How to Make a Distressed Look on a Mantle Shelf

Written by camela bryan
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How to Make a Distressed Look on a Mantle Shelf
Distress a board to make a lovely rustic mantle shelf. (fire place with shelf image by Kirubeshwaran from

Age a wooden mantle shelf to make it match an old, or old-looking fireplace. Turn a wide plank of wood into an antique mantle by distressing it. The key to realistic distressing is to mimic the patterns of wear from years of use. Imitate the smooth corners caused by many people brushing against the mantle. Recreate the dents made by candlesticks and matchboxes placed on the mantle again and again over many years. Make imitation wormholes for a finishing touch.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hatchet
  • Sandpaper
  • Rotary wire brush
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Tiny drill bit

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  1. 1

    Round the corners of the mantle with a hatchet. Round the corners unevenly, concentrating the wear on the outside of the edges to simulate natural wear patterns. Sand the edges until they are satin smooth. Start with coarse sand paper, decrease the grit of the sandpaper gradually. Finish with very fine sandpaper.

  2. 2

    Attach a round wire brush to the drill. Lightly touch the brush to the wood in a random pattern all over the surface of the mantle. Sand the dents to remove the loose wood fibres.

  3. 3

    Dent the wood with a hammer along the top of the mantle. Concentrate the dents in the middle of the sides, the areas where you would place objects on a mantle.

  4. 4

    Drill small, shallow "wormholes" in the wood. Cluster the holes in small groups to simulate worm damage.

  5. 5

    Sand the mantle all over with fine sandpaper, then steel wool. Finish the mantle with a coat of beeswax or polish.

Tips and warnings

  • Polish the project between steps to see if you are pleased with the look. You don't want to add so much damage that you notice the damage before you notice the beauty of the wood.
  • Wear goggles and a dust mask when sanding and using the rotary brush.

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