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This project started life as an accident.

The original intent was to strip back the paint from an existing mantle piece. Unfortunately the previous owners had painted and re-painted the whole fire place and finally drilled into it to block it off, all of which made cleaning difficult. (Picture 1)

After trying and having little luck I decided to remove it to see if it could be taken to a specialist for stripping.

Originally I thought it was made from Marble, but as disaster struck discovered that it was in fact made of Slate when it crumbled while I attempted to lift it from the wall. (Picture 2)

A slate Mantle would have looked fantastic, but was not to be(shame)


But because it crumbled so much it made it easier to clear away and also to allowed for the removal original Iron. For Safety (in case there was any lead present) I moved this to the garden so that it could be cleaned. I started with a jet wash which removed most of the of the paint and finished it with a wire brush and drill combination - at all times I wore a dust mask to avoid possible lead in any of the blacking or subsequent paint layers.

The iron was framed with tiles which turned out to be original (these too had years of paint on them) I removed the tiles before cleaning the iron and worked on those separately. “Top Tip” I found that the best thing for cleaning the paint from the tiles was to use oven cleaner, when left it virtually lifted the layers without much rubbing. Once all sections had been cleaned I reassembled the iron and primed it (see picture's 3 and 4)

Step 1: ​Starting at the Top

I had to pick a starting point and thought the best place would be at the top as all proportions would come from that. The original mantle over hung the corner recess which looked a little too large and would make decorating difficult so I made the new one slightly smaller.

The Material selected was MDF/Wood combination - this was to be a decorative piece not functional and the fire place would be blocked in to reduce drafts.

For this I cut three boards (2x 18 mm and one 9 mm - Picture's 5 and 6) I used a router and round over bit to shape the sides and one of the long edges on both of the 18 mm boards. The 9 mm board was cut square and made smaller than the 18 mm sheets. (Picture's 7 and 8) The boards where sandwiched together using clamps all the way around to ensure even contact between all surfaces (Picture's 9 and 10).

Step 2: Side Columns

With the top made I was able to set the sizes for the rest of the sections (Pillars, front plate and base). This allowed me to list all of the sections and get my D.I.Y. store to cut the larger parts to help speed construction.

The next part to make where the pillars. These where formed from four parts, a front, 2 sides and a base plate. I made the outer sides slightly wider then the inner, this was to enable me to bed the finished mantle against the wall and plaster up to the side without leaving a gap. (Pictures 11,12,13 and 14).

To help support the sides I used some off-cuts spacing them up the front of the pillar, putting the last one at the top of the inner side, this would help to support the front plate once attached. The front plate was a single piece of 18 mm MDF, this is important as it forms the main support of the mantle giving it all of its strength. It was also used to set the width of the mantle as it fits across the whole of the pillar. (Picture 12)

Once the front plate was in place I set the last piece of the inner frame across the top between the pillars. This was done in this order to prevent the edge of the MDF from being visible.

Step 3: The Base

The Base This was the next section to make and was probably the most complicated part due to the number of measurements required and the layout prior to cutting.

To start I placed the Iron back into the hole in the chimney. Then put a straight edge across the front and made multiple measurements from the straight edge to the back of the iron.

Each measurement was marked onto the straight edge along with the distance between measurements. I started from the middle and worked out, this meant that I only had to measure one side assuming that the shape would be symmetrical. I then used Google SketchUp to draw the vase out to see if it look correct (Picture's 16 and 17)

These measurements where then transferred to a sheet of 18mm MDF and the base cut out using a fine tooth jigsaw blade. (Picture 18) and used a router to both round over the bottom of the base and put a curve into the top edge.

With this complete I cut some rough strips of 18 mm MDF on the table saw to fasten to the underside of the base as a frame. This would form the platform to lift the base off of the floor to make it easier to fit carpet later on. (Picture's 19, 20 and 21)

Step 4: Building the Mantle

This was the easy part using a combination of glue and screws I fastened first the base to the floor and then the pillars and face plate to the wall using stop blocks inside the base of each pillar to ensure correct positioning. I used the original wall ties to secure the top of the pillars.

The top of the mantle was fastened using screws placed as close to the brickwork as possible to hide them once the wall was plastered.

Step 5: Decoration to the Rescue

While building the mantle in the previous step noticed that I had made an error in the depth of the pillars they where large enough to support the mantle top, which could have meant starting from scratch, however decoration came to the rescue.

I decided to add some corbels, these would provide the support I needed as well as give the mantle a decorative feature.

Each corbel was made from four parts. Three of which would provide the strength and the final part would hide the screws attaching them to the mantle as well as adding to the overall effect. (Picture's 27,28 and 32)

I cut three pieces of MDF to size and used the table saw to put and angle on three of the edges on each of the parts.

For the decorative "screw cover" I had previously obtained some staircase spells while at the local tip (someone was getting rid of them and I asked before they went into the skip).

Splitting the spells in half (picture's 29,30 and 31)

This can be dangerous, so I do not recommend it if you are not used to using a table saw.

This said I split the spills on the table saw in the safest way possible. First I made a jig to hold the spells. I then used my table saw with the riving knife removed to allow for travel of the jig and spell together. I made the jig overly long to provide a handle to hold it safely away from the blade and a stop block to remove the need to hold the spell in place during cutting (all other precautions where taken – mask, face visor etc)

The decorative part needed for the corbel was cut to size using a chop saw, I cut several parts along the length of the "half" stair spell trying each to see which look right. (My wife made the final decision).

Once all of the parts where cut (Picture 32) I was ready to start making the corbels. The main support for the mantle was glued and screwed and the once se put in place on the mantle using two screws as well as some no-nails (Picture 33)

The final unit would look as per Picture 34.

Step 6: Blocking in the Fire Place

The next task was to block off the fire place.

However before this I wanted to know what, if anything was left up the chimney. Instead of pocking my head up there I cheated and held my digital camera through the hole with full flash.

I wanted this to be a light weight fitting to enable removal at a later date should I need to clear any fallen debris from the rear of the fireplace, so once the picture had been examined I blocked the fire place hole using 9 mm MDF using a scrap of wall paper to draw the contour from the fire iron, and transferred that to the material ready to be cut on a band-saw.

I used a router to put a decorative curve to the parts and mitered them so that they fit correctly into the recess left by the original fire blocks. The parts where held in place using no-nails which could also be smoothed out removing the need to sand before painting.

Step 7: The Finished Mantle Pice

The only tasks left where to trim the inner edge around the iron with some wooden Dado Rail, Plaster the surrounding wall and apply a finish

What would I do differently?

A possible improvement might have been during the making of the mantle top itself.

Instead of making the whole three part sandwich I could have just made the lower and middle parts first - this would have give more points to secure it to the pillars and would have removed the need to put the securing screws as close tot eh wall as possible so they could be hidden by plaster when finished. The final top section would then still have been glued and clamped in place to finish the mantle off and it would have been the top that hid the screws.

Thanks for looking - What do you think of the finished job?

If you like this please take a look at my other instructable's or at my web page: http://handycrafted.jimdo.com/

This is gorgeous! Too bad the fireplace had to be closed up. Still just too pretty

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Bio: Hi I like to have a go at anything that's interesting, from CNC to toy making, recently I have been dismantling an old Cybot ... More »
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