Dianne was lucky enough to get a beam from the 120 year-old farmhouse where she grew up in Gridley, CA. It's a beautiful piece of wood, etched with personality and filled with history. It was pretty exciting to put it up in our home.
The steps are simple, but do take some time.
MEASURE AND CUT THE MANTEL TO THE DESIRED LENGTH
There are no hard and fast rules for the determining the length of your mantel. You'll find that some folks extend the mantel from edge to edge of the fireplace surround. Aesthetically, it was important for me to place the mantel so that it looked appropriate with the firebox itself. I didn't want it to line up exactly, so I chose to extend the mantel on either side of the firebox by about two inches.
HOW HIGH TO PLACE THE MANTEL?
Remember, your mantel placement is your decision and it can vary depending upon the height of the fireplace. Most professionals recommend placing the top of the mantel about four and a half feet from the floor, which allows the decor to rest at eye level for most people. (Not me, but that's okay!)
I removed the old nails and other debris from the beam and sanded lightly with a medium grit sandpaper. I didn't want it to be "perfect." A light touch of matte polyurethane finished the piece nicely.
Next, I had to mount it to the fireplace surround. Don't try to place a mantel on a fireplace without securing it into the studs. Some folks prefer a "floating" mantel but because of the heft of this piece, I decided to use brackets mounted securely into the studs. To improve the appearance of the brackets, I routed the post and they literally "disappeared."
Dianne and I look forward to decorating for the upcoming holidays on a mantel that really speaks to our hearts. We are thinking of you, Morrie Dalton!