Mantel Do Over

When we started the renovation I wanted to do something with the mantel and wood beams. There were grand thoughts of barn wood and reclaimed oak. In the end, I was much more practical and it turned out for the better. Here is a where I started in case you’re curious. The picture below is for reference.

Ugly blah stain lameness

Ugly blah stain lameness

Taking down the mantel was a bit more work than I thought but I got it out and down to the basement for some planning and sanding. As the previous post shows, it worked pretty well. Unfortunately, in the chaos of living through a renovation, my wife disgarded the four little oak dowel/washers made by some carpenter back in the day when the mantel was attached to the brick. Sigh… more on that later.

First, the staining process. I loosely used this technique from Ana White’s site about staining “that dark espresso” color. Normally, I don’t like to do this but the wood was free (minus sweat labor) and anything was better than the old 60s brownish color that was there. My version involved General Finishes Oil Based Gel Stain in Java since it was actually easier for me to get (my Lowes didn’t have the Minwax stains in the colors I wanted). Both my wife and I were happy with the final color.

Installing it back required a bit more ingenuity. I didn’t want to screw from the top with anchors into the mortar joints like the previous install. The screw holes were plugged with putty and it didn’t look right. Plus the “back side” was rough and you could still see some mill marks. This look is more in keeping with our aesthetic so I wanted to reverse the orientation of the board. This meant I had to use the holes in the brick and attach from the bottom up (if only I had some type of dowels custom sized to fill the oblonged holes).


Top view of the oblong holes needing a dowel.

Thank goodness for good French craftsmen and a little bit of patience walking up and down the stairs.

The rasp made short work of oblonging these stock dowels.

The rasp made short work of oblonging these stock dowels. Note the sole surviving dowel from the original build in the background.

Each of the four had to be custom fit and then I used Liquid nails to give them some extra holding power in the holes.

A nice tight fit but not pounded all the way in

A nice tight fit but not pounded all the way in

After making all four dowels, I drilled holes from the bottom up and used hefty lag screws to attach the mantel.


Not too shabby

I’m really happy with the results. Now I just have to figure out how to get the beams down without jacking up the walls so I can do the same thing to them.


About Shawn Nichols

Heady. Phishy. Woodworker
This entry was posted in Home Improvement, Living Room, Mud Room, The Big Reno and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mantel Do Over

  1. Pingback: Nakashima Carpentry | While The Glue Dries

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