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Fire Place Mantle

My first mantle project.
Click image to enlarge

   To finish off the living room cabinet/shelves/speakers project, I needed to replace the odd looking mantle that came with our house. Actually, I built the cabinets, then the mantle, followed a few months later with the shelve/speaker units to go on either end. For some reason it made sense to do it in that order.

   I had purchased a molding head for my radial arm saw and figured I could carve all sorts of fun things out of scrap 2X4's. The mantle was the first project, and turned out to be the last with the molding head attachment in my RAS.
   I started out with an 8-inch wide, ¾-inch thick pine board that was remarkably flat for the local lumber supplier. I glued a two-inch wide piece of another pine board along the front edge to give it some thickness, and to begin the wrap around the edge of the fireplace ledge.

   Next, I machined a different profile on opposite edges of a 2X4 with the molding head. I re installed the cutting blade in the arm saw and ripped these profiles from the 2X4, producing two strips of molding. I decided which would be on top and which would come last, then trimmed their depth accordingly to achieve the gradual setback on the underside of the mantle. Glue and nail them in place and it was done. Then I had to figure out how to secure it to a single row of brick.

   The solution I arrived at was to take 1 ¼-inch dowel stock and grind it down so it fit tightly into the holes in the top face of the brick fireplace façade. I cut 1 ½-inch lengths of the ground dowel and hammered them into the brick holes at four equally spaced spots along the façade. I transferred their locations to the mantle, drilled and countersunk screw holes in the mantle, pre-drilled the dowel in the bricks and screwed the mantle in place. It has been rock-solid ever since.

Note: Though the molding head cutter worked as it was supposed to in this project and I had no close calls, I have put it in a drawer and probably will not use it again until I get a table saw. Just the sight of those huge knives whirling around essentially unprotected (I have the available guard for the head) is scary. I have used such a tool in a table saw, and that is no problem. On a radial arm saw, it's another story, and one I personally will not try again.

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