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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Parlor Fireplace Surround Progress

Hi there folks,

The Grand Parlor Fireplace Surround is progressing some, with several fits and starts along the way.  I am posting today to give you some idea of where this is headed, but I won't guarantee that everything will come out as planned!

As it stands today, the fireplace surround is beginning to shape up, but it has been quite an interesting journey to get to this point.   

Most of my work since the last post has been to add to the fireplace surround itself and to begin work on the over mantel.   The white above needs another coat or two, and some touch up is required due to the side trips I've taken in the last few days.  

Just after I posted last, I added some additional detail to the fireplace surround below the mantel, that was intended to tip the scale a bit more toward the Art Noveau fireplace surround that served as the take off point for my alterations.  That worked very well, but it began to crowd the detail on the surround.  I began to feel like it had too much going on. 

In addition, prior to making the decision that the detail was getting to be too much, I had decided to color the fireplace decorative details.  Above you see the final result.  All was glued on and "ready to move on". 

But I hated it!  I felt like I had ruined the entire thing.  So I went back to the drawing board. 

I decided that I did not like the little copper swirl on the fireplace surround after adding the additional architectural details.  Much too crowded.  And I absolutely hated the colored details.  I know in the picture above it almost looks good, but in real life, it made me think of a circus!  It just didn't fit the rest of the room. 

So back to white, everything went, and the copper paperclip swirl was removed.  Here is how it stands now. I have some additional touch up to do, because painting the details back to white eliminated some of the detail of the castings, so I have to give some additional coats and do something to help the details come back in.  I am thinking I will "antique" the details a bit, but haven't been brave enough to do that so far! 

However, overall, I think that the overall effect is better as a result of going back to white.  Once I've completed the clean-up, I think this will be enchanting. 

You may have noticed that on top of the mantel I have placed a piece of wood.  This is a pen blank I got from Rockler's Woodworking the last time I visited.  

I will be cutting this down to the right size and shaping it into that feature I talked about.  I absolutely love the veining in the wood, and I think it adds such wonderful interest to the over mantel.  It is sitting on the mantel top, because as always, I am "visioning" for the future.  

Another change in my thinking has taken place since I last posted.  I kept looking at the over mantel shape, and I just couldn't stay with the squared off top.  I knew that I didn't like the original shape in the inspiration photo for the room, but I still wanted to find something that created the curved effect, but did so in a fashion more in keeping with the room.   My search found the above example of an Art Noveau mirror that I thought had real possibilities. 

So I have been working on a version of that mirror.  It has been fun, but as you can see above, there are details in that mirror that I am not going to be able, with my current level of skill, to recreate.  Note the almost weaved effects that are created in the corners.  Until I have the right tools to begin carving, I won't be able to mimic that effect.  

But I do think I can create a very beautiful version of the mirror above and have it be appropriate for the room.  One of the challenges, however, is to recreate some of the smaller details, such as the "ears" at each top corner and the "feet" of the mirror.  Those small curves are nearly impossible to cut with a utility knife! And my skill saw jumps around way too much to allow me to cut the small pieces required out of wood.  So what to do?

I started by getting out a tool I got from my family for my last birthday.   I hadn't used it yet, because like everything else, I was too scared to try! But I thought it was now or never.  I needed "a way" to accomplish what I needed, and had this in the garage, so I tried it out. 

What a WONDERFUL tool!  I am very excited about it now that I have used it.  It is essentially a fancy wood burning tool.   But with all the various tips and thoughtful techniques made available through those nibs, it will be a great addition to my tool suite.  It was actually very easy.  Another of those things you put off because you are not sure of them, and then you find out that it is not only EASY, but it is COOL!  I am quite sure I will be using this a lot as I move forward.  

Above you can see a shot of the process about half way through the cutting.  I used the Versatool to shape the edges of the over mantel mirror frame, which allowed me to make those very small curves easily and have a crisp, nice edge to work with.  It also shortened the time needed to cut through the mounting board. On the left, you see a cut that is not burned around the edges.  That cut took me about 9 tries to finally cut through the board.  With the Versatool, I was able to burn the edges, cut with 2 swipes of the utility knife, and manage the curves.  

In the photo above, I am cutting the back piece.  I cut three pieces total so far to make up what I have to date.  

I cut the back above, a piece with the outside curves of the frame and square inside cuts, to hold the mirror, and a front piece to form the front of the final mirror frame.  

That is the progress so far!  This is a complicated little piece!  I expect I will be working on this for some time.  I hope I don't end up tiring you all with the posts associated with it. As I have mentioned before, I really do want to show the incremental progress as I go along, because I so enjoy the blogs that do that. They provide an opportunity to learn how to achieve new things.  

The picture at the top of the post and the one at the bottom are of essentially the same stage.  The mirror is just set in, and is not cut or set in place yet, and as I mentioned before, all of the "work" on the over mantel is yet to be done.  But I thought I had made enough progress to provide an update that might be of interest.  

Lots to do!  And I am always in such a hurry to complete things.  I am learning patience in ways that I have never had to before.   This is a good thing, I guess! 

Hope you've enjoyed seeing my fits and starts.  If nothing else, you'll learn what not to do!  :0) 

Until next time!

Doug S


  1. Hello Doug,
    I know what it is like to finish a project and not be happy with it. I think you just needed to fine tune it a little bit and I know you'll get exactly what you want. the shape of the over mantel and the detail in the fireplace make it a very stunning piece. I will not get tired of this adventure, that you can be sure of.
    Big hug,

    1. Hi Giac!

      Thanks for the encouragement! I'll probably redo some portions, and I have already figured out that I am going to have to alter some additional plans...because I didn't allow for the reduced height of the room.

      I am excited about the mirror and overmantel in spite of that, I think I can still achieve the overall effect I wanted, with a few alterations. I am pleased with the new shape, and have some ideas about how to give it some sparkle!

      I haven't given up! I'll make it all come together somehow, even if I have to do it all over again! :0)

      Thanks for the vote of confidence!


  2. Hi Doug! I guess it is commonly known that every miniaturist has his/her doubts about lot of things they have made in miniature and they want improve the result, so you're certainly not the only one ;)! Sometimes it is often necessary to try out things and than you'll find the solution for a problem. Practising can also be the answer...just like you did with the Versatool.
    I understand what you mean with the over mantle, but it's much too difficult for me to express my opinion about that in proper English. But your work on this project is wonderful so far.
    Kind regards, Ilona

    1. Hi there Illona!

      Yes, I know we all have our "little difficulties" with the creative process, even those who seem to be able to do everything right the first time! I'm not one of those . . . yet! But, I'll keep playing with my plans until it works out. Sometimes the BEST things are the hardest to achieve! We'll trust in that, OK? :0)

      I am glad you like the fireplace so far in spite of it all! I will try not to disappoint.

      Thanks Ilona!

      Doug S

  3. Hi Doug
    Sorry for the delay in responding to another fab post. I am really enjoying your progress on the fireplace. I love the shape of the overmantle...very a good way :) I'm sorry to see the paperclip has gone, but you know yourself what will work and what will not in your own creations. I think that little tool is amazing, I had a dremel for ages and have only picked up the courage to drill the odd hole for my electrics. Still a bit scary! So keep the updates coming, Doug, it's lovely to see how you are putting this fireplace together. The room is lovley, it just makes me smile!
    All the best

    1. Hey Vivian!

      Sinuous is a great way to describe the overmantel isn't it? I think I said before, I LOVE curves. . . and the overmantel has those in spades.

      I thought about you when I decided to take off the copper clip! I felt a little bad, I will tell you, but I just didn't like the crowding, and that was the only element that really could go and not compromise the piece. So out it went! I promise you I will find a way to use that paper clip somewhere else! How about that?

      I am so glad you like watching the ups and downs of my journey! I imagine some parts of the crazy process I go through can be a bit entertaining! :0)

      And I love that the room makes you smile. I really do hold things like that as the highest of compliments!

      Thanks for joining my journey!

      Doug S


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