Q: We recently purchased a house that has solid maple mantels over each of three fireplaces. Unfortunately, they have all twisted noticeably. Is there any way to correct this problem? —Philip Hatfield, Ottawa, Kans.

A: Norm Abram replies: Once timber twists, that's it; you can't untwist it. But you can resize it—make it smaller—by planing it square. This is probably too big a job for a hand plane, but you could turn the mantels over to someone—a local woodworking shop, perhaps—that has a thickness planer and a jointer. Otherwise, talk to a timber framer or a contractor that specializes in barn construction; they work with large timbers all the time and can probably tell you whether yours are worth the trouble or whether it makes more sense to build new.
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