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Reclaimed Railway Sleepers - Fireplace

Discussion in 'Wood / Woodwork / Carpentry' started by PolMcPot, 11 Apr 2011.

  1. PolMcPot

    PolMcPot

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    Hello there,

    I have measured and cut some old railway sleepers to use as my fireplace surround. The pieces have all been fitted and really look the part.

    However, as I half expected, they stink of creosote.

    More to lock in the smell than for any decorative reason, I have given the sleepers a light sanding and tested an off-cut with some clear varnish. I had planned on giving them a few coats. Unfortunately, the varnish has dried very dark, but worse still, foam gathered in the grooves and this foam has dried solid into a silvery grey stain.

    Any ideas on what I should do to (a) rid the sleepers of that creosote smell, while (b) not compromising the look of the bare wood too much?

    Thanks a lot.
     
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  3. big-all

    big-all

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    creosote is highly flammable and will ruin any finish you apply
    imho not sutable for a fire surround

    it may off course be engine oil poo pee and what ever else falls from a train remember its only in the last 10 years that retention toilets are the norm before that it went on the track

    your sleepers may have some other sort off treatment but who knows if its oily/tar like its likely to be creosote.
     
  4. foxhole

    foxhole

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    Old sleepers are dangerous in a home and are toxic should only be used with care outside, you can get untreated sleepers for indoor use like those I made my coffee table from or possibly reclaimed timber like the oak on my fireplace.
     
  5. merlin50

    merlin50

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    painted mine with mat black paint
     
  6. IJWS15

    IJWS15

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    Used to work in the railway workshops in York, 30 years ago the rule was that the bogies (the bit under the toilet with the wheels on it0 had to be steam cleaned in a special unit before any dissassembly took place.

    Mainly because they were covered with a mix of brake dust, general grime and anything that has been put down the toilet in the train.

    The bogies got sterilised every 18 months - the sleepers did not.
     
  7. PolMcPot

    PolMcPot

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    Thanks for the replies. For better or worse I will be sticking with the sleepers I have, as believe me a lot of work has already gone into them. I'm aware they are not meant to be used for e.g. a vegetable bed, but as a fireplace...I won't be licking them or anything.

    Any ideas on a solution to the varnish problem? I'm hoping a few coats of something might prevent any chance of cancer, which I can't really find evidence of anyway.
     
  8. big-all

    big-all

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    if it proper creosote you cant stop it as it will just react with any finnish as far as i know

    if you have any offcuts try coating them

    is there going to be any heat source in the fireplace ??
    if so look out for oozing :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
     
  9. PolMcPot

    PolMcPot

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    Might try messing with an off-cut alright so.

    The source of heat will be the wood burning fire itself which is standard size. There is an existing stone surround and the sleepers are placed on that, so there is no direct contact with flame or heat. Also, when cutting the timber they weren't exactly weeping with creosote. I'll try to post a picture this evening or tmro.

    Thanks again.
     
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  11. Richard C

    Richard C

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    I’ve measured temperatures well over 90C in the chimney breast around a multi-fuel stove. Heat from the fire will transfer through the existing stone surround & into the sleepers & just a modest temperature rise (even at ambient temperatures) will be enough to vaporise the creosote. It will stink forever, you will never get rid of it & it’s likely to make anyone in the room feel unwell let alone what it may be doing to their lungs. It’s a recognised carcinogenic & is now practically a banned substance as far as DIY or domestic applications are concerned. It’s a shame you didn’t check the forum first as this has come up several times before but do yourself & your family a favour, get rid & buy something more suitable which won’t poison both you & your family.
     
  12. foxhole

    foxhole

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    You can lead a horse to water etc.etc. :cry:
     
  13. misterhelpful

    misterhelpful

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  14. keenedge

    keenedge

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    Leave them in place and move out. If you didn't want to hear that you were wrong, either don't read the replies or read them and ignore them as you are.
    They are the wrong thing for the job like it or not.
     
  15. digdilem

    digdilem

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    Totally agree with keenedge. Sorry that you've gone so far down this path but you should have done your research earlier. Don't waste any more time, they'll never be suitable, always smell and will probably be carcinogenic too.
     
  16. mointainwalker

    mointainwalker

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    @foxhole

    What dimensions are the timbers in your coffee-table and have you oiled/treated it ?
     
  17. foxhole

    foxhole

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    They are approx 10" X 5" [250mmX125mm] oak untreated sleepers from garden centre, take about 3 months to dry before they stop shrinking, oiled and then polished.
     
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