Mantle mayhem

NOTE:  I’m excited to have my husband, his attitude and his English degree contributing on this post. I hope it is something that will happen regularly.  His contributions will be in italics.  ENJOY!

The lower living room at our house has been titled ‘The Man Cave’ and is mostly Chris’s territory.  There are framed posters of Arnold, a projector for sports games and the like.  Here is what the room looked like before we moved in…

Yes, that is fencing and a lamp post in my house....

Work on this room has gone slowly.  We were excited to have the extra living space but  not in a hurry to make it the entertaining area that the upstairs living room is.  However, as projects got done around the house this room did get some attention.  Soon after we moved in, my parents passed down their sectional so we would have seating and about a year later we finally painted and took down the lamp post.  These were big improvements for a room dedicated to football, beer and the star of the Terminator movies.

However, there was one last thing I had been craving since our first Christmas.  As you may have noticed in the before picture, this room has a fireplace but no mantle.  That meant I had no where to hang my stocking.  How  was Santa going to know where my toothbrushes, hair clips and gum went without a place to hang my stocking?!?!  But life was busy and that first Christmas, 2 months into our life on Roedean Dr., we had other priorities.

Fastforward to December 2010 and my current Christmas list.  Originally I had told Chris I wanted an e-reader.  But when I realized how expensive the good color ones were, I decided that it might be smarter to wait and get an Ipad in 6 months or a year when the price goes down (hopefully).  So, I thought and I thought and I asked for a mantle.  Chris probably had it easier with the E-reader…

This was supposed to be a simple project, but got complicated by math, physics, and my inability to cut a straight line.

We started by looking at websites to find inspiration.  I like to keep things simple.  Lots of clean lines.  We found things we like but much of it wasn’t practical in the space as the white pillars along the brick wall (that i hate but am afraid to take out) complicate the situation.  We decided on a simple board top with a smaller box under it to support the weight of whatever we would later decide to put on the mantle.

Anchoring a load-bearing “base” board to the wall was simple enough once we realized that our chimney is basically indestructible, and that the masonry bit cut through the mortar much more easily. With that secured, I started holding up scrap plywood for Sara to “eyeball” the dimensions she wanted.  She settled on an 8″ deep mantle, with a decorative (and structural) box under it.  That was supposed to be a 4″ drop, and 5″ run to the wall.

Thank goodness one of us took Physics!

It was supposed to be; but Home Depot refused to make the “rip” cuts needed to created our 4″ and 5″ boards.  Words cannot express the confusion and irritation I felt as I stood in Home Depot thinking, “so you’re Home Depot; and you’re saying you don’t have a tool appropriate for this cut, but  you expect ME, Joe Homeowner, to have such a device?”   They were more than willing to show me their selection of table saws…

Suffice to say, we passed.  But we did pick up a mitre box and after some redesign, found wood that would not need the evil rip cuts.  $47 later, we were on our way home.


Happy Chris with his perfect piece of wood, pre-devastating rip cut news.

Recalculating after the devastating rip cut news...

Back home the frustration did not subside. The little mitre box was not big enough for our 7 1/2 inch mantle top and too wobbly to guarantee straight cuts on everything else.  Chris used all his ingenuity, patience and strength to overcome and soon we had a top board cut to perfection and an arrangements of clamps that would prevent further wobbling.

For those not aware, a mitre saw cuts exact angles.  Typically 90 and 45 degrees at least, and nicer models can be adjusted to anything in between.  Hand versions are tricky, because while the mitre box guides you in the proper direction, the blade (and your wrist) still want to flex, and obscure your angle.  1 degree off makes a big difference when you’re trying to match corners.  with a little practice, and a pair of 4″ C-clamps to hold the wood flat and level, I got results that aren’t perfect, but also aren’t embarrassing.   Wood-putty and some hand sanding should help too.

Are we done now?

Chris will not be outwitted by a mitre box!

Once the cuts were made, Chris checked his angles and put in L-brackets to hold the pieces together.  After a few pilot holes and some sanding, it was ready for paint.  We chose white because it matches the horrible columns I mentioned earlier.  2 coats did the job.

Paint me please!

Then it was ready to hang.  No major incidents there.  Chris’s pilot holes worked perfectly.  We didn’t fill in over the screws with wood putty or paint over them for now.  They aren’t obvious and we were about ready to be done. Here is the final product…

That was (kinda) easy!

If you don’t count the mitre box, this project cost us about $40 (we already had the paint).  Better mantle decor to come.  I want to find some pieces that are a little more classy but still stick to the “Man Cave” feel of the room.  I’m sure that will be another entry.  Let me know if you have suggestions!


One thought on “Mantle mayhem

  1. […] The One with Our First DIY Project- December 2010-  Chris and I built a mantle for our fireplace.  Okay… Chris built a mantle for our fireplace and I directed/documented.  SO excited to be able to hang stocking this year!! […]

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