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Hi Everyone;

I've been lurking on this site for several months and have learned a tremendous amount--Thank You all!

Anyhow, my husband, two children and I just purchased our "homestead"--a house with 24 wooded acres on a 38 acre lake in Central Virginia. We love it, but it needs lots of work to make it "our home."

I have a question that I was hoping some of you may be able to help answer. Our house has a very plain great room which I would like to spruce up by putting wood beams around the three entryways in the room. (My husband and I love post and beam homes and although this house isn't a post and beam, I'm hoping to give it a more "woodsy, rustic" look by adding the beams. Anyhow, the beams would need to be approximately 5 inches square in order to fit in the walls properly.

My question is what would be the best way to get these beams? We have tons of trees on our property (primarily oak, black walnut and poplar). We also have a number of trees that are blowdowns as a result of Hurricane Isabel last year (so they've been on the ground for a year). Can or should we use this blowdown wood? If not, if we cut down a couple of live trees, what's the best way for us to properly "dry/cure" the wood. I've also called the local sawmill and they will cut beams for us (using their own wood, they won't use ours) for a pretty reasonable price. However, I don't believe that wood has been properly dried--and the sawmill operator said it shouldn't be too much of a problem. However, everything I've read here indicates that wood should dry for many months before using it to build a house.

Any insight or ideas anyone could provide would be most welcome. Thank you in advance!
 

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your best bet is to find an old barn thats down and ask the owner if they would like to sell .the saw mill wood would be green and a 5 inch beam would split and twist as it dries not to mention splinters .
 

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You could use pine boards nailed together in a square to look like squared logs.
Ive seen this done before,fooled me until i really studied them for a min.

These had the edges cut by a router to look like Axe cuts.But you could build them and then chop out nicks down the corners,also beat them with a piece of log chain to add dents/distressed look.
 

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I just finished sawing up an old windfall maple that had been curing for a year. We wound up with several 2-3 inch thick slabs that would have cost us a fortune at a lumberyard- if we could even get maple that thick. You could do the same with your blowdowns. First we cut the logs into managable lengths (6-8 foot) and set them up on sawhorses. Then we started slicing off vertical slabs with a chainsaw, pausing to re-position the sawhorses whenever they got in the way. Once we had slabs, we squared off the sides with the chainsaw. In addition to the lumber, we got a whole mess of firewood and sawdust for the compost. We used a 20" Stihl chainsaw, I wouldn't reccomend anything smaller.
 

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Your blow downs would be a good source as they will have already largely dried and would be less likely to wrap or warp. A small custom sawmill should be able to cut them to size for you. You might have them cut oversized, let them age for several months in a very dry area and then have the same sawmill finish them to size for you.

Ken Scharabok
 

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Most post and beam builders use green wood. The wood is easier to work and its darned near impossible to dry large beams economically. Even the 5 x 5’s you mention would take years to dry unless you use a kiln.

Portable band saws are a common option, if you have your own wood. They do a good job and they are reasonable. Make sure you really have enough good wood. Timbers need fairly large, straight trees. The oak would be your best bet. I can’t imagine using black walnut. If you have good black walnut saw logs sell them to me. :)

You will not be able to use traditional joinery with 5 x 5’s because they are too small. You could use lap joints with lag bolts or through bolts countersunk and hidden with pegs. Another method is to use metal gussets and leave the bolt heads visible. If the joints are very secure and you use proper bracing, the warpage should not be much of an issue. If you just nail things together they will warp as they dry.
 

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I agree with Ken.
Around here we are lucky to have someone with a backyard sawmill every 10 miles or so.
Our favorite guy is just 2 miles away and has sawed many, many trees for us---either into boards or beams for our home.

Also----there are a couple of fellows who have portable mills------they'll come set up right in our yard to do the sawing.

We gererally cut the tree and let it dry several months before sawing into boards and let them dry for several more months before planing the boards.

On pine we usually try to peel the bark right after cutting------
I'd think your down-ed hardwood trees would be just about perfect right now.
 

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the downed trees should be just fine., green wood , from fresh trees would be fine too, these are decorative accents youre adding, not load bearing walls, or supports, so the shrinkage that occurs while the wood is drying wont be a problem , you could really make them look nice if you use a chainsaw ( you should have one anyhow, never know when a tree is gonna drop on the drive) you can find plan on the net to build a chainsaw sawmill, but frankly for the few beams you need, you can just use a 2x4 to guide the saw straight to square up the beams, then drill and use mortise and tenon joinery, you would have the very rustic beautifull additions to your home :D
i truely understand about post and beam and its appeal, we will be building our own home in the next year or so , and will be building post and beam , using lumber from our land, betweem 50 to 75% of the home would belumber from our land
 

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I'd suggest going to amazon.com and ordering any book by Jack Sobon. He goes into everything from how to pick out the trees to how to make the joints. Ted Benson is another good author and Steve Chappell also. The Timber Framing Guild has a good website also.
I'm in the middle of a timber frame project now and I'm starting to realize that the easiest part of it is the desire to do it. The hardest is finding the time to do it. :)
I would do it all over again in a heatbeat. There is no architecture I love more than Timber Framing (aka Post and Beam). Go for it!
 
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