Our Fireplace Renovation Part 4: The Mantel of All Mantels

On the left is the mantel as a slab. It was cut in half and the left side became
the mantel on the right. 
Rob's parents live on a ranch outside Sacramento. One of their black walnut trees died and they had to cut it down. When we heard about it we thought, that wood must be pretty. We had seen black walnut wood in specialty wood shops before and they were expensive. Too pricey. This tree was begging to become something great!  So Rob talked his Dad into buying an Alaskan saw mill attachment for his chain saw. Since he used to own a tree trimming business, he had faith that his Dad can teach him how to use it. His Dad bough the attachment and we went to their ranch to cut up the dead tree stump into live edge slabs.

We were so excited and so nervous at the same time. With the help of Youtube, we figured out how to use the chain saw attachment and dug in. I oversaw the cuts as the "safety officer" ensuring they weren't going to loose an limbs!
  • Within a few hours we had five 4 inch slabs. We were so excited thinking of all the furniture possibilities! A new dining table. Yes. A new bench. Yes. All of the above please!
  • The only problem is that the wood needed to dry. Even though the tree had been dead for at least a year, the wood was still "wet". Its best to work with dry wood to prevent the wood from curling and warping. 
  • We called a few tree live edge experts in the area and they said it typically takes 1 year for every 1 inch of slab. I am not very good at math but I know that math. FOUR YEARS. 
  •  I wasn't going to wait that long for a finished fireplace. We explained that one of the 6 ft slabs would be cut down the middle in half and used for a 5 inch thick mantel. After explaining this, they said mounting it indoors to slowly dry the wood over the fireplace would be okay. 
  • So we went forward with the mantel. We used the jointer to get the back of the mantel completely flush so it would sit flat against the wall. 
  • After that we took it to a local wood specialty hardware store to have it planned and sanded in the drum sander. This eliminated hours of extra sanding for us because they had the huge industrial sized equipment and it only cost $40 for 2 slabs. Worth it! 
  • We did the final sanding at home and put a clear stain on it to highlight the natural colors in the wood. 
  • We had ordered black countertop brackets from Amazon (linked here) to support the 100+ lb mantel. It came in a four pack and we only need 2 but it was only $50. The brackets support up to 500 lbs so we knew we would be okay to support the mantel. I also liked how the black brackets matched the black frame of the fireplace. 
  • We installed the bracket and mounted the mantel with some heavy duty screws directly into the shiplap and wall studs we had framed out for the wall. 
  • With a few finishing touches and my favorite part, the staging, the mantel and our fireplace renovation was complete and I couldn't be happier! What do you think of our finished product?