When my grandparents were first married, they moved into a small house made from logs. In the 1950s, when they built a new house, half of the old log home was converted into a garage. It remained there until the spring of 2013 when it was taken down to make room for another building. This is how we built our new fireplace mantle from one of those original Aspen logs:
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Step 1: Tools and Materials
- An old log, long enough for the fireplace mantle.
- Five 7/16 inch by 4 inch lag bolts.
- Five railway spikes.
- Stud finder
- Measuring tape
- Electric chain saw
- Hand plane
- Chalk line
- Belt Sander
- Electric drill
- 7/8 "Forstner bit
- Brace and 7/8" bit
- Long drill bit
- 7/16" drill bit
- Nut driver and extension
- Ratchet, extension and socket
Step 2: Preparing the Log
After carefully measuring the width over our fireplace, an electric chain saw was used to cut the log to length. A hatchet and hand plane were used to flatten some of the high spots on the back so it would sit flat against the fireplace. Because the top of the log was the former outside of the building, some smoothing was required. A chisel was used to remove some major splinters and then a belt sander did the rest, leaving the saw marks from the original milling.
Step 3: Preparing the Bolt Holes
After carefully measuring where the studs were above the fireplace, we marked the stud positions on the front of the log. Using a forstner bit, we drilled each hole for the bolts. (*Note: The hole drilled needed to be large enough for not only the head of the lag bolt but also for the socket that fit over the bolt head. In this case, my hole was 7/8 inch.) Since my forstner bit was not long enough, I had to finish drilling this hole with a bit and brace. A spade bit would also have worked. (*How deep to drill?: I was using four inch lag bolts so I figured that two inches in the log and two inches in the wall would be strong enough. I ended up needing to drill the holes four to five inches deep.)
Next I drilled a pilot hole, large enough for the lag bolt. I had a long narrow drill bit that I used to drill from the centre of the large hole through to the back. I then used a 7/16 inch bit to drill the pilot hole through from the back. This made it far easier to install into the wall.
Step 4: Installation
I used a total of five 7/16 inch by 4 inch lag bolts to install the mantle. Each lag bolt had a washer. I used a nut driver with an extension on my drill to start the bolts and screwed them in as far as I could. Once the first bolt was started, I checked to ensure that the mantle was level. I had to finish each bolt with a ratchet with an extension and socket as the nut driver was not long enough to finish tightening the bolts. The five bolts were probably overkill as it seemed to be plenty solid once the first two bolts were installed.
Step 5: Adding Pegs
Even before installation, we noticed that there would be large holes in the front of the mantle from the bolt holes. The original idea was to turns some pegs to fit in the holes so there would be a place to hang Christmas stockings. However, once the mantle was up, we noticed that some old railway spikes fit nicely into the holes. We decided to use these as we loved the look. They fit tightly enough not to fall out, but they are easy to remove should we want to change them out in the future.
Step 6: Finished Product
We love the look of our new mantle. We particularly love the character of the old logs - including the old pegs that were originally used to pin the logs together in the old house.