How to Restore an Antique Wood Mantel

When the fabulous wood mantel that came along with your home is buried under decades of old paint, it is time to get a rescue. Stripping a wood mantel is not for the faint of heart, but also the finished product will erase the labor encounter from memory. Sanding and restaining is an easier task when the antique mantel was never painted; fresh stain will mix old and new sections of wood. Adhere to antique hardwood to replace damaged sections or a whole missing mantel.

Restoration 101

Remove the mantel from the fireplace, if possible; use nontoxic stripper, a scraper and a wire brush to loosen the layers of paint. Be sure to wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Don’t gouge the fragile wood or scrape the plan off carved sections by scraping and scrubbing too hard. Allow the stripper sit painted wood till it penetrates and seams all of the layers. Scrape away that which you can, undertake delicate decorated and recessed designs with a toothbrush or “floss” around carving with a piece of rough twine to remove the paint. Once the paint is gone this may take over one program of stripper — wipe down the mantel, sand it lightly to smooth any rough spots, and stain, wax or lacquer it to emphasize the natural beauty of this wood.

Protect Grain, Remove Grime

Flooding a century-old piece of wood with liquid will raise the grain, damage the wood and loosen any glued joints. Stick to mineral spirits or another solvent to assist to wipe off paint stripper. Clean the sooty or grimy surface of an antique mantel by whipping an extremely mild pure liquid soap into a froth — a tablespoon of soap in a quart of water should provide lots of suds. Dip a clean rag into the suds — don’t soak it in the water — and then wipe the wood clean with the sudsy rag. Go ahead and scrub to get rid of old dirt, but dry the wood afterward with a soft, dry cloth to prevent water damage caused by dampness.

Mirror and Trumeau

A trumeau mirror hangs on the wall just over the mantel or breaks on it and becomes an integral visual element of the entire fireplace. Meanwhile, the trumeau originated in 18th century France as a decorative boom to fill the wall area between windows. These tall, rectangular mirrors with elaborate gilt or delicate hardwood frames soon migrated to the place above the mantel and were manufactured as part of this fireplace and mantel, with frames made of the same wood. They frequently contain a painted panel above the mirror with an ornate nation scene or life depicted on it. Refinish a mantel and trumeau with the same stain and protective wax or clear coat — or cover the trumeau frame completely or partially in gold leaf for additional dazzle. If the mirror is missing, replace it with a tarnished or smoky mirror, or leave the space empty. Preserve up to any mural or cosmetic painting at the top of the trumeau as possible, or hire a professional restorer to repair it.

Re-Create the Past

If your old brick or stone fireplace is missing its mantel, search for reclaimed wood and salvaged antique corbels to make a fresh one. Century-old hardwood from a tear-down or a river or river dredging will show signs of wear and weathering and appear somewhat tough — a fitting complement to the fireplace’s uneven vintage brick or stone. Splits and imperfections in the wood are part of its appeal and ought to be maintained if they don’t impact the integrity of their mantel. Locate a carpenter to combine shorter pieces with dovetail joints or a different classic fitting method. Look for corbels in a similar tone to this reclaimed wood, however don’t be afraid to blend wood shades. Wax your brand new antique mantel to get a dull protective wax, or use a matte or quite low-gloss polyurethane to safeguard its aged appeal.

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