DIY woodworking projects for every budget and skill level

DIY Hand Hewn Barn Beam Mantel

TheCraftyCatsman: Main logo

Hand Hewn Barn Beam Mantel 

kisspng screw metal metal torx screws 5a6f15bba5cb79

Hand Hewn Barn Beam Mantel – DIY instructions 

kisspng screw metal metal torx screws 5a6f15bba5cb79

How do you turn a barn beam into a mantel you ask? 

How do you finish a reclaimed barn beam? 

Have no fear Cat-ska-teer this project is easier than it looks.

In this project we will walk through the process of making a hand hewn barn beam mantel for your working or decorative fireplace. A reclaimed barn beam mantel can bring a ton of character to the room and finishing one is easier than you may think. In this project I will show you how to protect wood without changing color and allow safe durable finishing without sacrificing the natural color and beauty of the beam.

Why install a barn beam Mantel?

Our fireplace was closed off by the previous owners but given its central place in the living room it was natural to put a TV on it. The “shelf” that the prior owners installed was heavily marked up and sat on a significant angle. We always thought barn beam fireplace mantels looked great and strongly disliked the pretend crooked lack of barn beam shelf that we had. In fact, we kicked the idea of barn beam shelves around but decided to go with a simpler look.

You can imply I love cats and working on projects with my kid, but here’s a new nugget for you – I loathe wires, hate ’em. I have ripped entire walls apart just to hide the smallest of wires. You might call this a bit over the top, strange even – but let’s remember, you’re the one on a website called the CraftyCatsman 🙂

The saggy shelf, paired with the inability to hide any wiring was enough to drive even the most passive person up a wall (without a laser pointer). 

It was time for a real, legit mantel. The cost to buy a finished barn beam mantel was sickening to me and so I decided to finish one myself. 

The trick is finding the right piece of wood – let’s dive in. 

Thoughts: Was finishing a hand hewn barn beam with it?

As with most of my projects, I learned as I went along on this one. The biggest fear that I had was how to support the weight of such a large beam. Thankfully, the old fireplace provided a bit of extra stability. This project was absolutely worth the effort. It became a central focal point on the 1st floor. 

I am typing up parts of these instructions two (2) years after completing this project (we live somewhere else now!). Just yesterday, my three year old Daught (Ayda) saw a picture of this living room and talked all about the mantel. She was just a baby back then but the project stuck with her (look closely at the below pic and you will see a baby monitor).

Barn Beam Mantel on sawhorses, outdoors, finished


Notice behind the barn beam mantel is a catio. We really prettied that catio up after this build. Two levels with two heated cat houses. We don’t just loved Dalle Digitally created cats 🙂

dry cat food in white bowl
DALL·E 2022-08-17 13.52.13 - _studious bro cat with hat and headphones and Dewalt safety glasses_, _sitting at a workbench with a clipboard_, _scrappy bro cat pointing to the clip

Categories and Difficulty

Every Project is ranked by Tool Category and Difficulty Level.

Click below to learn more

DALL·E 2022-08-17 09.54.10 - scrappy bro cat with hat and headphones and Dewalt safety glasses, walking through a brick alley between two row homes, holding a drill, cinematic lig

Alley Cat


Affiliate links:

If you click through any of the below links then I may receive a small compensation from Amazon, even if you go on to buy something else. This is a great way to support the site without actually sending me money :). 


Learn More

This is a content preview space you can use to get your audience interested in what you have to say so they can’t wait to learn and read more. Pull out the most interesting detail that appears on the page and write it here.

GP4638 HS Polyurethane



drywall anchors

cat footprint hires22ASASA 1 1
conjunto de la pista del clavo del metal 27990620

Step 1

Finding the right Barn Beam

Before we go ripping things up let’s make sure that we find the right piece of wood. I said the word Hand Hewn Barn Beam a lot because, well – that’s what I used. This does not mean that you need to do the same. Any piece of wood with character can serve this purpose. I have seen slab wood mantels that look just as good as barn beam mantels. A rustic fireplace mantel gives a lot of  charm while a white oak barn beam gives a more sleek and stylish look. The ultimate design is up to you, let us help you hang it (safely!).

Hand Hewn Barn Beams provide a level of depth and character that few pieces of wood can match. When you finish a barn beam all of the history pours out of it. Unlike many other projects, our goal is not to sand this thing smooth, we want to live in those nooks and crannies and let the fire or ambient light of the room bounce around inside of them.


What is a hand Hewn Barn Beam

Hand Hewn Beam history: Hand hewn beams were fallen logs, hewn into shape using a tool similar to an axe (an adze), this tool had an arched blade at right angles to the handle and was used for cutting or shaping large pieces of wood. Yeah, think about that next time you rip lumber through a table  saw that cuts like butter. 

This is what gives these beams their character. 

Hand Hewn Barn Beam Overview

Finding a hand hewn barn beam with the right character is everything. As mentioned in a bunch of my posts, I always suggest starting with Facebook marketplace. It is a phenomenal place to find unique pieces of wood. 

 The problem is, true hand hewn beams can get pricey – even when they are not finished. If you find that hand hewn beams are too expensive then consider alternatives. 

 Some slab wood options: 

  • Walnut – finish is refined and sleek
  • Maple – bright with pops
  • Spalted Maple – Harder to finish but the results can be stunning

Note: I am going to continue to reference this mantel as a barn beam mantel but replace “barn beam” with any of the above options in your mind as I go through these instructions 🙂

0923206200072 scaled 1
759 7592253 rustic timber beam shelf 1
image of a close fireplace with a tv mounted above it. speaker mounted to mantel
Barn Beam mantle before conversion
Sin titulo 1 2

Step 2

Prep the Area

Lets break some stuff

Fun fact: We took a circular saw to the wall and literally ripped across the entire length of the old shelf. We did this while our 6 month old slept right upstairs and to our amazement, she slept right through it. 

If you are removing an existing mantel then things will likely get messy. It’s okay, just make sure that the new mantel covers what ever damage you cause. For certain wall types, this is also a great opportunity to scope out the inside of your wall. Our fireplace was still hollow, so I used this opportunity to run power (according to code) up the wall and behind the TV – as I said, I hate wires.

If you are mounting on Drywall or Plaster and Lathe then it is absolutely imperative that you identify the location of studs. These barn beams are heavy and you will need at least two studs to properly mount a beam (preferably more). 


conjunto de la pista del clavo del metal 27990620

Step 3

Prep the Wood

Lets not break some stuff

This build presents a unique situation in which traditional wood preparation is not the most suitable option. 

Cutting to Length: 

First and foremost – if the Barn Beam is not cut to length then you have a little extra work to do. 

WARNING – Authentic Hand Hewn Barn Beams (I don’t know why I capitalized it all) will likely have nails embedded in them, they may be very hard to so. This presents an additional danger when cutting. Do you best to be confirm that you will not be cutting through any nails. Even when you’re certain, there is still a chance that small nail fragments were left behind. Because of this, you should wear eye protection (I know, you do anyway – but for real this time). 


Finishing a Barn Beam - Tips and Tricks

I was able to cut my hand hewn barn beam down using my miter saw, it gave the blade a bit of a test. Wood like this needs to be cut carefully, lower the blade slowly and if you have a sliding miter saw then slide it back and forth as you cut. You may need to rotate the beam to get a clean cut. This applies to circular saws as well.

 I chose to hammer the nails in my beam sideways, this added to the character of the piece. 


 If your beam is really dirty then you will likely need to spray it down. Using a garden hose with the highest pressure option (or your thumb) should create enough pressure to blast away dirt hiding in the crevices. 

 After the spray down, use a bristle brush and scrub the surface with warm water and just a little bit of mild soap.

 Spray the barn beam down again to wash away any new dirt that your bristle brush uncovered. 

 Let the beam dry – preferably out in the sun. 


 As mentioned above, we don’t want to sand this beam smooth, hand hewn barn beams are prized for the marks left by the adze. If you are using wood that is not a hand hewn barn beam then refer to my sanding 101 page for proper instructions.

For those using a hand hewn barn beam: we want to be able to run our hands down the beam in both directions without fear of getting a splinter. We also want to make sure that all nails are either removed or hammered in deep enough as to not effect the sander. We break the rules a little here because if you want the nails to show then you will likely need to have them sticking out a little bit in some places. Avoid those areas when sanding, you want them to retain their rustic nature and you don’t need to cut up your sanding discs.

 It is subjective how smooth the beam should be – personally, I started with 60 grit, then 80, finishing with 120. For this project I recommend using a random orbital sander then finishing with a sanding block to get inside the nooks. 

Hand Hewn Barn Beam - unfinished. Pre sanded and pre treated barn beam. rough cut


Barn Beam Mantel on sawhorses, outdoors, finished


Sin titulo 1 2

Step 4

How to Finish a Hand Hewn Barn Beam

Mind your Tung

Now that you can safely run your hand up and down the beam it is time to make this beauty pop.

For this project I decided to use Watco Tung Oil. Tung oil is a safe effective way to seal the barn beam. It adds a layer of protection and even enhances the character of the wood. 

Applying Tung Oil is relatively easy and while you can use a rag I suggest using a rag and brush in tandem. The reason is because the brush will be able to get into crevices easier. 

How (and where) to apply tung oil

As you can see in the picture , I decided to set the beam up outside, when applying the Tung oil, I placed a few sheets below the working area. I put the face of the beam (the side that you will see from the front) facing upward. This allowed me to focus my application on the three visible sides of the beam. I applied tung oil to the back as well but truthfully it was haphazard (no1 sees it anyway). 

  • Shake the can thoroughly.
  • Get a nice deep dip of your brush and brush with the grain along the face of the beam. Continue brushing along the sides. If you have a sawhorse setup like mine then you can even apply the oil to the back of the beam. It’s okay if the back isn’t perfect, you won’t see it anyway.
  • Immediately after brushing, apply a little bit of Tung Oil onto a rag (just a little). Run the rag along the entire beam.
  • Wait 15 minutes
  • Wipe the entire beam down with a lint free rag.
  • Wait 24 hours
  • Apply a second coat with the same methodology.
  • The more coats that you apply the more of a shine that you will recieve. I applied three total coats but some people recommend a minimum of five coats.
cat footprint hires22ASASA55 1
conjunto de la pista del clavo del metal 27990620

Final Step 5

Mount it 

Wanna Hang?

Hand Hewn Barn Beams are not light – there is no excuse, you need to use your studs to support the weight of the beam. If you do not have studs then I recommend cutting away at the wall and installing support beams. There are plenty of youtube videos explaining how to do this. DO NOT hang this beam on drywall without studs. 

Using a stud finder, mark the center of every stud that your hand hewn barn beam will cross. Make sure that these marks are level by using a ruler and a long straight piece of wood.

Screw the mounts into the studs and be sure that you are doing so in the proper direction (i.e., screws on top). 

How to properly hang a barn beam.

You have a few options on how you accurately determine the placement of the beam on the wall. 

  • Determine the center point on the wall (i.e., where you want the middle of the beam to be).
  • Calculate the distance between each stud marking and the center point.
  • Find the centerpoint of the barn beam and mark the  spots on the beam that correlate to the calculated distances above.
  • If you want to be extra careful and if you have help then you can paint a dab of bright paint onto the end of each mounting rod – line the beam up and then press it against the rods. This should leave a dab of paint on the marks that you made.
  • Once you are absolutely certain that you measured your marks correctly then you can move to the next step.
  • Read up on the manufacturers instructions, be sure to choose a drill bit that makes the rods fit snug. You don’t want extra space in your holes.
  • If you are using a drill press then the next part is relatively easy. Using my Wen 4280T ( I was able to drill straight down with no issues. If you are using a drill you have to make sure that you are drilling straight and this can get a bit difficult. Clamp the beam down to your workbench or sawhorses and take your time.
  • If you find that your bracket is sagging, wedge a folder piece of sandpaper under the bottom portion of the bracket – yes, it works.
  • Dry fit your beam on to the wall, you may need to hit it with a mallet to force it on. Keep trying and only as a last resort should you go back and try to widen the holes. You really want them to stay snug.
  • Optional: After dry fitting, remove the beam and fill each hole with a generous but not excessive amount of construction adhesive then put the beam back on to the mounts – this will help keep the beam in place.
  • Check to make sure that your beam is level. If the beam flat (or even tilting upwards) then all is good. Just make sure that the beam is not sloping down (i.e., you don’t want the beam to slide off).

Please, please, please test the integrity of your build. Pull on the beam to make sure that the beam stays firmly in place. Check for any stress on the wall and make sure that your beam.


Once you are confident that the beam is firmly in place, step back and enjoy your masterpiece! 


Hand Hewn Barn Beam Mantel Finished

Yes, we sold the house and paid for the MLS photo. We put this instructional page together after selling the house. The new homeowners are enjoying the mantel as much as we did. They are dog people but we still appreciate the love that they had for our designs. 

8888 1

Dive in to your next project below!

walnut floating shelf. Shelf with neutral tone wall.Floating Shelves

A great DIY way to add natural elements to a space. It’s also budget friendly woodworking alternative to store bought natural shelves.




DALL·E 2022-08-17 09.54.10 - scrappy bro cat with hat and headphones and Dewalt safety glasses, walking through a brick alley between two row homes, holding a drill, cinematic lig

Bookcase Door. Hidden entrance.Hidden Doorway Bookcase

A secret DIY hidden door bookcase and a budget friendly approach to the Murphy door. Your woodworking skills will be tested with this one. 

Difficulty: HARD 2

     Tools: DALL·E 2022-08-17 09.58.48 - fat bro cat with hat and headphones and Dewalt safety glasses, sleeping on plush royal robes, surrounded by power tools, cinematic lighting, digital a