Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fireplace Mantle!!

I have another Pinterest Challenge to share with you all!  I didn't quite get the idea from Pinterest or follow any sort of tutorial from there, but this weekend I whipped up a mantle for my fireplace, amid the cries from Tim to "Keep the racket down" while he was watching TV.  I've been dreaming of a nice mantle and fireplace for, oh forever, so it was time to break out the extra crown molding I had leftover from installing it in our living room, and make a nice little shelf.

Aka, turn this:
Into this:
Ooooh, pretty, huh?

Well it started out like this.  During my Pinterest crazed hours, I've pinned lots of mantles that I love- particularly ones dressed up for Christmas.  I mean, isn't that just the dream?  Dressing up your mantle for Christmas?   Of course, I love mantles all year round as well; just take a look at these beauties I salivate over:

So with that in mind, and with a perfectly sized piece of crown molding laying around, I started to formulate a plan.  I installed some side and top molding to the fireplace earlier this year, and a mantle would be the perfect cherry topper, so to speak.  I looked up some tutorials online on how to hang a normal piece of plywood as a shelf, and this tutorial seemed like a very straightforward and simple way to proceed.  Tim's dad hung a long shelf in his childhood room in the same manner, so it definitely works (at least it did for him!).

So off to Lowe's we went.  Three 8 foot pieces of plywood later, we made our way home to tackle the project.  I admit, I may have been dancing in the halls of the hardware store because I was too excited to contain myself.  But whatareyagonnado, right?
The basic method that I was going to do was to cut the crown molding to size, with 45 degree angles sloping upward that would attach to a piece of 6 in wide plywood on top.  I would be attaching the crown molding upside down so that it would be easy to attach it to the plywood.  Hopefully this will make more sense as you read on.

First things first, I measured the molding against the existing molding to determine the length of the bottom, which would be the smallest cut.  Once I determined where to cut it, I used our miter saw to make a 45 degree angle cut. 

Once the molding was cut to size, I used it as a guide to cut the wood for the shelf down to size. 
Now came time for the hardest part of the project: corners!  I used some extra scrap pieces to extend the molding around the corners to meet up with the wall.  Now, my method my not be what the experts do, but it works for me so I do it.  When you have both of your pieces that will be joined in the corner cut to 45 degree angles, you can sort of guesstimate how much more they need to be cut down.  Corners are almost never exactly 45 degree angles, as much as they should be.  For this particular project, each piece got cut to about 40 degrees.  For my crown molding, it was closer to 35 degrees. 

When you have the pieces cut to fit together as much as you can, it's time to break out a coping saw, aka, my favorite saw ever.  It's got a teeny tiny blade that's easy to maneuver, so it's perfect for whittling down the edges of molding, which is exactly what we're going to do next.  I just cut as close along the edge as possible without breaking the wood.  I cut at a 45 degree-ish angle so that when the two pieces meet up, they'll at least look like they want to join together.

You can cut both pieces or just one, but just keep going until they sort of fit together enough.  You want them to both be able to sit correctly on the surface you're attaching them to, and also at least touch each other.

After that, the actual mantle is ready to be assembled, and this is where I call Tim away from his stories to help me!
Attaching the molding to the shelf is pretty straighforward.  There is a ledge that's clearly the part that's supposed to be attached to the wall, and the rest of the wood slants up at an angle to meet with the ceiling.  I used this ledge to attach to the shelf, so the moldign was essentially be put in upside down.  

We used Liquid Nails and dotted it all along the edge:

Then pressed it firmly against the edge of the shelf.  We took turns holding it in place while the other used tiny finishing nails to hammer it into place.
Then we used a "punch" which is used to hammed nails in so that you can fill with caulk and hide the nails.  It has a tiny little pointed side that's the same size as finishing nails.  We're too clumsy to get things looking that smooth, so we used it to just hammed the nail head flat with the molding without destroying the wood.
I followed the same method with the two side pieces:
Checked to make sure it was the right size and fit- yes it was!
Then it was time to pretty it up.  I filled in all the cracks with caulk and used a putty knife to even fill up everything and wipe away the excess.

All built!
The next step we took was hanging it on the wall.  The method we used was to anchor in a thin board directly on to the wall that's roughly 3/4 the length of our shelf.  Our board was more like the whole length of the board minus an inch or two on either side.  We simply held the board up to the shelf and roughly marked a place to cut it down to.
Then, to figure out where to securely fasten the support board to the shelf, we put toothpaste on the back of our shelf and pressed it against the wall where we wanted it to be. 

As an after thought, I traced the bottom edge of the shelf along the underside (it's open in the bottom and easily reachable).  Then we held the support board up and drilled some started holes through the board and into the wall so we knew where to put in the anchors.

Use some long screws and drill it in (that's what she said!).

Then make Tim hold the shelf up and make sure it's right and so I can take a photo. 
Now, most people prime and paint all the pieces before assembling the shelf, but I'm incredibly clumsy and prefer to paint it afterwards because otherwise, I'm just going to have to touch it up again.

I used paint and primer in one from Olympic paint from Lowe's- it's low VOC!
I applied the first two thin coats with a brush but then used a mini roller for the last coat for an even looking finish.
Next it came time to attach the thing to the wall.  We used the same method as before by holding it in place and tracing along the line of the support wood onto the bottom of the shelf piece so we would know where exactly to drill some started holes. 
Then we (Tim) simply drilled a bunch of screws along the surface of the shelf!


Ta Da!!!

Oh my. 

I also hung up my favorite mirror above the mantle.   I. Am. In. Love.  Like seriously, lifetime commitment to a mirror type love.  Don't tell me you don't feel the same!

 Oh yeah, and I broke out the Christmas decorations.  I waited until after Tim's birthday, so it's totally OK!  Right?  Just a few for my brand new Christmas mantle?

You may notice that we have two shelves hung up very closely to the mantle.  Well, that's true, and they are too close and too "much" with the mantle, so that's going to be something we need to figure out.  Those shelves are the only thing in the entire condo besides our bedroom that's never been changed because I love them so much, but, with the mantle, it's just too much stuff right there.  I need to figure out a simpler wall art situation, but that is going to take awhile, and the shelves will just have to stay put for now!

Even my glass bunny was excited!  I've had this guy since I was a little eight year old obsessed with bunnies- oh yeah, bunny dolls, real bunnies out back, bunny research papers in my free time, and this glass bunny figurine I would bring with me when I moved out.  I was super cool, baby.

Anyway, that makes for one super long and winded blog post today!  Have any of you tackled any big projects in your homes?


  1. Fantastic, but where is the TV you had mounted above the fireplace? Looks cool though better than a TV

  2. dang that's nice. you're so crafty. also, from the pictures, I don't think the shelves are too much, but that's just from the pictures, it could be awful irl.

  3. I love what you did with the mantle! It totally transformed it into something awesome.


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