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  1. #1
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    Nov 2007
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    The goddamn mantel

    Our house has a wood burning fireplace. There was a real cheap, flimsy mantel above it, 1/2" white pine screwed together into a box. Looked good from across the room, but anyone that actually looked at plainly saw it was shitty.

    So last winter, my uncle comes out to ski. One of his buddies is a ski instructor by winter and carpenter back home during the summers. We had a great ski day, then invited everyone back to our place for a big family dinner. Drinks were drank, homemade meal was whipped up and wolfed down after a hearty day on the hill. Late into the night, the ski instructor/carpenter notices how shitty our mantel is. He says he's got a 130-year old warehouse beam from my hometown (Dubuque, IA was a booming town at the turn of the century, some truly beautiful architecture and craftsmanship in the old areas of town). Says he'll give us the beam in exchange for another beer. Great night.

    In May, my wife and I roadtrip back to Iowa for my nieces baptism - I'm the godfather. Not for any religious reasons, they just think I'm a good guy and love my niece. My uncle is there, and he's got the beam! This thing is beautiful. Old, gray, thick, heavy, 6'x6"x6", strap marks, character out the wazoo, cobwebs, splinters - gorgeous. We haul it back to Colorado and the process begins!

    I'm an amateur carpenter. Handy enough and a solid tool collection at this point, but I'd never dealt with a restoration project like this. I did a ton of research on woodworking forums (boring compared to the padded room), watched some youtube videos, formed a game plan and went at it.

    It started by sitting on my front porch for 2 months, acclimating to our dry climate. Finally, I got into it and swept it off, clearing cobwebs and dirt. Then, a light sanding to remove any burrs and slivers, but preserve the character. Next, I rubbed it down with a wet rag, to make the grain pop, and let it air dry for 2 days. My research lead me to tung oil, and now I don't know if I'd use anything else. All natural from the Japanese tung tree, you can use it indoors with no mask. Goes on clear, hardens to a shellac-type finish, used to be used to waterproof ships. First coat, 50/50 mix with orange solvent for deep penetration. Next coat was 75/25. Since then, I've done 4 more coats, and the beam has soaked it up. Rub it on, wipe off excess, last coat took about a week to cure to the touch. It looks so good. Rubbing this solid hefty chunk of personal history has brought me joy and been an awesome project.

    My uncle is coming out again to ski next week, so that's been my deadline to hang the beam. I've been so excited to have it up for myself and to show him and everyone else that our shitty old beam has been replaced by this lovingly restored beam. I easily dismantled the old mantel and brought in the beam to stage it and mock it up. Took a few preliminary measurements to eyeball things and agreed (to disagree) with the wife on which face should face out. The moss-covered sandstone surround is uneven. I considered just posting it up, but figured I would do it right and mount the beam on a flush surface.

    I go across town to my father-in-law. He's a retired contractor with every tool that was made up to 1990. He recommends a grinder with a diamond tipped blade and was showing me how to use it...then got skeptical and figured my wife would kill him if I killed myself with his tool, so he offered to do it for me...

    The next day, I get home from work and a volcano has erupted in our living room. Rock dust is thick in the air and heavy dust is driven 360* into EVERYTHING. F-I-L didn't move anything out of the way, put up plastic, close any doors or drawers, just started grinding away at rock. It's a fucking disaster zone. My eyes were burning. The next 3 days, I'd wake up with a bloody nose. Dust is in my hair. We've got 2 dogs, an old sound sensitive, seizure prone dog and a hyper puppy. Both did not receive respirators or get let out, both were covered in dust, old one probably had at least 1 seizure while he was grinding. Even kitchen drawers that were closed got dust driven into them; like even stacked plates are each individually dirty. Every single glass, silverware, tupperware, pot, pan. It took me an hour to clean the stove and a small patch to make dinner. Wife worked late, so I busted my ass cleaning until she came home. I started in our bedroom, ceiling to floor, cleaned everything. I dusted, swept, scrubbed, rinsed, vacuumed, ran the laundry machine and the dishwasher. Dust too heavy for the Dyson to pick up. Dusting just moved it around. Water turned it to cement. House was utterly fucked.

    Meanwhile, my old roommate asked if I wanted to ski Crested Butte. It snowed 4 feet last weekend, it was possibly the best ski trip of my life. Absolutely glad I went. My wife...not so much. She's 4 months pregnant and it looks like a bomb went off in our house. When I left Friday, I told her to stay with her parents, I'd hire Service Master Monday to do deep clean and bring in ozone machine or whatever the fuck and I asked her Dad to clean it up so I can hang the beam next week.

    I return Sunday. The beam is hung. The house is clean. Everything looks great. Until I look a little closer. The beam isn't level. The beam is not centered. I bought 6 lag bolts to hang it, so I could do pullups on the fucker if I wanted to. 1 was broken, 2 were unused. The result is a flimsy shitty mantel that will get brought down by Christmas stockings, except heavy enough to kill small children. The dark, moss covered sandstone was ground 12" (!) past my tape markings, down to bare pink stone on one side that totally clashes and looks really bad ("Masons just paint this stuff all the time, no problem.")

    Despite my wishes that preggers wife avoid the area, she spent all day with her Dad and cleaning supplies and heavy particulates in the air cleaning (half-assed. it's liveable but the dust is still overwhelmingly EVERYWHERE). I also find out she helped him hang it...with epoxy...that clearly in big warning letters says it causes birth defects in pregnant women. I can't sleep. I'm pissed off. I feel like I was baking a cookie for 10 months and now someone else just ate it. Its the focal point of our house and seeing it brings a wave of anxiety. I'm sure wife and baby are OK from limited exposure, but WTF Grandpa? It's super delicate because its not just a random contractor. My wife is strictly against me, saying that it is all my fault because the beam was my idea. But obviously this project became his project over the past week and I don't know what the fuck to do. Wife is pissed at me. I'm pissed at him. Beam looks shitty. Mantel looks shitty. House still dirty and dusty as fuck. Fuckity fuck. I tihink my only solution is to take it down, which I think I can do with about 20 pounds of force, and start over. I cannot believe the shitty job F-I-L did. I've seen some of his work for different stuff and its good, but this is bad bad. At this point, the best option is to probably up my insurance coverage, leave the grate open and a couple of epoxy bottles in front and start a big ol fire while I take the dogs for a walk.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    14,800
    Should have learned a lesson after the stone grind. What made you think he would do anything right after that?
    Last edited by 4matic; 03-06-2019 at 02:14 PM.

  3. #3
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    Sweet blog.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4
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    This thread is worthless without pics!
    www.apriliaforum.com

    "If the road You followed brought you to this,of what use was the road"?

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
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    5,986
    And people wonder why good contractors are expensive. "To do it rights, it is going to take time and cost you money." Building cool hearth, mantels and fireplace surrounds in one of my favorite jobs because they just look so cool when done.

    Besides an unprecedented level of "Don't give a fuck", your father in law sounds like a complete hack. Why your pregnant wife is taking his side, I have no idea.

    Lessons learned, false deadlines are to be ignored. "Hey Unk, thanks for the beam, I was gonna install last week, but I skied pow instead", and do shit yourself. Even if you fuck up, you are the best one to fuck up.

    Good luck, and masons don't paint shit. Like I said...hack.

  6. #6
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    Feb 2010
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    pics? of mantelpiece & surrounds
    bF
    Alpental Indigenous

  7. #7
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    Oct 2010
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    Is the beam fucked? Can your uncles dig up another one? A kickass meal and some booze sounds like a good trade for him.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vt-Freeheel View Post
    This thread is worthless without pics!
    ooohhh somebody likes the pregnant ladies!

  9. #9
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    Seems like your father in law don’t really like you for marrying his little girl and gettin her all pregnant and whatnot....

    he’s gettin his revenge on you by “helping”. nice passive aggressive move. well played old man.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ill-advised strategy View Post
    ooohhh somebody likes the pregnant ladies!
    2nd trimester is the sweet spot.
    www.apriliaforum.com

    "If the road You followed brought you to this,of what use was the road"?

    "I have no idea what I am talking about but would be happy to share my biased opinions as fact on the matter. "
    Ottime

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Do we have a mantel thread where people can post up pictures of their mantels?

    If not, this seems like a great place to start one.
    "timberridge is terminally vapid" -- a fortune cookie in Yueyang

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by m2711c View Post
    Seems like your father in law don’t really like you for marrying his little girl and gettin her all pregnant and whatnot....

    he’s gettin his revenge on you by “helping”. nice passive aggressive move. well played old man.
    word
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  13. #13
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    Jan 2010
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    65 an hr plus an ounce of weed and I coulda done it, I think the last one I did was just under a grand, total bargin since the house is in that 3 to 4 million range, mantel was from kansas city not sure if there is a difference in mantels from kansas and iowa, but we should really figure that out

    your obviously not hispanic but that's not an appropriate discussion
    should have built a tent around the fireplace with plasitc, taped all the seems with the asbestos/masons tape one guy grinds the other uses a wet sponge to slowly release water onto the grinder wheel, you can always make a mexican wet saw with a plastic soda bottle filled with water and two small holes in the lid, one guy cuts the other slowly squeezes the soda bottle dripping water on the blade
    clean up is excellent and quick the ten thousand dollar couch doesn't have a spec of dust on it

    sometimes when I super baked I have problems reading a level, but ususally you just aim to get the ball in between the lines, i'd grab a small sled hammer and hit the mantel a couple times to get her leveled out, maybe even have the wife grab the side of the mantel that needs to be pulled down to make it level, she grabs one side with both hands and you hit it from behind, hard, in all her extacy she will put enough pressure on the mantel to pull it down

    I just hope those lags weren't put into the face of the mantel, you ruined it if you did, just take it down and give it to me so I can burn it in my stove

    any type of buildling and construction is best done with while high, I've built entire houses stoned to the bone and everything is always tits, and never leave a project half done to go skiing and let someone else finish it

  14. #14
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    I can understand your frustration for sure. Deadlines are too stressful, so like was already said above, just plan on missing your planned date and do it yourself... properly. As for your pregnant wife, I wouldn't worry too much (hard to do, I know), but those warnings are typically regarding people who get a LOT of exposure, continuously or repeated. One event's not going to cause any problems. A woman's body (the placenta specifically) does an absolutely remarkable job of filtering all the bad stuff out and IF a mother is to be abusive to herself like a druggie or alcoholic, it's typically the 1st trimester that's the most critical. After that, things like what happened at your home should have zero effect. Now I'm not a doc (obviously), SO please talk to your doctor or midwife just to confirm everything's ok so you can sleep better about it.

    As to your FIL? Oh boy. Yeah, that's tough. You probably don't want to make future family gatherings awkward, so I'd just leave it as "Thanks so much for your help. I got it from here." and just deal with the cleanup and future work yourself. Rock work is MESSSSSSSSSY. Everything should've been covered or cleared out, room sealed off with plastic sheeting, and when drilling or cutting rock, I like to have a giant shop vac running to suck up as much dust as possible right off the saw. I have a Roto-Zip with a diamond blade that has a vacuum attachment that does a pretty decent job of capturing the majority of it, but there will still certainly be crap everywhere. As for YOU and your lungs, you'll be fine. Been there done that with other knuckleheads on the construction site doing a messy job. Your lungs will clear themselves out and you'll be fine in a few days. Invest in a good, decently powerful shop vac if you haven't already. Buy a ton of filters for it, and I also use a washable filter for the exhaust that seems to help some.

    Definitely post some pics of what you have going on. I haven't done much mantel work, so don't know what's best, but I know a bunch of the guys here HAVE so would love to know what they have to say.

  15. #15
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    Dec 2007
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    Needs to be a mount your own fucking mantel thread. If you want it done perfect do it yourself.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by fastfred View Post
    should have built a tent around the fireplace with plasitc, taped all the seems with the asbestos/masons tape one guy grinds the other uses a wet sponge to slowly release water onto the grinder wheel, you can always make a mexican wet saw with a plastic soda bottle filled with water and two small holes in the lid, one guy cuts the other slowly squeezes the soda bottle dripping water on the blade
    clean up is excellent and quick the ten thousand dollar couch doesn't have a spec of dust on it
    Even better! Sounds easier than taping off the whole room like I mentioned. "Mexican wet saw." Ha! Never heard it called that before, but I've totally done that water bottle trick before and it does indeed work great.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ill-advised strategy View Post
    ooohhh somebody likes the pregnant ladies!
    Name:  Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 10.15.42 AM.png
Views: 583
Size:  275.2 KB
    Quote Originally Posted by Skidog View Post
    Pics including altimeter reading or it didnt happen.

  18. #18
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    It took under 11 minutes for one guy and one helper from This Old House to make a mantle.

    All kidding aside, they did a nice job and the video shows some of the how tos and geometry involved. See about 9:10 for how to fasten to supporting wall.



    P.S: How can the FIL not know he was making a mess, sounds like he has no concept whatsoever of keeping a workplace clean, containing demolition debris and dust. You can only imagine what would it would be like if that guy ever got near asbestos.
    “The best argument in favour of a 90% tax rate on the rich is a five-minute chat with the average rich person.”

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  19. #19
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    I hate to say it, but...

    Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
    "fuck off you asshat gaper shit for brains fucktard wanker." - Jesus Christ
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by m2711c View Post
    Seems like your father in law don’t really like you for marrying his little girl and gettin her all pregnant and whatnot....

    he’s gettin his revenge on you by “helping”. nice passive aggressive move. well played old man.
    hahahaha!! Thanks! Solid work M series.
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  21. #21
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    As usual, fastfred and foggy nailed it with strong work from the m-series.


    And I'm still fucking laughing about the masons painting shit!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tips^Up View Post
    I go across town to my father-in-law. He's a retired contractor with every tool that was made up to 1990. He recommends a grinder with a diamond tipped blade and was showing me how to use it...then got skeptical and figured my wife would kill him if I killed myself with his tool, so he offered to do it for me...
    I am pretty sure that levels were out there before 1990- maybe not those laser levels that you see today that shoot the beam of light along a surface, but the old style bubble levels for sure. I guess you should have passed on the offer to have him do the full mount. Maybe just taken up on the grinder and practiced some on your own...

  23. #23
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    Hmm...let's see, we need to get irregular rock to meet wood. I wonder which is easier to do, flatten the rock or scribe the wood?

    Pics goddamnit.

  24. #24
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    Rubbing this solid hefty chunk of personal history has brought me joy
    Who among us hasn't enjoyed this.
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  25. #25
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    The goddamn mantel

    Does your wife's name happen to be Coach? That's the only plausible explanation for this debacle


    Now pls destroy all of your FiL's tools. For the sake of future generations

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