Beams were traditionally used to support upper floors. Oak was often the wood of choice, being strong, resistant to insects and fungi and available in pieces long enough to span ceilings. Nowadays, oak is very expensive, but you can have the look of oak by using specially made reproduction beams or by staining cheaper wood yourself.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Workmate, or similar
- Wood glue
- Dowel pins
- Drill and bit
- Oak stained varnish, or similar
Measure the ceiling along the intended beam line. Clamp one length of wood in your Workmate. Clamp another overlapping length of wood alongside it so the combined length is equal to the length of the intended beam.
Saw through both lengths of wood together in preparation for making a scarf joint. Cut at 45 degrees or less, according to the beam dimensions, to maximise the joining surface. Join the two lengths together with wood glue, clamp in the Workmate and leave to dry.
Select two wood dowel pins suitable for reinforcing the scarf joint. Choose a drill bit size according to the dowel pins. Drill through the intended top surface, i.e., the surface that will be fixed to the ceiling, at a point that will meet the diagonal saw cut halfway along its length to the depth of the dowel pins.
Squirt wood glue into the two holes. Insert the dowel pins. Wipe off displaced glue and allow to dry.
Stain and varnish your beam using oak stained varnish. Allow to dry. Your beam is now ready to be fixed in place.
Tips and warnings
- Bernard Powell has some good advice on using salvaged wood for the job and making beams look authentic.
- As Neal Barrett Jr. points out, a scarf joint produces a joint much more difficult to see.
- Where box beam is used instead of solid wood, the glued joint between two lengths can be strengthened by the addition of secret screwed inserts rather than with dowel pins.
- Keep fingers behind the cutting blade of the saw and away from a moving drill bit.
- Wear goggles when any risk of foreign material entering the eyes exists.
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