Well, I finally finished a project that I've been working on for about a month or so.
See below, the finished product:
I'd longed to buy an antique mantel for quite a while, and moving to a new house provided the perfect opportunity! My husband and I spent a day in historic Ellicott City in Maryland, which is FULL of awesome antique stores. I found a handful of mantels throughout the day, almost all of which were either falling apart or incredibly over priced (or both).
I came across my mantel (see pic below for original condition) at one of the last shops we visited. It was heavy, sturdy, and had an obscene amount of paint on it. The price tag was listed at $175, but the shop owner came down to $125. Considering what great shape it was in (other than the 10-20 decades or more of paint), I decided that was a good price, and I bought it.
I asked the shop keeper the history on it. She said the co-owner of the store had pulled it from an old home in Pennsylvania that was being renovated, and the owners believed it to be from some time in the 1800s. I have no proof of this (other than that it appears to be hand carved, and it has ancient, square nails embedded in the back), but it's fun to believe the story!
While the mantel looked white at first glance, I realized after getting it home that it was actually a light pink color. After days and days of scraping, I discovered paint in white, navy blue, tan, mint green, coral, gray, more white, more tan, and finally a dark brown stain from its younger days.
For this project, I used the following products: Klean-Strip Paint Stipper (15-minute, paste version from Walmart), Acetone (Walmart), a puddy knife (Walmart), a metal bowl (to collect stripped paint), a variety of stiff-bristled brushes (Walmart), paint brushes (already on hand), Elmer's wood glue (Lowe's), Elmer's wood filler (Lowe's), Minwax Paste Finishing Wax (Lowe's), a cotton cloth, clamps (Lowe's), mounted hangers (Lowe's), and DIY Chalk Paint recipe using Valspar trim/doors in satin bright white and Plaster of Paris.
To begin, I used an old brush to put on very thick layers of stripper on the paint. After waiting 10-15 minutes, it began to look like this:
After 15 minutes, I used my putty knife to scrape away.
I scraped as much as I could into this extra stainless steel water bowl.
In the picture below, the coat of paint with the stripper on it is actually what remained after already doing two coats of stripper, yet there was still more paint underneath! Madness!
The picture below gives you an idea of how terribly thick the paint was. Those grooves were so deep and pronounced once they were cleaned out!
I had to use wire-bristled brushes and a nail filer to get in the crevices.
Once I removed as much gunk as possible, I sanded to get a smoother finish, and cleaned up the dust with acetone. I decided to add an extra piece of wood to the top for extra bulk (pine, 2x10x10, cut to the length I wanted from Lowe's).
After a thin layer of DIY Chalk Paint, I used Elmer's Wood Glue and clamps to attach the extra shelf. I left the clamps on for a few hours or more.
While the Elmer's glue dried, I used Elmer's Wood Filler to fill in gauges, cracks, and the space between the new shelf and the original shelf.
I used a hand-sander to go over the top of the shelf and make the edges nice and smooth. Afterwards, I did two more coats of chalk paint to get a nice, solid color. I sealed it with finishing wax, then polished it well.
Hanging this sucker was tricky. I contacted a few bloggers whom I'd seen post about their own re-finished mantels, some said their mantel was simply leaning against the wall with no anchors, and others used L-shaped brackets to hold it in place. I really didn't like the idea of having exposed hardware on the mantel. After much discussing with my DIY-Diva mother, and stalking the hardware aisle at Lowe's I finally settled on using a Flush Mount Hanger.
Now that it is actually mounted using these, I love that I chose them. However, as my husband would be happy to tell you, it was a real pain in the rear trying to line them up perfectly with their counterparts. However, we finally succeeded. Yay!
When I originally started the project, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with the inner-frame of the mantel. I'd seen some do chalk board, others add book shelves, and other various projects, but I wasn't sure what was right for me. That's when I happened to glance over at a spare mirror I've had laying around that I didn't know what yet to do with. Will it fit? I wondered. YES!
The best part was that I didn't have to mount the mirror. It is held easily in place by the mantel.