Introduction: Faux Art Deco Steel Beams

I had big double 2″x12″ beams in a room that was being turned into an Art Deco styled theater. The beams obviously are not ideal for the design as they are. The thoughts of wrapping in oak or sheetrock were more money then I wanted to spend or just lack luster. So I researched Art Deco era steel work and felt I could give the wood rafters the cool look of steel but on the cheap. Just a bit of detail work will go a long way in creating the look of steel.


1/4″ Luan

3/8″ smooth plywood

Wood Glue

Scroll saw

Miter saw

Table saw

Orbital sander

tack hammer

Staple gun

5/8′ stapes

18gFinish nail gun

1-1/4″ 18 gauge finish nails

Furniture tacks

Black caulk

Grey Primer

Benjamin Moore Gunmetal 1602 paint

Step 1: The Before

The 2″x 12″ doubled up rafters were 24′ long by 6″ wide. These need to be disguised to blend into the room design.

Step 2: Painting the Rafters and Creating the I-Beam Look

I started with a light sanding with the orbital sander to smooth out as much as possible. Then I used a black caulk and went over any holes, knots and cracks to smooth it out even more. I used a tinted grey primer and then Benjamin Moore Gunmetal 1602 for the look of natural raw steel. To create the look of an I beam I used 3/8″ smooth Plywood the cap the top and bottom. Because there is a 2″ space between the 2″x12″‘s that make up the 6″ wide rafter I made the pieces10″ wide so there is a 2″ over hang.

Step 3: The «steel» Brackets

There are 7 beams so I needed to make 28 of these as each beam has 2 on each side on both ends

Step 4: Creating the Pieces for the Brackets

I cut out all the pieces needed to construct 28 of these brackets. I created a jig that would make all of them the exact same size. This was made to be able to make 14 left and 14 right sided brackets. With all the pieces cut out and the jig set it was a quick and easy assembly line to make them all exactly the same. I used wood glue and a staple gun with 5/8″ staples to hold together. After they were together I used rounded furniture tacks to add the look of steel rivets.

Step 5: Coat of Primer and Paint

Once together I sprayed a coat of grey primer on both sides and then finished by painting a 2 coats of Benjamin Moore Gunmetal 1602 latex paint.

Step 6: Nuts and Bolts

To add to the realism of the beams I created Nuts and Bolts from a 2″x4″ and a 1/2″ dowel. Creating the six sided hexagon on the table saw from the 2″x4″ then with the miter saw I cut them into 1″ pieces. I then glued the dowel pieces on half the nuts to created the illusion of a bolt going through the beam. These were glued and nailed to plywood pieces made to look like iron plates. Again once together Once together I sprayed a coat of grey primer on and then finished by painting a 2 coats of Benjamin Moore Gunmetal 1602 latex paint.

Step 7: Installing the Parts

Because the rafter ties are 24′ long I made the beam look like it was made from two steel beams joined in the middle. This helps to add interest to a rather long beam. Now both ends and the middle have something to catch your eye. I began with installing the bolt plates on each end with glue and finish nails and then the brackets went on over top of them. The bolt pattern was created so that they would «peek» out through the bracket.

Step 8: The Finished Beams

The finished beams turned out great and add an amazing visual effect to the room that could have easily been lost with a covering of sheetrock. This project was dirt cheap. I used used what I had left over from other projects. The only thing I had to get special for it was the paint. The creation of all these pieces on the other hand was very time consuming but worth every second. Anyone could do this project, you just need patience! Good luck!

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