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Sealing a Red Oak Mantle

We recently purchased a red oak log from a local farmer and had it cut into a 5 in thick by 5 foot mantle. The tree was cut down about a year ago here in Virginia and the timber rough cut just in the last two weeks. The mantle has been mounted to our fireplace, but before we have any fires we wanted some advice on the best way to seal the mantle. We'd like to keep it fairly natural, so we were going to use linseed oil, but a friend suggested we use oil based polyurethane for a better seal, to prevent it from drying out too much and cracking. It already has several cracks and worm holes, which is what makes it look so good, but we don't want it to crack too much more.

Does anyone have experience with something like this and have a suggestion?

Thanks - G

Re: Sealing a Red Oak Mantle

Cracking is due to uneven drying. The ends dry faster than the rest and has a tendency to split. That's one of the problems using green wood. Normal air drying for a piece 5" thick is usually about 5 years but being over the fireplace it may be faster. The main thing is to seal the ends. Poly, paint, or even paraffin is used when drying lumber. Without knowing the moisture content it is difficult to say if you should seal the whole piece because you will only be sealing 5 sides. It may be better to just seal the ends and wait a few years befor sealing the rest.

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