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Mantel and Surround

I started this project several months ago.  I had planned to finish it during the summer but I bought a house and my job changed so I spent most of that time moving and working. 

My plan is to have the lower part ready to install over Thanksgiving, and the upper part ready by Christmas 2005.


A rendered image done in Rhino 3D.  Hopefully the finished product will look as good.

I have primed and painted all of the frame and panel parts and will be building the bent lamination for arch today.  This will be the second attempt.  The first was made from resawn poplar and looked very good.  Unfortunately, I think my glue was too old since some of the layers delaminated.  Rather than resawing more boards, I am going to try building it with 1/4" birch plywood.


Parts primed and painted with a first coat.  The second coat will be applied after installation. 

I used loose mortise and tenon joinery on the rectangular frames.  For the center frame with the arch I will use glue blocks on the back side to help hold the frame together and to support the lamination.

bending form

The MDF bending form and the somewhat de-laminated first part.


Every clamp I own in use on the lamination. 

I used the original curved part as a clamping caul for the new one.  The only problem I ran into was that as I clamped everything together, the caul and the part wanted to ride upward.  I used a dead blow hammer to correct this then added a couple of clamps to help hold it in place.  You can see the two aluminum bar clamps sticking up in the air.  A few more clamps would have been welcome.  Most of the clamps I am using are Jorgensen's with a 2-1/2" throat depth.  I think I will buy some of the heavy duty ones with a deeper reach since this would have allowed me to put additional pressure at the bottom of the clamp-up.



The new lamination on the right with glue oozed over its edge.

I left the part clamped up for 24 hours.  When I removed the clamps and pulled out the part the glue that had squeezed out of the bottom edge was still sticky.  The glue had been trapped between the part and the waxed paper I was using to keep it from sticking to the form.  I had to leave it to dry before I tried to run it through my jointer and tablesaw.

I was able to joint an edge and rip the lamination to width this evening.  I set up the router table and cut the rabbet to fit into the face frame.  Also, while the glue was drying I made the pieces for each side that will mate with the arched lamination.

I did a dry fit of the frame and panel assembly for the center of the mantel this morning.  I used it to layout the length of the lamination which I also cut and clamped in place.  This allowed me to fit the side pieces and get them cut to fit against the ends of the arch.  The lamination is now glued to the frame and has five backer blocks glued and clamped in place to make sure it will stay square. 
I will post pictures tomorrow when the camera is charged up.



The glue is dry and teh clamps are off.
View from the front.


Glue blocks in place to keep the face frame square to the arched lamination and to add gluing surface for strength.

More 11-19-05

center section

Here is the center section of the mantel laid out to see how everyting will fit.  The four-inch wide arch and side pieces are necessary to space the frame away from the face of the fireplace which has some protruding bricks used to support the old mantel.

fireplace assembly

Shown with the side columns in place.

My worktable is 4x8 feet and you can see that there is only about a foot showing at the lower right of the photo.  This thing is getting pretty big.  I had to stand on a stool in the driveway to get far enough back for this photo.


No turning back now, as the glue dries under homemade clamps.

I built the pieces that wrap around the sides of the brick fireplace today.  They are 3/4" Birch plywood joined with a 45-degree mitered corner.  I used a homemade fence attachment on my biscuit joiner that registers from the outside face of the part.  I put #10 biscuits every six inches and the match at the corners after glue-up is excellent.  I used this technique on other parts of this project with the same results.


Gluing up the miter.  Lots of clamp but very little pressure.

I went home for Thanksgiving and got the mantel installed.  At least as much as I have completed.  Here are a few somewhat blurry pics.


This one shows the framework screwed to the fireplace during the initial fitting.


Parts clamped in place for more fitting.


All the parts fastened in place.


View from the front.  I was glueing up the base for the lower left side, thus the hole in the last two photos.

When I go home for Christmas, I will add some trim and molding around the base of the two columns and there will be about another seven or eight inches of freize, cornice, and shelf on top of what you see here.

I was planning to finish the mantel at Christmas.  I drove home Christmas eve day in a rainstorm and didn't really think that 2-1/2 hours in the rain would improve the fit of my parts.  Consequently, the project was put off until spring break.  I was able to get everything home on Thursday afternoon and did some preliminary fitting.


The top shelf, frieze and cornice assembly, bullnose trim, and bases for the pilasters after trimming and fitting.

bulnose trim

A closeup of the bullnose trim that separates the upper and lower assemblies. 

frieze and cornice

Bullnose and frieze/cornice assembly set  temporarily in place.

top in  place

All of the upper parts set in place and fitting nicely.


The finished product.  Everything nailed, screwed, and fastened into place.  You can see the bullnose trim on the top of the pilaster bases just above my knee level.  (Builder shown for scale).