to produce a great looking smooth surface texture, or perhaps be better suited to be sawn up to produce flooring rather than decorative beams.

Hand hewn rustic beams were cut & hewn with broad axes and simple hand tools
in locations where primitive saw mills were not available or being used.

Our rustic sawn beam texture has visible saw marks but differs from hand hewn because of it’s circle sawn or rough sawn appearances.    Both original circle sawn and newly circular sawn textures may be found in our Rustic Sawn surface beam textures.

Fabrication Choices: Solid Wood
or real wood lightweight Faux beams

So everything we’ve talked of till now has related to solid wood reclaimed beams.

Remember the 10″ x 10″ x 15’0″ beam?  The one that weighs 500 lbs?
If you’re putting up decorative ceiling beams that go 15 ft in the air,  have you factored in the degree of complexity that included to install them?

While there will always be a place for solid wood beams, whether reclaimed or not,
there’s an alternative worth considering that makes a lot of sense.

Faux beams are lightweight and variable and can reduce installation sxpense by possibly half.   So if the solid 10″ x 10″ x 15”0″ solid wood reclaimed beam weighed 500 lbs –  in comparison, a faux beam the same size, made of the same reclaimed wood would weight 80% less.  That’s right.  Using reclaimed wood weight measures, from 500 lbs reduced to just 94!  (3-sided)  Whether in labor or shipping, there are savings  in store.

Faux beams may also be know as beam boxes or beam wraps – our preferred description.  They can wrap around utility vents and other unsightly openings & outlets and are precision engineered and can actually look like a box (if a 4-sided box beam) with open ends.

If your surface texture preference is hand hewn however , the construction will not actually be engineered but fabricated a little different and slightly heavier.  What a great alternative either way!

If you’ve got more questions, we’ve got the answers!