Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! #15: Phase I complete-ish

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Blog entry by BethMartin posted 12-19-2009 02:51 AM 1697 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: Things so far and sketching out mantel and my new macaw Part 15 of Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! series no next part

I know it’s been a while, but I am done with my woodworking for the winter, because I finished! All I need to do now is make some tile for the fireplace surround/hearth. (The baseboard molding of the cabinets and mantel is not actually attached yet, I just propped them up for the pic.) The picture is not that great – the finish looks a lot better in person – the mantel pics below show the color better.

The mantel was the last part that I needed to do before I could move our cars back into our garage. I am so glad too, because we were able to park in there again just before this freaky cold spell hit. Whew!

Here are some various pics of my mantel as I was working on it. It is basically just a hollow box and it is held onto the wall with french cleats. The top of it is removable so if I want to run any new low-voltage wires through it ever, it will be super easy. (The speaker wires were already in place in the wall behind the center speaker). The corbels are just really simple and I made those by doubling up the wood that I’ve been using all along.

It’s all just really hanging by its french cleats right now and super-removable. So when I do the tile it won’t be a big deal to take it down and get it out of the way.

I had some issues with my staining when I was making the doors. I went through my usual routine of dye-shellac-stain-topcoat. But when I got to the topcoat stage, patches of stain would come completely off and leave big light spots. It was a total nightmare, and I still don’t know what exactly caused it. It wasn’t glue – it would happen on pieces that never saw glue too. I didn’t have that problem at all with the first batches of staining. There are also some color differences between the cabinets and the doors, and I think it has to do with me fixing this staining issue on the door and having them come out a bit darker. However, it doesn’t bother me enough to want to fix it. ;P And once I have my colorful tile up on the fireplace, it’ll distract everyone from the variation.

Another issue I’ve had is that my backs CRACKED. Once that freaky cold spell hit, and the humidity plummeted, these cracks showed up. So then I patched them, and then they cracked even more! I would be sitting at the computer and I could hear them. I think it’s because they are so big and move so much and one side is against a cold outside wall and the other is under the heat vent. And I probably could have shimmed them a lot better. So I’ve decided to just let everything settle for the winter and crack as much as it wants and then I’ll come back with some caulk and fix it all up.

Thanks to everyone for following along with me and cheering me on! It helped so much! And I learned a TON.

-- Beth

9 comments so far

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3259 posts in 3883 days

#1 posted 12-19-2009 05:07 AM


This looks absolutely fabulous.

We don’t quite understand what you mean by “my backs CRACKED.” Do you mean the plywood back in the bookcases? You’re probably correct about the temperature/humidity variations causing the problem. We constantly hear cracking, etc. as our 20-year-old home continues to settle/expand/contract/etc.

We think you did a wonderful job with which you should be very pleased.

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View patron's profile


13635 posts in 3512 days

#2 posted 12-19-2009 05:27 AM

beth ,
this looks very nice !
i would say , a great christmas present to self !

don’t worry about the ’ not nailed on yet ’ stuff ,
my place comes apart like a leggo set .
as long as ther are future things to do there ,
they don’t get final .

have a great holidays !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3549 days

#3 posted 12-19-2009 05:37 AM

Thanks for the nice comments!

Yep the back totally cracked. You can even see it on the right side built in on the upper left. It’s almost 1/4” wide now! yikes! I used this tongue and groove planky stuff and glued them together to make the back panels. It’s just cheapie pine and I figured I could get away with it since it was going to be painted and I didn’t mean for it to add any strength. I’m thinking if I would’ve just left the planks unglued then it would’ve had some extra breathing room. Ah well. Once I get around to fixing it no one will see – it’s just an annoyance at the moment.

-- Beth

View a1Jim's profile


117268 posts in 3748 days

#4 posted 12-19-2009 05:37 AM

IT all looks great Beth super job its an outstanding job.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3603 days

#5 posted 12-19-2009 11:39 AM

Everything looks great! I especially like the design of the fireplace surround and mantle. The stain makes it really classy. Your bookcases and other built-ins look great. I can even see a glimpse of the window trim!
Nice work… now sit back and enjoy it… until you find the next project!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View stefang's profile


16058 posts in 3505 days

#6 posted 12-19-2009 05:33 PM

Looks great Beth. Will be spectacular when you get the tiling done. Good work!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18379 posts in 3847 days

#7 posted 12-20-2009 05:40 AM

Lookin’ good Beth. A little paintable caulk will take care of the crack. Be sure it says “paintable” and is not silicone!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3496 days

#8 posted 12-21-2009 07:52 PM

You know what? I did something like the backing you have in shelving I made – and I was also worried about the cracking. This house I bought had this stuff ALL OVER. At least the previous owner was very consistent in his design methods… I have it all removed from the upper floor now. The bottom floor – I painted over it white and it looks better. But that stuff was always cracking and coming apart. So when I used it for backing and doors I created panels with it, then made frames around the panels so it would not come apart too much. It’s in my bathroom downstairs, and still holding well (another unposted project!). That’s probably the only solution for that stuff.

Despite the problems (cracking, the stain) this looks great. Looks like you did a great job on the doors and drawers.

View robbi's profile


176 posts in 4126 days

#9 posted 12-27-2009 08:10 PM

Very nice work Beth. You inspired me to make myself an entertainment center. I am using all my leftover wood from past projects so I am painting it so you can’t see all the different grains. And I am wingin it as far as a plan. If it is half way decent, I might post it. It is wonderful to make your own stuff, and you save SO MUCH money….all the new tools you buy to make it don’t count….that is a future investment. I think I have only spent about $2000.00 to make my entertainment center….all tools!! LOL

Nice to see you back and in action…looking forward to seeing the end result.

-- Robin, California

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