Trim Wraps for Old Beams

Millwork installers discuss ways to trim out posts and beams. October 8, 2005

I did a nice set of furniture grade cabinets for a client. I also ground a bunch of Victorian era molding knives and trimmed out their place with cap molding and parting bead style treatment, plinth blocks and 6" tall base, curved and laminated window casings, etc. All in Oregon ash.

Now they want me to give them a price to install "beam wraps" on some really ugly and crooked posts and beams that run the length of their living room with hanger bolts showing, etc. I have told them I would rather do this sort of thing on a time and material basis, but they keep going back to "how much will this cost?".

Does anyone have a good system for wrapping beams and posts with 4/4 solid stock that they could share with me? I, of course, need a method that will allow seasonal movement of the beams (can't just nail the stuff with zero clearance four sides of a post). The "beam" needs show wood on 3 sides, the posts, 4 sides. The beam is longer than any Oregon ash wood available to me. I am set to make molding knives and run any moldings that may be necessary.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor L:
In a situation like this, I would usually use a beaded casing. This is accomplished by running a beading (5/16" or 3/8" would be good) bit twice on an edge. First pass, the router base is run on the 3/4" edge. Second pass, it is run on the face of the stock. Then you remove a rabbet the thickness of the stock from the outside edge. This makes a place for the intersecting piece of wood to sit. I would make two pieces with the bead/rabbet on one edge and a third piece which would be flat stock with square edges. Find the widest part of the beam and start from there. Shim out to keep the two beaded boards parallel, then nail up the flat stock into the rabbets. When you nail it correctly, it will have some give, the board will move and not crack, and it will not move back unless it is nailed to the beam properly. Here is a drawing of the bead and intersecting board.

Image by Leo R Graywacz, Jr.

From the original questioner:
I like the quirk bead idea. If I understood you correctly, you drew it opposite of the way you would install it, meaning the two boards with the quirking would be the verticals (yes?).

I am still curious how anyone would deal with the joints (beams are longer than available stock length). If you did the beam with quirked bead, what type of treatment would you give the posts? Also, what about the intersection where the post wrap meets the beam wrap?

From contributor L:
For length of stock problem, I would just use a butt joint with a couple of biscuits and make the boards about 1/16" too long (total) and have them snap into place. As for the meeting areas, you need to cope or 45 cut the pieces. I always do a cope cut so that I don't have to worry if the beams are square to each other.

Yes, this is a drawing I did a while back - I should have flipped it 90 to make the orientation correct for you.

I've never done any treatments to the posts (besides shimming). If you feel it is necessary, you could coat them with shellac which should seal them pretty well, and it will dry pretty fast. Won't smell that great, but you will be able to do the work the same day.

From contributor C:
I'm not in your line, but it strikes me that you have a chance to look smart, instead of a problem where your joints are concerned. It should be simple to lay out your joint shape and placement to simulate any classic scarf or square pin type beam joint, perhaps with a contrasting colour for the peg. Biscuit it wherever needed. A least it's not structural.

From the original questioner:
I didn't mean to ask how you would apply a treatment to the posts. I meant, you are using a quirked bead look for the style or look on the beam, so how would you make the posts look? Also, I don't quite understand you as far as the coping and 45 degree thing.

From contributor L:
Yes, that is the look, simple but elegant. If the client wants, you can run a flat molding on the top edge of the beam. I would leave the posts with just the bead. When the beam goes into the post at that intersection is where you would do the 45 or cope. This will make the bead continuous. It would start at the floor, run up the post and when it met the beam, it would take a 90 turn and continue on the beam. If your posts and beams are different sizes, you cannot do this.

From the original questioner:
Thank you. The part where you said you beaded the posts is what I was after. I think coped sticking is a great method to deal with wrapping beams. Also, I had thought it would be cool to mock a timber frame joint with scarfs and pegs or dovetail and pegs.