Archive for December, 2009

I received a request to make these poplar balusters by a customer in South Alabama. His wife had a liking to an image in a Pottery Barn catalog. I did my best to replicate these from that catalog image. They are, of course, an alternating series. They measured 3 inches at the squares.

Alternating Poplar Balusters

Alternating Poplar Balusters

These two images below are from a project that we produced in 2007. The balusters and exterior columns were for a large renovation project near Chicago. They were part of an exterior balcony system and a “widows peak”. A widows peak is a roof top balustrade surrounding the perimeter of a flat roof area. The balustrade is designed to keep one from walking over the edge of the roof. I’m not sure where widow’s peak originated from but homes near rivers, lakes and canals that had them were supposedly for the wives to keep a look out for their husbands coming in from sea.
The balusters are 3 1/2 inches in diameter. The balustrade columns are 4 1/2 inches in diameter with two different size finials.

exterior balusters

exterior balusters

balustrade columns

balustrade columns

Pictured below are a number of Spanish cedar balusters made for a renovation project. You can see the original in white paint to the left. They measure 3 1/2 inches in diameter and are about 30 inches long. The shoulders on the top and bottom are square. (shoulders are the transitional area between the square section and the turned section).

Spanish Cedar balusters

Spanish Cedar balusters

I made these rope twisted columns for a customer in Florida. As you can see they are hollow, turned from staved hollow octagons. By the way that is my youngest son in the picture. The Youtube video has at present over 40,000 views.
The poplar columns were actually designed to be a part of a rather large bed for the customer of my customer. I would have loved to see the final project and to post it but you don’t always get want you want.

rope twisted columns

rope twisted columns

rope twisted columns

rope twisted columns

I love it that I snapped the picture right when my son had received a call.

The Youtube video follows:

These twisted mahogany columns went to a customer on Catalina Island off the coast of California. They were to be part of a pool cabana and were designed to match the existing house columns. They are , in fact staved construction meaning that they are hollow and are composed of eight pieces. Once the eight pieces are glued up the column is a hollow octagon. The octagon is then turned round and finally the roping is milled.

twisted house columns

twisted house columns

Mahogany columns

Mahogany columns

Below is two of the column bases that we turned for the columns.

column bases

column bases

Some of the originals on Santa Catalina below:

orig-spiral-columns-base

orig-spiral-columns1

Pictured below are four of a set of poplar columns we made for a customer some time back. The fluted columns are tapered to simulate the Greco – Roman columns of old. The rope twist are simply cylindrical. These are solid (though laminated) poplar. They came off quite nicely I think and would make a fine addition to any home.

Poplar Columns

Poplar Columns

I occasionally like to look at newel and baluster designs online to “rev” up my creative juices since I often am called upon to design both for my customers. I found this beauty on Jerry West’s Flickr account and thought I would post it here. Hat’s off to him for a fine design and execution. You will enjoy seeing some of the other pieces he has posted in his account. Click on the link below the image.

walnut newel

walnut newel

Walnut Newel

These alder kitchen island legs are 5 1/2″ wide X 36″ long. The particular twist on these island legs is called a barley twist. I suppose it simulates barley grain or a stalk of barley??? I’ve never grown barley (seen it in pictures only) but this is what it is called. You will have to make your own judgment about whether the name is justified or not.
The alder, for some, has become a substitute for cherry. You’ll have to use your judgment on this as well as to whether alder resembles cherry. But alder it is. Alder is more plentiful in the West and not so common here in the Deep South but it is, in fact, shipped here. The alder I purchase is knot plentiful except for the select grades (which is what is pictured below). Even the select has occasional small tight knots. You can see a few on these legs.

Alder Island Legs

In my last post I discussed column mantel surrounds and a few specific related ideas. In this post I would like to discuss the pilaster style mantel surround and some of the possibilities related to pilasters. Defined, a pilaster is: a slightly-projecting column built into or applied to the face of a wall most commonly flattened or rectangular in form. Pilasters are commonly designed to simulate the column on a building. As such many are designed with the same sort of fluting you would see on a Greek or Roman column. Some of the ornamental elements used in pilaster style mantel surrounds include corbels, scroll centers, drops, rosettes. Plinth blocks and capitals are useful for completing the pilaster columns. They help to simulate the Greco Roman classic look.

pilaster_mantel

The mantle above displays the simple pilaster type mantle surround, The pilasters are capped with bandsawn brackets though carved corbels could be used here.

shallow_pilaster_mantel

What is neat about the pilaster mantel surround above is that the bracket (or corbel) overlays the pilaster quite a bit unlike the first image where the bracket overlays just the top of the pilaster. The corbel below would make quite an impression mounted on this style mantel surround.

36" high X 9" deep X 10 3/4" wide

36 inch high X 9 inch deep X 10 3/4 inches wide

shallow_pilaster_mantel_w_corbels

And lastly the pilasters on the mantel surround below are offset by 45 degrees. Note also that the top of the opening around the firebox is an “eyebrow” arch – a nice touch I think.

angle_pilaster_eyebrow

OK this is really my last design: I thought I would add this wrap around style pilaster mantel surround. It is similar to the column type wrap around in the first article except the pilasters make up the corners instead of the columns. Lots of possibilities here as well for ornamentation including fluting, carved appliques (or wood onlays), recessed panels, etc

wrap around pilaster mantel surround

wrap around pilaster mantel surround

Hopefully if you are indeed in the beginning stages of designing and building a mantel surround then these brief articles have been a help. If so let me know your thoughts.

Fireplace mantle surrounds provide one of those settings in a residence where your creative imagination is put to good use. Fireplaces, like stairways and cabinetry provide a unique place to focus the attention of both homeowners and guest. With this is mind, I have put together a series of graphics to help my customers with design ideas for their fireplace mantels. I have listed these mantle surround graphics in three different categories and so will post these in separate posts.

In this first post I will illustrate a few design ideas for the mantel surround with columns. Remember to observe your local fire codes for the clearances necessary for home safety.

Column Mantel Surrounds

Column Mantel Surround

Column Mantel Surround

The mantel surround shows a full round column or leg (It happens to be a Greek type column but many turning profiles are possible). This type is possible if you have a lot of room to work with. Since the columns are full round, the mantel shelf will accordingly protrude out into the living space quite a bit. Makes for a beautiful show doesn’t it.

If you don’t have enough room for a full column mantel surround you might want to consider the split column
mantel surround. See below. This design doesn’t protrude as much into your living space. I should add here that these drawing are very simple and really no ornamentation is included but certainly possible. For example, hand carved scrolls or centers would look really nice in the center section of the mantel.

split columns mantel surround

split columns mantel surround

Corbels would also be a possibility particularly on the split column mantel surround.

A variation on a theme which I particularly like is the wrap-around mantel surround. See below.

corner-column-mantel

corner-column-mantel

You need a lot of room for this surround. Note that the columns in this version are three quarter turns. Or another way of saying the same thing is that a one quarter section is cut out of the columns.

And lastly, another variation of a theme is to leave the surround part off altogether with the face (brick, stucco, etc) of the fireplace exposed. The connecting points on this surround is the mantel shelf and the plinth blocks of the columns.

double_column_mantel

double_column_mantel

This surround has double columns which is a possibility for the other surrounds as well. Are your creative juices going yet?
And finally this column mantel surround is one I built for a friend several years ago. The columns are six inches in diameter X 50″ high. They are salvaged cypress turned with a barley twist. We first wrapped the old unsightly brick with plywood panels and then added the mantel shelf and columns afterward.

spiral column mantel surround

spiral column mantel surround

For further reading you may find these resources helpful:
Fireplace Surrounds
The Balanced Mantel: 10 Ideas