Faux Beams

Allyson likes to call this project the “faux beams” project because it sounds better than fake beams. Whatever you want to call it, the same goal exists. Cover old, ugly 2×4 cross beams from the roof trusses with pine made to look like a fancy thick beam.

I think Allyson was talking about the messy parts of the shiplap ceiling in this picture. But the exposed 2x4s are also pretty messy.

The plan to cover these 2x4s was to build a 5 ½”x5 ½” box made of pine as a shell around the beams. To start, I have to decide what sort of joint I would make on the corners of the box.

Option one would be to have the sides butt up to one another. This would be a really quick and easy way of building the boxes, since the joint wouldn’t require any angles to be cut. It would also make it fairly obvious that the new beam was fake, since the joint would be more visible. Especially considering these beams are only about 8’ high and easy to see in the workshop.

Option two would be a miter joint. This is where the sides join together at a 45° angle. It’s a harder joint to make, especially in this case, since it would require ripping a 45° angle with a table saw along the entire ~9’ length of the beam. However, because the joint is less visible when assembled, it would help to project that the new beams are not fake. At a minimum they’d look “faux” which isn’t different but does sound better.

I decided to go with the miter joint. It is more work, but I like that it will give a more finished look at the end. It also gave me a chance to work on angle rips on the table saw, something I hadn’t ever done before.

In order to get the technique nailed in for the beam, I built one beam fully before moving on to the other 4. Step one after deciding on the joint; rip 1”x8”x10′ pine boards down to 5 ½” boards with a 45° on both sides. To do this, I first ripped one side of the board to a 45° angle. For this side, it didn’t matter what width the board was cut down to, as long as it was wide enough for the next rip to bring it down to 5 ½”. I think I ended up ripping all 4 boards down to around 6 ½” on this cut. I then set up the table saw fence to 5 ½” and ripped down the other side of all 4 boards. The key for this last rip was to orient the boards properly to get the opposite 45° angle cut, essentially pointing each angle to meet with each other in the middle.

The initial makings of a faux beam.
Notice how the 45° cuts “meet” in the middle of the board.

Step two of the process; cut the boards to length. This step sounds simple, but I can assure you that it was not. Because the walls meet the slope of the ceiling where the beams are going to be installed, the two side walls of the new beam had to be cut with an angle. To further complicate things, the angle was greater than 45°. That meant that to make the cut with a miter saw (limited to 45° cuts), I had to cut the complimentary angle on the board after rotating it to the perpendicular side. I should make a safety disclaimer here. This cut required me to cut the end of the boards, rather than across the length, leaving a lot less space to hold the board safely while cutting with the miter saw. I had to use a lot of caution to get a clean cut AND make sure that I ended the process with my full complement of fingers. The image below should help show what this looked like in the real world. 

The angle required was ~69°(nice), meaning the complementary angle was ~21°.

You may also notice in the photo above that the angle I am about to cut does not cross completely from one side of the board to the other. This is because the beam meets the wall at a 90° angle for the bottom ~2” and then transitions to the angle I had to cut. Just in case cutting the angle was too easy. 

After cutting the boards to length, it was glue up time! Using pin nails to hold everything in place as the glue dried, I glued the two sides to the bottom piece. As I developed my techniques, this process became smoother. The main lesson learned was to buy, rip, and glue the boards together as quickly as possible to prevent warping in between cutting and glueing everything together. As I went along my last beams were much cleaner than my first one using this technique.

These beams won’t be holding any load beyond an occasional scrap piece of wood, so the glued joint should be plenty strong enough.

The reason for leaving the top off of the beam was to allow it to slide up onto the 2x4s cleanly. The beam was a tight fit when fully installed. To make the process simpler, I set the top piece on top of the 2x4s before slipping the rest of the box up into place. With Allyson’s help, it was a relatively smooth process to lift the beam into place and then use finish nails to put it into place on the 2×4 it covered. The last step was to use pin nails to hold the top into place, and then the beam was finished. Well, not finished, since I’ll need to use wood filler, sanding, and staining to clean up the final product, but it’s close.

One down, four to go!

Only four more beams required after finishing the first one. They ended up looking really good after installation. After staining I think they’ll look even better! Plus some wall touch up of the damage I created installing them into place…

Finished beams and the finished ceiling!

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