Fireplace Freestyle Fiddling #4 It’s Mantle Time

I know this is a long drawn out series – but there’s more components than average to this build, due to the flanking bookcases.

1-checking-the-taperThe tops of the bookcases are slightly sloped intentionally – and because of this the side panel will need to be tapered. First a level is placed on top and the gap is measured for the taper. This is how much we will remove from the bottom to make the top level.

2-trper-jigI use a tapering jig, but you can use a homemade version just as well. This will add a slight taper to our side pieces.

3-squaring-the-sideOnce we have the pieces cut we then need to square the sides to the window casing. I used a framing square and shim out the side piece so everything is now square.

4-tapered-sideA piece is cut for the side top reveal.

5-side-paintedAn additional piece is cut to wrap around the front of the marble top. It is then painted before attaching.

6-mantle-roughNow we’re ready to make the mantle. This is a 5/4 (1″) X 10 clear white pine board. I just set it up to get an idea of the overhang.

7-back-band-cutI decided to make a back-band to go at the back of the mantle. I used a router to add some detail to the top and then cut the three pieces. Here I’m test fitting the cuts.

8-mantle-sides-joinedThe three back-band pieces are glued and nailed together, I then joined the front mantle to the side pieces with a biscuit and glue.

9-mantle-glue-upThe mantle and back band were all assembled as a one piece unit to keep everything flat and straight.

10-test-fit-mantleThen the assembled mantle was test fit into place.

11-painting-back-bandThe back band is finished and a hole was drilled in each side leg of the mantle. I made the side mantle top slightly narrower to make the joint easier to finish and not have to be concerned about the joint separating.

12-mantle-wiringWiring from a wall switch is run under the mantle to both sides of the fireplace for the final test fit.

13-sillite-receptaclesThe wires were for these. Called Sillites, they will allow us to plug in Christmas lights or other decorations on the mantle.

14-attaching-the-mantleOnce the wiring is run we can finally glue and attach the mantle.

15-mantle-in-placeTime to start sanding and finishing.

16-fireplace-side-detailOne more detail is added to the side of pilaster to mirror the design in the sunroom.The paint is BM Ice White in Impervo enamel.

17-shell-detailI’ll sand and paint this a total of four times. I start will 100 grit and finish with 400. It is tedious, but when it’s finally done you can feel the difference.

18-sillite-receptacleThe Sillites have a cover when not in use.

19-finish-paintingSo you think we’d be done – but nooooo – we still have to finish the original details on the bookcases – and slide the fireplace in there.

One more post on this thing and I’m outa here – promise.


Fireplace Freestyle Fiddling #3 Almost there

If I’m going to have a roaring fire in this thing by Christmas, I better get a move on finishing the surround.

Let’s Continue, Shall We?

1-fireplace-blockI added small extension blocks to the tops of the pilasters to create some depth and add some dimension. The pilasters are just press fitted to the side pieces that have been attached to the fireplace. The crosspiece is not installed.

2-fireplace-corner-blockA little silicone is used to attach the carved corner decorations to the corner boxes. Again, I used silicone in case I had to pry these puppies off and keep damage to a minimum.

3-pilaster-baseI added a small foot to the base of the carved facing pilaster. Behind the ornamental element is another piece with a bevel cut to match the foot. The base is pre-painted to make final finishing easier.

4-finished-pilasterAll the design elements are in place for the pilasters. The floating crosspiece is slipped in and two scrap sticks are used to keep it in position.

5-pilaster-alignmentHere’s where those floating front pieces come into play. The top crosspiece shows how crooked the face of the pilaster is in relation to the fireplace front at the top. The base of this pilaster is flush to the fireplace – pretty skewed.

6-pilaster-daddoBecause we didn’t attach the front piece to the side we can pivot this just a little to square the face to the front of the fireplace. Since the fireplace is a little skewed you can see the top is slightly out of the bottom of the dado.

7-aligning-fireplace-pilastersBy clamping and attaching the top crosspiece to the pilasters we can tighten the legs and remove any gaps between the pilasters and fireplace. The lower crosspiece is still not attached. Make sense?

8-crosspiece-frameNow we can make the crosspiece overlay. This will be mounted to the main face crosspiece that has yet to be permanently attached.

9-crosspiece-optionThe piece is constructed to frame the center carving and have two side elements. I originally thought I would have two raised panels, but didn’t like the design.

10-fireplace-first-assemblyThe crosspiece frame we just made is attached to the floating crosspiece. The frame is then attached to the top piece that bridges the pilasters. Only now are all the elements attached to each other. That’s a lot of steps to put three sticks together.

11-routed-trim-moldingSince we made recessed panels on either side of the center carving, we need to add the same detail to the recessed edge that the carvings have. A small router bit created the profile and then two trips through the table saw makes the proper shape.

12-trim-molding-set-cornerThe pieces are cut and fitted to the inside of the recess.

13-trim-in-placeNow the recessed panels match the carvings.

One more post and we’ll be on to the next – come along – it’s getting interesting.

Fireplace Freestyle Fiddling #2 Design Fail

First I want to thank you for your kind comments – it’s encouraging to hear from some of you who follow along this 6 + year renovation – my,  you sure have long attention spans.

Remember that anyone can do what I do – it’s not difficult if you take your time and be precise in measurement and cutting – or build in some wiggle room in the design like I have on this project. If I hadn’t put in the daddo (groove) in the back of the legs on this fireplace but instead built it on a flat surface – it just would not have worked.  One other thing – be prepared to make changes in the design – especially if you have no clue as to what you plan to do –

See Below

So we left of here.

6-start-of-fireplace-designThe two side legs (pilasters) are removable and the crosspiece is loose. I’ve built small square boxes attached to the front of the pilasters – now we start to figure out our design.

2-fp-designFail # 1 – This seemed like a good idea on paper, but when I glued these on the fireplace I knew I made a mistake. Waffles anyone? I was trying to tie in the design of the cabinet doors.

3-fp-designFail #2 – OK, so maybe if I just move the center element to make a central rectangle and use a simple molding under the mantle.  Nope.

4-fp-designFail #3 – The fluted pilasters are the original pieces that will go on the cabinet frame. So maybe we could make a wider version to fit the pilaster. Still trying to salvage my waffle, I thought maybe I could place a center square of some kind of design. Not feeling it.

5-fp-designSemi Fail #4 – How about making the waffle go away and add a square design element? The flat fluting has got to go away. This thing looks too square.

6-fp-designFail #5 – So let’s put a rounder element in the mix. I had a couple of stair balusters, so why not add these. It will soften the look of all the sharp corners. No, no, no.

7-fp-designGetting warmer – Let’s just get back to basics. I cut some cardboard and mocked up the design elements – we’ll figure out what they are later. I want three elements to mirror the three Ginkgo leaves in the stained glass windows. Also in the photo I’m in the process of adding rock wool insulation up the chimney. This high-heat insulation will help keep the cold out. This is a direct vent fireplace, so the two silver pipes are for venting.

8-fireplace-design-1Fail #6 – My first thought was to use some type of flower to to tie in the leaf theme of the windows. I found a great wood shop out in Oregon that makes stock carvings that I thought I could incorporate. The company is Heartwood Carvings. This was nice, but too far from the arching design the Ginkgo leaves have.

9-fireplace-design-2Fail #7 – We’re getting closer. The palmetto flower had sort of the design I wanted, but I really liked the central scallop shell design.

10-fireplace-final-designI’m tired, my head hurts – let’s just go with this. I found matching scallop shells in a square block and thought that they mirrored the Ginkgo leaf design. My wife was from an island and she eats scallops – so why not?

11-wood-carvingsSo I put in my order and in a few days I got these. Two carved pilasters 4″ X 36″ – Two 5″ square corner blocks and a 5″ X 12″ center block.

12-wood-pilastersTime to get busy and build this thing.

More to come – stick around.

Fireplace Free Style Fiddling #1

Now that we have the woman cave kinda finished, let’s move on to the 1st floor. Time to tackle the living room fireplace.

It looked like this when we bought the place in 2009.

It looked so cute, but looks can be deceiving. The rug on the hearth hid the fact the whole fireplace was crooked. It had a gas insert that was not to code, painted brick that was poorly built. The old double hung windows were drafty and no insulation made this part of the room cold. We’ll fix it.

1a Old roomAs always first we tear it apart.Which also included resurfacing the ceiling and two walls because of plaster damage.

5 windows doneI  removed the windows and added energy star units that didn’t open – added stained glass windows to hide the neighbor’s house and used the original cabinet doors and made new boxes to go on either side of the fireplace.New insulation and drywall was placed to repair all of the damaged and lost plaster.

1-fireplace-concrete-boardI used thinset to attach  hardibacker with tapcon screws over the uneven brick surface and ran two air lines for the direct vent fireplace and put a new cap on the chimney, ran a new electrical line to the right side of the fire box and had new gas lines with a code approved floor shut off added.

2-marble-installedAgain I dragged my wife to Nashville to look at some stone and came home with this carrera marble slab. They cut the three pieces so the grain and pattern of the stone matched.

The hearth is a piece of leathered finish black granite. The original hearth was limestone, but in really poor shape and was 1 1/2″ out out square.

3-bookcase-topThe tops of the bookcases were capped with part of the same slab.

4-stone-installed-fireplaceThe hearth got a skirting of the same granite. It will match the black fireplace surround. The floor dipped on the right hand side about 3/4″ so that was fixed when I added the 1/2″ CDX plywood overlay. Now the new hardwood will be flat and level.5-marble-bookcase-topAdditional pieces of marble were placed in the sunroom bookcase windows.6-start-of-fireplace-designThis picture represents a week of doodling and trying to figure out what to do with this thing. After a lot of head scratching I got this – not much to look at. The reason for all the doodling? Nothing on this brick fireplace was square, level or plumb. Instead of building this surround as a one piece unit, the pilasters and crosspiece are not permanently attached to each other so that I can make adjustments to make square. Nothing is glued or installed yet. All I know that this is the general scale and shape of what’s going here.

1-side-railBut I have to start making this a permanent thing, so just to be safe I started with the side pieces that will intersect with the cabinet frames. You can see the cuts to fit over the marble tops and granite hearth. I used silicone here for a couple of reasons – mainly because if I’ve made a mistake I can get this thing back off the fireplace. If I would have used polyurethane glue – I would have to destroy my fancy cut-work

2-side-installedThe sides installed we can start building our floating fireplace parts on this foundation. Since I don’t know what the final design is, I’ll put on elements that I know will have to be in place before the next piece of this puzzle goes on.


The front piece of the pilaster is dadoed on the back to fit in the side piece. It is not glued or attached and this allows for it to ‘float’. This will be how we adjust for the out of square parts of the fireplace structure.

I know we’ll need base caps, so let’s make those.First we make the side base. This is notched over the hearth and is dadoed into the face of the fireplace pilaster. The front piece sits proud of the side piece because they’ll be an additional detail there.The side cap is cut to rough shape and temporarily put in place.


A sample block of the front of the cap is used to mark the side piece for cutting.9-finished-base-cap-corner

Once the side piece is cut it looks like this.10-base-cap-installedBefore final installation I paint the pieces that are next to the granite, so final painting will be easy to do.

Bored yet? More to come.


Living Room #5 Ginkgo Leaves

It looks like we’re finally getting to add something visual to the space – and make a bad view go away as well.

1 original window view

Here was the problem – the two windows on either side of the fireplace have sight views that look directly into the neighbor’s building. So when we were renovating this part I replaced the old double hung windows with new Marvin Ultimate windows that had fixed glass.

2 stained glass window back

To illustrate how long this process is taking – I had these stained glass windows made in 2010! Here is the backside showing the strips of wood that hold the window into the frame. A thin foam strip was added to keep the panels from rattling.

3 glass in frame

I removed the cabinets to make it easier to work on the windows and frames.The stained glass was made by my friend Jules Mominee at Mominee Studios. The design is a popular arts & crafts motif that I modified to fit my windows. I thought the square and rectangular elements in the windows mirrored the original cabinet doors. I had the ginkgo leaves made with bright jade and apple green glass – to make it a happy window.

4 glass in place

I built the frames that hold the glass to fit into the casing opening. A simple square stop was added and nailed in place.

6 window stop detail

This piece is removable if I need to take the glass out for repair.

7 led cabinet lights

Now to make the cabinets a little brighter, I put an led cabinet light from Pegasus Lighting 32″ long and 10W

8 cabinets lit in place.

Cabinets are in, lights are in, windows are in….we’ll just keep marching along.

Living Room #3 Fireplace Fiddling

Firstly these recent posts are real time – finished just a day or two ago. The weather and waiting for a plumber keep other projects from advancing.

We’re still in test-fit mode here at MisAdventures. I may not have a plan on paper, but it’s up here in my head somewhere. Even through formal plans are non-existent I just don’t run roughshod willy-nily with stone and wood – no, I do a lot of “what-if” test fits.

1 gas lineThe cabinet boxes had to be smaller than the face frames to allow gas pipe and electric to be run to the fireplace. This side will have the gas – the other side will have the electric. This pipe has to go up and into the firebox. No – that valve will not be at this position. Originally, this valve was inside the fireplace – and that’s allowed by our local code. Not a good idea in my opinion, so we will have a shut off valve under the floor with a key next to the fireplace. We’ll know the layout when my plumber shows up.

2 fireplace 1st fitThe first test fit of the fireplace insert. It’s a Regency L390E Direct Vent gas – and I already see a problem. The specifications show the width without that little box attachment on the left side. It’s an optional remote control module and it doesn’t allow the fireplace to sit centered.

3 fireplace notch start So out comes the diamond saw and we start making some more brick dust – and I thought I was done with this dirty stuff.

4 fireplace fit after notchAfter the notch I thought I might be done with the saw – but I think I’ll have to notch the top a little more because I have a new hearth going in over the original limestone hearth. Why would I cover up this vintage hearth you say? Well, I wanted to keep it – since I added limestone outside. But the hearth is pretty poor in the craftsmanship department. The right side is 1 1/2″ wider than the left side. It has pretty poor joints and really filthy stone. I sanded some and thought about taking it up and resetting it. But really – it looks like concrete.

5 fireplace with surroundBut after thinking about the big picture I have decided to add a honed black granite hearth to match the matte black fireplace surround. I’ll build a mantle and wrap the corners with casework. (Those sticks of wood are my substitute for a CAD drawing). The surround between the fireplace face and those vertical sticks  will be white marble and the tops of the cabinets flanking the fireplace will have matching marble tops.

6 living room at nightSo this is where we are right now. You see I used the original cabinet doors for the design theme for all the exterior windows in the house – all 24 of them. This room is 13’X18′ and the 9′ ceiling has 8 low voltage recessed lights.The wall color will be white – another white on white room. There is a lot of art going in here so the lights are fully articulated to effectively light the paintings. A vintage chandelier will go in the middle.

So as I wait for the plumber to fit the fireplace and get the stone guys moving -hang in there we’ll get this room semi-finished and move on to the next.


Living Room #2 Fireplace and Cabinets

The original cabinets on the sides of the fireplace were 9″ deep. Since I have bookcases surrounding the windows in the sun room I thought I would use these cases to display some art pottery or glass.

1 cutting cabinet sides Because I had the space, I made the cases 16″ deep. Here I’m set up to cut the case sides to length after I ripped them on the table saw to the proper width. I’m using 3/4″ birch plywood that has a UV finish coat on both sides.

2 frame and cabinetThe face frame layout with the cabinet box in the background. The face frames are a little more than 3/4″ longer because a trim piece fits under the doors and is a stool for the decorative pilasters – you’ll see.

3 first fittingThe boxes and face frames are test fit into the space. The cabinets have a space between the walls to allow for a chase for electrical on this side and gas pipes on the opposite side. The face frame is not attached to allow the proper placement of the boxes which are then marked for reference.

4 hinge jigOriginally the doors had surface mount butterfly hinges. I wanted to use an original style hinge but didn’t have enough room because the fireplace will now have a surround that takes up the space needed for this type of hinge. So I opted for a euro style hinge that is inset and concealed. Here is a jig set up to bore the 35mm hole for the hinge cup and the sample test to the right in the picture.

6 hinge profileThis view shows the hinges installed to the doors and the face frame brackets attached. These are ‘clip top’ hinges – meaning you can easily remove the doors from the cabinet by depressing a clip. They are also adjustable 3 ways which is great for original 80 year old doors.

7 hinges onThe hinges are installed and fit to the space to make sure there’s no clearance problems. The face frames are not attached to the boxes yet.

8 face frame fillerThe face frame is exposed on the inside of the cabinet and that little pocket screw hole tucked up at the top of the cabinet would be visible – if you laid down on your back inside the cabinet and looked up. But being anal retentive it had to be filled. Here is a tapered dowel glued in the screw hole.

9 face frame sandedA little sanding and it disappears – I feel so much better now. The top one is outside the cabinet box.

10 inside face frameThe inside frame is finished and the hinge plates are screwed to the frames.

11 box to frameFinally the face frames are attached to the cabinet boxes with Kreg screws on the sides and top. The bottom gets part of the base that is glued and screwed as well. The back was finished with a 1/2″ plywood backer that was finish painted before installing.

12 cabinet componentsHere is the finished cabinet ready to instal. I cut the front of the floor base down so I could attach the cut off piece on the bottom of the cabinet box for support. Sometimes you have to improvise – especially when you make things without any plans.

Hang in there – the doors will be hanging shortly….I hope.