When last we left, the fireplace was covered in a wood and cardboard facia, waiting for a permanent cover to be installed. I pulled the cardboard off weeks ago, and now that the ceiling and baseboards are done, the fireplace is the last thing to be worked on.

Where it's been

This weekend we went searching for suitable lumber to work with, and found that there isn’t much to choose from in the major home supply stores. I was looking for a good sheet of 1/2″ sanded plywood, but all we could find was 3/4″ plywood or 3/4″ MDF and nothing close to useable in 1/2″ thickness. I decided on sanded birch redwood plywood for the face and pine for the sides. Unfortunately, the first try at the sides did not allow for a bevel cut, so I had to go back out for thicker planks and start from scratch. It was at this time, hidden in the back of the store, that I found sheets of 1/2″ MDF for half the price of the plywood. Oh, well.

Faceplate installed

I could only find quality planks in poplar that worked, so I sucked up the extra cost and bought them. The first step was to get the sides correct. First I cut and beveled the insides and then the tops, adjusted the height, planed the bottoms to fit the walls, and tacked them in. This was mostly easy, as it was all tablesaw work, but the hard part was next: milling a $35 board down correctly, with squared beveled cuts in four places. Here I had to get creative with a circular saw, and wisely decided my current saw was not up to the task.

My saw is a Makita that was rescued from a reposessed vehicle eighteen years ago and has been with me ever since. It’s a great saw but it was used hard before I got it, and I’ve used it hard ever since. The rental I got is a new 8″ version of my saw, which means the fittings and calibration are correct, and I can trust that 45° means 45°. The only beef I have with it is that it doesn’t have a guide fence (or a fitting for one) so that I have to manually set up guide fences with wood and clamps to get a clean cut. Otherwise, the motor is strong, and the build quality is great.

Old and new

The first three cuts went very well, but the angle of the fourth cut was opposite the saw’s cutting angle. First, I backed away from the finish edge by a quarter-inch and made the cut straight to remove the center. Then I tried to drop the circular saw in to make the cut, but soon realized this was a mistake, and almost ruined two hours’ worth of work. Instead I made a fence for my router, routed out about 1/2 the depth of the board with a miter bit, and then used a 45° bit to follow it down to the elbow, where I used a handsaw to finish the edge.

Mantle face installed

A few more adjustments to the feet, and I had the faceplate tacked in. Next, I beveled each side and the bottom of a new plank for the mantle facia, adjusted the width, and tacked that into place. Finally, I cut and fit the inserts for the inside edges of the fascia and tacked them in too.

Now, the finish work. The plan is to pull the front plates off, secure the sides into the framework, and install some shims on each side. Then the front plates go back on for good. Next I put in some faux feet to follow the line of the kickplate on either side and cover the uneven floor on each side.

The real challenge will be to find decent cap molding for the top edge of the mantle to mimic that of the rest of the woodwork in the house. I have no idea where to find this, only that it will be hard and that the major chain stores don’t carry anything worth using.

Date posted: November 26, 2006 | Filed under house | Comments Off on Fireplace Revisited.

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