How to Make a Log Mantel

Written by mitzi saltsman
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A mantel is simply a shelf that adorns a fireplace. It can have an elegant, traditional, country or modern style. Surround materials often are made of stone or brick, metal or carved woodwork. A mantel brings a finishing touch over a fireplace, enhancing and complementing the rest of the fireplace. A log mantel can fit any size fireplace and works especially well in a country or rustic home. Treat logs well so they last in the heated environment of a fireplace.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Chainsaw
  • Planer
  • Heavy-grit sandpaper
  • Lighter-weight sandpaper
  • Polyurethane
  • 2 corbels
  • Rebar
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Concrete
  • Caulking gun
  • Caulking
  • Wood glue
  • Metal saw
  • Clamps

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Measure the length of the fireplace area where the log mantel will rest. A mantel can be the length of the fireplace surround or just the length of the fireplace.

  2. 2

    Cut the log with a chainsaw to allow a flat surface on the top, leaving the log at least 4 inches thick to provide a solid mantel. Leave the mantel rounded underneath of saw the bottom as well.

  3. 3

    Trim the mantel to the length you previously measured.

  4. 4

    Hand plane the top of the mantel to a smooth out any large, rough areas and to make the surface level.

    Sand the surface with a hand sander using a course sandpaper of 40 to 60 grit. Sand the surface again with a medium-grit sandpaper and finish with a fine-grit sandpaper to create the smoothest surface.

  5. 5

    Glue any loose bark back onto the mantel or strip bark from the entire log and sand it to the desired finish. Give the most attention to the mantel face, which is the most noticeable.

  6. 6

    Cover the entire surface of the dried mantel piece with polyurethane in a high gloss or matt finish. The polyurethane will seal the wood and protect it from drying out more.

  7. 7

    Attach the mantel to a surface that resists heat, such as stone or brick. Add tile, a stone veneer or firebrick to a wood surround.

  8. 8

    Drill 3/4-inch holes in a level line every three feet where the mantel will be placed above the surround. Insert 1/2-inch metal rebar in each hole. Four inches of rebar goes in the hole, and two inches less than the width of the mantel should be left extended. A 12-inch mantel width will require a 14-inch piece of rebar cut to length with a metal saw and clamps.

  9. 9

    Measure the length of the fireplace and the length of the mantel, marking on the mantel exactly where the rebar will touch.

  10. 10

    Force concrete mortar or brick adhesive into the hole in the wall. Insert the rebar and hammer it securely into place. Smooth the excess mortar, and allow the rebar one full day to dry.

  11. 11

    Drill matching holes into the back of the log mantel.

  12. 12

    Slather mortar or brick adhesive to the wall behind and around the rebar post.

  13. 13

    Slide the mantel onto the rebar, tightly against the wet adhesive. Caulk around the mantel to create a smooth finish and allow two or three days for it to dry. Check for any weakness and apply more mortar as needed.

Tips and warnings

  • Choose a log made of hardwood, such as walnut, oak, maple, cedar and white pine. Old wood works well because it already has dried.
  • When cutting new wood for a mantel, expect to have the wood dried at a woodshop in a wood kiln or allow the wood to dry for at least a year.
  • Add corbels, or decorative brackets, to the mantel for decoration or extra support.
  • Check with county building commissioners so you comply with fireplace safety laws.

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