It’s no mystery that our dining room has been undergoing a bit of a change. In the 2 years that we’ve lived here, we never once used the room to eat in.ever. I wanted a cozy space with a “welcome y’all” type feel. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also partially motivated to get it done because our dining room was one of the first spaces you’d see when entering our home. We’d done a few updates including building a new farm house table that you can check out here. We painted and also changed out the chandelier. I never did share the chandy update, so you’ll see that in a few. Anyway, the room was nearing completion, but it still had one “problem” area…the large, empty wall. It was just big and barren. I really wanted a place where I could display seasonal decor, so the natural next step in the dining room update was a 5 foot long, DIY mantel shelf! Let’s get started!
I headed on over to Lowe’s knowing only that I wanted the shelf to be somewhere in the area of 5 feet long. After perusing the lumber, I selected (3) 6 ft. pieces of wood and had them cut to size.
(1) 1×8 cut to 65 inches for the actual top of the shelf
(1) 1×6 cut to 62 inches to secure underneath the 1×8
(1) 1×10 cut to 60 inches for the backplate
These measurements are just what worked for my space. They can be modified to be made longer or shorter, however if you plan to use similar style trim, it’s a good idea to keep about 2-3 inches between cuts. They need to be slightly different lengths and depths to allow for the tiered look of the mantel once the trim is secured.
You’ll see I also purchased several different types of trim molding. I wasn’t sold on the 1/2 round shoe molding (which is why it’s crossed off since I wound up not using it), but I bought it anyway in case my Bub didn’t care for the more decorative style. I also purchased a decorative trim and I’m honestly not sure what the proper name for it is, however, I will say it made this project much easier because it had a 90 degree angle on back. You could use a smaller crown type molding, but this was just loads faster so I went with it!
I put the nice side of the 1×8 which will be the top of the shelf, facing the ground. I had a little helper assist me with squeezing out some Gorilla Wood Glue (It’s my fave!) and then put down the 1×6 on top with the nice side facing me. I centered it ensuring that I had 1 1/2 inches on both sides. (Remember, I cut the top to 65 and the under side to 62. That 3 inch difference was to allow for the 1 1/2 inch variance on either side). Press firmly and make sure it’s adhered properly. Gorilla Wood Glue bonds really quickly, so instead of clamping the boards, I secured the boards further with (3) 1 1/4 inch screws spaced evenly in the area where I’d planned to mount the corbels. No reason for visible screws and having the corbels was a good way to hide ’em.
My apologies, but I wasn’t able to safely cut and photograph the process of cutting the molding. I used a miter saw at a 45 degree angle. If you’ve never used a miter saw, there are some great vids on you tube on how to cut outside corner molding using a miter saw. What you’ll be doing here is the same principle. I watched the videos and still made MANY wrong cuts, so make sure you have spare wood to play with until you get the hang of it.
I did, however, get to use my Porter Cable nail gun for the first time so I can share those deets! Prior to attaching the nail gun to my compressor, this is what you I did. Pull back the magazine. It should snap into position as shown in picture 2. Load your nails. Make sure you have the right gauge and size. Every nail gun is different and uses different size nails. I now know this because I bought the wrong dang size the first time!
Once in place, pull back the release. It’s the kinda umbrella shaped, corrugated piece at the end. This will release the magazine and push the nails to the front of the nail gun. Test a few nails out on some scrap and be careful. The gun packs quite a punch! Make sure to wear safety glasses, hearing protection and make sure there are no people or pets around.
Another bit of advice….measure twice and cut once! Advice, that I very obviously didn’t follow myself! It’s all good. Imperfection at it’s best!
For the trim that I used on the top shelf, since it was more exposed and I didn’t want to risk having any gaps, I went with glue and nails for good measure.
I used my Kreg Jig to make several pocket holes in order to secure the backplate to the actual shelf. Before you start having fun making pocket holes, it’s important to consider that you’re going to want to secure the shelf to the studs (which may impact where you choose to position your pocket holes) Also, I screwed my corbels in for added support, so make sure prior to moving forward with making your pocket holes, that their position won’t interfere with securing your supports.
You’ll actually be securing the backplate under the shelf, so that it’s flush with the first and second components of back parts of the shelf. I placed the top of my shelf face down, positioned the backplate on top and then screwed in my 2 1/2 inch pocket screws.
Next, I positioned my corbels. Ok, a quick word about these corbels. I bought mine at Lowe’s. They were $38 and I snagged them for $9.50 each! Best part? You can get them HERE on the website for $9.50 too! Back to our regularly scheduled program, err, blog post…The length on the backplate was 60 inches, so I placed the center corbel at 30 inches and then positioned the others 1 1/2 inches from the ends of the backplate on both sides. It was late, so I literally turned the corbel on it’s side and predrilled by eyeballing.
Once predrilling was done, I applied some a Gorilla Wood Glue and held the corbels firmly in place. After about 15 minutes, I was sure the bond was strong, so I flipped the piece over and screwed the corbels in where I had predrilled using 2 inch screws. Make sure you choose screws that are the appropriate size for your supports.
I chose to fill my holes with Bondo. Only mix a little, as it hardens VERY quickly. For filling small holes, my favorite tool is a toothpick. For larger areas, I fill and then make flush by scraping a straight edge, in this case a piece of cardboard, along the edge.
*****I’ve never stained over Bondo, so if you plan to use an oil based stain, make sure you’re using a compatible filler. It is however perfectly paintable!*****
Now’s the time to add your dents and dings!
This next part is totally your call! I chose to stain my piece with homestead House Milk Paint in Sherwood Brown. It’s the same color I used on my dining room table and is truly one of my favorite staining products. It dries in no time and looks so great! I tend to mix my stain so it’s really smooth and slightly thinner than It would be if I was using it as paint.
I milk painted the next color, Homestead House Limestone. As you can see, I didn’t pay close attention to getting the consistency smooth. That was intentional. IMHO, chunks and grit add to the feeling of authenticity.
After the Limestone dried, I layered Homestead House Sturbridge White over the top. The Limestone is in the center and the Sturbridge is on the sides. See the slight variation in color?
I let it dry overnight and the following morning, I took my sander out and smoothed the piece to reveal some of the Limestone and Sherwood stain.
I used a fluffy old brush to clean away the dust and she was done!
I couldn’t wait to get it hung in our dining room. I secured the piece to the studs in 5 places and then concealed my screws with some left over milk paint. Look hard. They’re barely visible! There was some debate as to whether or not I should glaze. After much thought, I did decide to highlight the details with a very sparse application and immediate wipe away of glaze. I also dirtied up the recesses with rottenstone.
Without further ado, here’s the new mantel shelf and my new chandelier from Home Depot! I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave me a message below. Feel free to PIN and share and of course if you have any questions, please ask away!
You can check out the inspiration for my mantel over at robin-happyathome. She assembled her piece differently than I did mine and used hers as a headboard, but it’s a cool alternative!