Monday, October 14, 2013
Ready, Set, Fire!
Cross another project off my list! As you recall, there used to be a beautiful arched brick fireplace in this house until the last occupants butchered it up to install a cheesy electric fireplace with three glow settings! Yuck. So I got rid of it via Craigslist and searched around for an insert replacement that actually burns wood. Above is the insert we ended up getting.
Since nobody had one in stock, we had to just look at brochures to make our decision. They said this one would burn a maximum 18 inch long and listed the cubic feet of the firebox. I should have sat down and thought about how big the cubic feet actually were but my mind just said 18 inch logs are bigger than I ever use so no problem. Well the firebox can burn an 18 inch log with perhaps an 1/8" on each side to spare and probably no more than 8 inches in diameter which leaves no room for kindling or coals. That part is a bit disappointing but in reality, I don't think it will be much of a problem. We are only using this for emergency heat in a winter power outage situation and as something to just enjoy reading a good book in front of during those cold winter days. I think it will do both admirably. I just need to remember its size when splitting wood here in a few weeks.
The fireplace was ordered with the largest surround which is the flat black metal part around the actual fireplace. This was to cover up the butchered opening in the brick. It did that but when installed, it looked like a floppy piece of metal and didn't look real attractive. So I headed to the lumber store and bought a small pile of oak boards and made the mantel surround you see in the picture. The last mantel I made at my last house was 2 dimensional and rather plain. I took my lessons from it and designed this one to be more 3 dimensional. Since the last time I have a few more power tools so this time around I made most of my own bead and other detail work and stepped the whole thing up a notch. For a finish, I thought about using the same cherry finish I used on my book shelves on the other side of the room but I thought it wouldn't be enough contrast with the bricks so I went with a darker 'red mahogany' stain. Learning my lesson from the bookshelf, I used regular stain instead of gel stain and it was much easier getting into all the nooks and crannies.
The only fault I have with the whole thing is that I masked off the bricks before staining using painting tape and the regular stain leached behind it in a number of spots and stained the bricks. I ended up using some coarse sand paper to scuff up those spots and though it doesn't get rid of the stains, it blends them in more to look like the natural colors of old bricks and isn't real noticeable unless you look intentionally for them. I'm not sure how to prevent that in the future except possibly to build the mantel with a layer of plastic between the mantel and the brick which can be trimmed off with a sharp knife after staining. All in all though I am really happy with the end result. I'm looking forward to enjoying our first fire soon.