Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who’s the Man…tel?

When we moved into our house, the fireplace wall in our family room was very boring and very beige.  The limestone fireplace just seemed to blend in with the tan walls (and tan baseboards…).  After a new coat of navy blue paint (Benjamin Moore - Newberryport Blue), a new power outlet,  new baseboards, and a mounted television, the wall was looking a lot better; but it was still missing something and we couldn't quite figure out what it was.  While Deanne was decorating the room for Christmas this year, we finally figured it out.  Above the fireplace was a small stone ledge roughly 4 inches wide.  The ledge was deceiving because it looked like a great place to set decorations; but anything we set there was immediately at risk of falling off.  Deanne even tried taping things to the wall but that only delayed our decorations from crashing to the floor. 

That’s when we got the idea to build a mantel.  We started out by looking at designs online and eventually came across a design that we liked on The Lettered Cottage.  We thought the simple design would look good with the rest of our furniture and it looked wide enough to hold anything that Deanne could think of setting on top of it.  

As I mentioned in my previous post; one of the best things that I’ve found at Restore was a pile of super cheap walnut boards.  Walnut is easily my favorite species of wood.   Of the more common hardwood varieties (Oak, Maple, Cherry, Ash, Poplar), walnut tends to be darker in color and has a lot of nice grain. Milled pieces will cost you roughly $5 - $10 per board foot, so imagine my surprise when I found a pile of it for only fifty-cents per foot.  I didn’t have any projects in mind at the time, but the deal was too good to pass up.  My only regret is not buying the whole pile (I still got my fair share though).  Since we had a design picked out and I finally had a use for the walnut that was sitting in the basement, it was time to start building our mantel…  

Most of the boards that I bought at restore were 1”x4”x8’ but I was lucky enough to find a 1”x8”x8’.  The wider board would be perfect for the front piece because there wouldn’t be any visible seams when looking at it head on.  The existing ledge was 7 feet long so my 8 foot boards were the perfect length.  I started out by gluing and clamping two of the 1x4’s together (sorry, no picture).  

Once the glue dried, I scraped off the excess glue and ran the piece through my grandpa's belt sander to make it nice and smooth (I wish I had one of these bad boys in our basement).

With the boards smooth and straight (with the help of the jointer and table saw) I began the assembling the mantel.  Using my Kreg Jig Master (shown below), I attached the front and top pieces together with pocket-hole screws and some more wood glue.  Pocket-holes are a great way to join pieces of wood when you want to conceal your screw holes.  

So with the front and top attached, I moved on to making the side pieces.  My grandpa actually had some scrap walnut that I was able to use for the sides so I cut some square pieces and attached them on the ends with more pocket holes and glue.  With the whole thing assembled, I gave it a quick sanding with my orbital sander using 220-grit sand paper.

A few days after I finished assembling the mantel, I had my wrist surgery so the mounting and staining was put on hold for a few weeks.  Since we had to wait to see the finished product, we thought it would be fitting to make you wait too (don’t worry though; the end of the mantel saga is coming soon).  

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