Fireplace Mantle for Friends Moving to CA

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Project by sswilcox posted 08-02-2013 03:10 AM 2572 views 8 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been lurking on LJ for several years, but this is the first project I’ve ever posted.

This mantle was a bittersweet project. Our best friends recently moved to California due to a promotion at work. Their new house has a gas fireplace insert on an otherwise bare, flat brick wall. Knowing that I dabble a bit with wood, they asked me to build them a mantle to take with them. I was both flattered and grateful for the opportunity to create something meaningful for them – a token by which to remember my family that they will always have with them.

I showed them some pictures of different styles to get a feel for what they wanted – everything from thick slabs, to full surrounds. What you see in the photos is more or less what they chose.

I built the top/shelf/cap first, as they had specific measurements for both length and depth for me to work from. It is double-thick 3/4” cabinet-grade plywood (maple veneer, I believe – maybe birch), glued then cut to size and trimmed with some stock moulding. I then used those dimensions and the crown I had selected to determine how big to make the inner support boxes. After attaching the box to the top, it was a relatively simple task to install the crown and chair moulding. I routed a decorative edge onto a maple bottom cap (and burned the end a bit) for the final profile.

I had researched whether or not a french cleat would be suitable for securing this to their brick wall, and found several craftsmen online selling mantles with that system. I made another 1.5” thick plywood glue-up and sliced it at a 45-degree angle. I installed one half inside the hollow back of the mantle with a ton of 2 and 3” screws. The weight of the mantle and the extra thick cleat will hold this thing in place very nicely, as long as I didn’t mess up the orientation when I attached it.

I can’t find my pictures of the finished product, but I sanded out most of the blemishes and stained it with Minwax’s Jacobean, per our friends’ specification, then applied a few coats of clear poly.

Our friends were ecstatic. I secretly felt like a pro when their movers wrapped it up in some 10 layers of bubble wrap to protect it during transport. That’s respect, if you ask me.

Thanks for looking. I welcome any feedback.

-- sswilcox, Oregon

3 comments so far

View Ken90712's profile


17592 posts in 3361 days

#1 posted 08-02-2013 08:22 AM

Great job, very clean…

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View eztrigger's profile


156 posts in 2100 days

#2 posted 08-02-2013 08:36 PM

I like it. I’ve been planning something similar for our house and the guts of this thing are exactly what I needed to see. Thank you!

-- "Some get spiritual 'cause they see the light, and some 'cause they feel the heat." --Ray Wiley Hubbard

View rhybeka's profile


4350 posts in 3294 days

#3 posted 08-03-2013 03:53 AM

that’s awesome SS! thanks for showing the behind the scenes – I need a mantle for a downstairs fireplace and wasn’t sure where to start!

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

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