Work in progress; we’ll finish to your needs. Shown with mineral spirits splashed on — not a real finish.
Walnut has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, thanks to its natural dark hues that complement the white and gray tones that are also trending. The solid wood provides a warm contrast to the clean, linear lines of contemporary design. This particular mantel shelf, which we call “symmetric,” was born from the challenge of creating thicker mantels that don’t look like artificial box beams. The style begins with a large 2-inch-thick, 16-inch-wide slab that is cut in half lengthwise. We then join the two pieces together so that they mirror each other, creating a symmetric face. This walnut mantel shelf is now a solid 4 inches thick.
This approach is a little more practical than drying thick material. Drying wood is full of challenges, particularly thick wood. I often say that drying wood is like cooking meat. A 1-inch steak cooks quickly – 10 minutes or so. A 4-inch round roast, on the other hand, can take hours. Just like meat can be done on the outside but rare in the middle, wood is the same. It can be dry on the outside but wet in the middle. As the moisture changes, the wood can crack, twist, warp, and otherwise misbehave. With old, reclaimed wood, it is very much “what you see is what you get.” The wood has done its changing. You can see the cracks and twists that already exist. With modern wood, if not properly dried, wood can show these same twists and cracks months or even years after installation. If a person does not expect these changes, life is not so happy. A lot of unseasoned sawyers just don’t have enough experience to properly dry wood. We have encountered quite a bit of material that measures 6-8% moisture content on the outside but is 15% moisture content on the inside. We have even encountered supposedly dry walnut that was actually 30% moisture content in the core. Most sawyers don’t want to dry thick material because it takes too much time in the kilns. Drying 1-inch material might take a week. Drying 4-inch material might take 10-12 weeks. 4 times bigger takes 10 times as long in this case, and the equation only gets worse as you get thicker. Of course, kiln time is money. In addition, most experts will say that the best way to dry thick wood is to let it air dry for year(s), then do some kiln drying.
This is all a long way of saying that using good 2-by material can be a more practical approach to creating thicker, solid pieces. We can be assured that the 2in material is properly dried before we join it to create 4in walnut mantel shelf. The approach also creates an interesting, unique look.
This piece is a work-in-progress. It is currently 4in tall x 6.25in deep x 91 3/8in long. While this piece is nice, it’s not exactly a perfect piece. The sapwood line on the back edge as well as the epoxy fill to square it off are a little sub-optimal. However, we can darken the sapwood when we apply a real finish. That will actually blend pretty close. Depending on the length, the epoxy might actually get cut off. We’ve really found that it’s the face that matters, and this one is very nice. The sapwood edge is on the top back edge which is most likely rarely seen.
These pictures show the mantel splashed with mineral spirits. They give us a good sense of what the mantel shelf will look like with the finish applied. The mineral spirits evaporate and let us continue on our work.
With these issues, this one is priced to sell at $650 — regardless of size. We’ll cut to size and apply a finish to meet your needs. This one can be shipped anywhere in the lower 48 states via FedEx Gnd for $150.
We are also happy to custom-build this style in different sizes for you. We’ve done them as big as 5 x 9, although most are closer to 4 x 8. These run $175 per LF.
About the Tag – The Electrolux canister vacuum cleaner was released in 1937. This particular ad is from about 1960. It is funny, you can see the phone number listed as FE3-2205. Electrolux vacumes are known for their durability and repairability. There are still plenty of old ones holding their value on eBay.
More Mantel Inventory
However, our website here only contains a small number of all of the mantels that we have in stock.
We are literally a mom-and-pop shop that does lots of custom work. We often just don’t quite find enough time to update this website regularly.
We have nearly 150 finished mantels and another 500 or so unfinished pieces in stock at any time that can be viewed with other links.
We also do lots of custom work. If we understand what you are seeking, we can find and create that magic piece.
Please contact us for a full list and personal recommendations. We’re happy to chat and find a great piece for you.
Mantels with Metal
We work with a great local blacksmith to add metal straps and other ornamentation to our mantels. He is the real deal — coal forged and hand hammered. The metalwork has great color and tight fit. Nothing machined. We can start with a finished mantel you find on our site, or we can start with raw stock for more options.
Here are a few examples of the hundreds that we have crafted over the years. We can work together to create something unique. You can also browse our Mantels with Metalwork page.
In most cases, no special and expensive brackets are required — just some lag screws. The different approaches outlined are very strong, simple, and economical. Take a look at our mantel installation tips.
Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-281-9330.