A few more built-in questions

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Forum topic by ADHDan posted 04-17-2014 02:19 PM 1136 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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800 posts in 2133 days

04-17-2014 02:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m about to start building built-ins around my brick fireplace, with brick chimney. I’m kind of modeling them off this image:

I’m building them out of solid maple and maple plywood, so I’m probably not going to paint them. I’m also using a solid maple beam for the mantle (roughly 4”x6”x6’), and I’m leaving the chimney brick going all the way up the center exposed. Here are my questions:

(1) Eventually we’ll probably mount a TV over the fireplace, in which case we’d put video components into the bookshelves or base cabinets. I’d like to leave myself some way to hide cords as much as possible when we do this. What would be the best/easiest way to leave myself access to a small amount of hidden space behind the cabinetry, so I could snake cords out to the mantle?

(2) If I wanted to mount the mantle without brackets, what would be the best/easiest way to do it? Is a French cleat anchored into brick strong enough to hold a piece of maple that big? Do I need to nestle it into the upper bookshelves on either side of the fireplace?

(3) Is there anything non-obvious that I really need to know before getting myself into this? I have built some very large cabinetry before (I made a 10’ long dining room sideboard with upper stemware cabinets), but this is my first time constructing a built in piece.


-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

6 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#1 posted 04-17-2014 02:58 PM

Flush fitting a mantle between two bookshelves can be tricky.
Using mouldings makes it a lot more forgiving.

I think corbels are easier to make a secure mantle install with,
but if you insist, see how it tight you can screw a 2×4 to
the wall over the fireplace. I’ve used this approach to
anchor cantilevered mantles. Sometimes a mantle is
made as a plane box and you can have access holes in
the front to drive screws through, then install mouldings
over the holes to cover them up. Still, think it through
and make a mockup to test your engineering if needed,
else you may be in a position of needing to drive nails
where you would rather not have them.

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2133 days

#2 posted 04-17-2014 03:42 PM

Thanks Loren. What if I secure the beam in 5/8” deep mortises in the sides of the bookshelves, and then add further support by gluing cove molding or something around the mortise (i.e., the molding would extend the bottom support for the beam by another 3/4”)? It might be tricky but I could combine this with a French cleat on the wall and a matching cleat inset in a dado along the back of the beam, which would help hold it flush to the wall.

Does this sound reasonable, or am I in way over my head?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#3 posted 04-17-2014 04:20 PM

French cleat could be tricky to get right, they may work
okay for cabinets but consider you have a long cabinet
back resting against the wall so cleat can’t wiggle. Here
you have a cantilever and I think a french cleat will
be wiggly. You might consider something like tapered
bedrail fasteners connectors. They are pretty cool actually.

Obviously attaching the mantle securely to the cabinet
sides is a good idea. It’s getting everything to fit right
that can be tricky. There are numerous ways to get it
done, like framing the mantle then making cardboard
templates with a marking “frog” so you can get 1/4”
or thicker veneered ply to fit the scribes all over, then
use mouldings over the ply edges.

There are a lot of ways to skin a cat with mantles. If
you want to avoid using mouldings and scribe strips all
over to cover your sins, you’ll need to get real exacting
like I described above.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5705 posts in 2838 days

#4 posted 04-17-2014 04:51 PM

1. I would install an outlet or two in the back of the bookshelf. A cable outlet as well. That way, adding the A/V equipment will be easy.
2. I would make the cabinets / bookshelves 1/4” undersized (width wise). Then you can concentrate on a nice fit between the mantle and the bookshelf. Any gap at the walls will be concealed with 1/2” wide cabinet trim.
With or without brackets, I would screw the mantle directly to the brick. You can plug the screw holes.
3. Build the base cabinets and bookshelf separately, and screw together with furniture fasteners. Build the bookshelf 1/2” shorter than the ceiling height for easier fitting. Crown molding will hide the gap.
Just plan on walls being out of square, and less than straight. Hide the difference with trim.

Best of luck on what should be a nice project.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Rb12's profile


80 posts in 2253 days

#5 posted 04-17-2014 05:02 PM

totally agree with pintodeluxe.

I have done similar setups in each of my houses. The floating mantle will be a bit tough, i have not had to deal with that. In my current house, the brick fireplace was floot to ceiling, I mounted the TV in the middle into the brick and build a hollow cedar mantle to run all teh cabling through. I actually mounted the center channel in the mantle as well. The cabling then runs to the bookshelf on the side that holds the A/V components. Here I screwed a 2×4 into the brick and mounted the mantel over it (2×4 acted as the cleat).

i did the same thing in the old house and actually incorporated the subwoofer into one of the lower cabinets, which sounded pretty good when the doors were open (although not ideal worked great for teh confined space.

Building in pieces (cabinets/bookshelves/crown) terrifically simplifies life.

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2133 days

#6 posted 04-21-2014 02:55 PM

Thanks everyone for the advice. I finished the cabinet carcases over the weekend:

I left about 2” of space behind the cabinets to allow for cables and such, and I’ll attach the uppers with removable hardware.

Here’s the beam I’d like to use for the mantle. I’m thinking that a floating mantle probably isn’t going to work since I’m going to need to be able to take the uppers down every now and then. Once I finish the face frames and trim, I’ll see what would look nice for a set of brackets.

Anyone have suggestions for a nice finish for maple cabinets? I want to keep them light so they don’t feel overbearing, so I’m especially looking for suggestions that will pop the grain while leaving the color close to original. Thanks again!

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

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