Another what type of wood should I use question

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Forum topic by BookyTwoBirds posted 05-31-2020 06:41 PM 524 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 45 days

05-31-2020 06:41 PM

Wood working is a hobby for me. I really just do simple projects around my house as my wife needs to save us some money and because it’s fun for me. I’m still learning and I always have a hard time deciding what wood to use for what project.

I want to build a boxed in fireplace mantle similar to this:

My wife sent me that image but I have no idea what wood to use for this project. I don’t want pine because of how soft it is but I want the mantle to be a nice dark brown (walnut) color. I would just use walnut but the mantle needs to be 13’ long to cover the length of our fireplace and walnut doesn’t grow like that.

Can I use oak or cedar and just stain it dark walnut? I don’t know if that would be breaking some cardinal rule and I don’t want to ruin the wood… am I over thinking this? Im leaning towards one of those two because they are the only options for the length I need and are available in my area but I’m up for any type of wood that I can get up to 12”x1”x13’ and will turn out a nice rich dark brown and can be delivered to West Texas.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

7 replies so far

View Phil32's profile


1068 posts in 684 days

#1 posted 05-31-2020 06:55 PM

The 13’ length could be achieved by end-to-end joinery. The dimension automatically determines that this project will be built-up of pieces (unless you want to start with a tree). So, it will call for careful planning of joint placement for the best appearance. It will also require advance planning for how it will be mounted.
The color desired can be determine by finish rather than wood choice. You could use pine with a walnut stain.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View WoodenDreams's profile


1076 posts in 692 days

#2 posted 06-01-2020 05:59 AM

You can use any type of wood you want for this. keep in mind pine is easy to work with, but will most likely have quite a few knots. I’d probably use red oak, mahogany or poplar. Easy to stain to the color you prefer. Poplar and pine does ding or scratch easily. For the 13’ stretch I’d consider breaking it up in two boards. Using spline joinery or tongue and groove. To hide the connecting joints you could add a accent trim over the joints, and a couple additional accent trim pieces to space out the trim accent.

View therealSteveN's profile


5787 posts in 1355 days

#3 posted 06-01-2020 07:17 AM

I would pick Poplar if available near you? If you are West side of the country I hear a lot about Aspen being the go to wood. As said earlier Pine will have knots. Staining any of them is pretty easy, you just would want to use a pre stain conditioner to get an even look from the stain.

As for tackling the length if you find 13’ not available, for centuries guys have been making boards longer, the simplest is to cut a bevel, and attach 2 boards, Look at the pick of the join in the middle. Cut well, and joined tight you may notice differences in the woods grain from the 2 boards, so you’ll need to really match color before stain, and grain pattern. That is why I said Poplar, it’s pretty easy to do with Poplar.

Best of luck.

-- Think safe, be safe

View ibewjon's profile


1672 posts in 3574 days

#4 posted 06-01-2020 12:36 PM

A specialty hardwood supplier should have long lengths. I see up to 16’ available. I am in the midwest, so that may not be true in your area. The oak should be good for your project. (Box stores only sell easy to stock lengths.). Walnut trees do grow longer than what you see in a store. There are several near me with over 20’ of straight trunk.

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

731 posts in 4399 days

#5 posted 06-01-2020 01:28 PM

I live in Western PA and all hardwoods available come in 16’-0” lengths. Poplar, Cherry, Maple, Walnut, Ash, White Oak, Red Oak, Hard and Soft Maple….. The issue with Cherry and Walnut is not length but width. Most of what is cut is smaller trees. You can use Poplar for your mantle and it will be very serviceable. Don’t worry about the softness of the material, it’s not like your mantle will be getting hard use.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View TravisH's profile


717 posts in 2716 days

#6 posted 06-01-2020 02:02 PM

You can use Poplar for your mantle and it will be very serviceable. Don t worry about the softness of the material, it s not like your mantle will be getting hard use.

- Don Newton

Agree completely. The typical homeowner doesn’t really use a mantle much just more of a design element.

View BookyTwoBirds's profile


2 posts in 45 days

#7 posted 06-01-2020 03:01 PM

Thank you everybody for all of the great responses! I considered pine and poplar as suggested. I even got a few samples to condition and stain to see how they would look in person. The color just wasn’t there. The pine was still too yellow and the green streak in Poplar made the dark brown stain look molded and ugly. That with it being a softer wood pretty much rules it out for me. Just a side note, I’m not worried about myself damaging it. I’m worried about my overactive kids/guests/guest’s overactive kids dinging it or doing something I can’t think of. Plus the harder woods typically look better imo. Better to be safe than sorry…

After talking with my wife with everything shared here, we decided to reduce the mantle size to 6 feet. We’ll probably just hang some nice art on the open side of the hearth. That opens the door for walnut and other local higher end wood options without having to special order.

I feel much more confident about which wood to choose now. Thanks again!

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