Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fireplace Mantle…

Fireplace Mantle…

I mentioned yesterday that one of the things I intended to do was fabricate a mantle for our living room fireplace.

I’d anticipated it taking me a couple of hours, but, like most of my projects, it took the better part of the day, and I actually had to finish it this morning.

Here’s a shot of the fireplace prior to me installing the new mantle.

I should have taken pictures of me during the process as I hit one annoying obstacle after another.

You see Maryan had found this wonderful piece of Red Cedar at a local lumber mill, and now that she’d found the perfect piece of wood, she was holding me to my promise to install it as the mantle before the holidays. I’d originally thought I’d knock off some other things before this on Saturday, but, something told me it would be better to get the mantle done first.

As I was fitting the piece up for length, it was pretty obvious the masons hadn’t given a lot of thought to making the front of the fireplace even. They chose instead to simply let the natural flow of the stone come through. I have to tell you, I really like the look that rough surface provides, but, it lead to a series of very unsightly gaps between the plank and the rock.

The solution? Scribe it of course, and then cut along the scribe line to fit the plank to the flow of the rock. This is where my troubles began.

I carefully scribed the plank to the front of the fireplace and headed out to my now clean and organized shop to cut it out. I grabbed my brand new Bosch 18V saber saw, put in a new blade, slapped in a freshly charged battery and gave the trigger a squeeze.

*Poof… this very pretty, but awful smelling (as those of you who have ever burned out any electrical appliance will attest) small cloud of white smoke came flowing out the vents. The saw never made even a ‘grunt’… just the cloud of smoke… and then nothing.

Now, I said this was brand new, and it was, in December of 2003 when I bought a cordless tool ‘bundle’ of Bosch tools. My old Makita cordless drill had finally died after almost 20 years of service, and I needed another. So I bought this bundle as it was only marginally more expensive than buying the drill alone.

I’ve used the drill, the ‘Skill’ saw, the reciprocating saw and even the flashlight extensively since then. I’d never had a reason to even stick a battery in the skill saw however, before now.

I tried both of the older, corded jig saws I have, but neither of them had the power to cut this 3” piece of lumber.

What did I do? Well I grabbed the Bosch jig saw and headed over to the local Lowe’s Home Improvement center. I stopped in at customer service, to explain that I’d never used the saw, even though I’d bought it nearly two years ago, and that it was flat DOA when I put the battery in it…

To my surprise the woman at the desk was helpful, and called the guy in “Tool World” (Robert) and told him she was sending me over. I’d actually been expecting something along the lines of “it’s been 2 years Sir”…

Unfortunately, they didn’t carry the saw, by itself, and Bosch had since ceased including it in their ‘bundle’… I’m feeling pretty well sunk at this point, but, Robert calls his manager, explains my situation and the manager offers to give me half off on any other saber saw I’d like to replace it!!

I picked out a Bosch corded model, and true to his word, it was discounted and I was on my way home.

I mention Lowe’s by name here, for one important reason. Maryan and I have spent a ton of money there over the past five years. Virtually every stick of lumber, sheetrock, wire, outlets, carpet and vinyl came from there while we were remodeling this place. Not to mention I’ve also bought more than a couple of tools there as well.

They didn’t have to do anything for me, and no one dealing with me yesterday knew if I’d spent $5, $5,000 or $50,000 there in the past. They did however treat me as a valued customer, and went out of their way to ‘make things right’ for me. In this age of super centers were you almost never see an actual clerk, and, when you, do they’re often too ‘busy’ to actually help you, Lowe’s has always been a standout in my experience.

Anyway folks, if you haven’t bought a new power tool lately, when you do, you are in for a treat!! This new saw is 10 ten times what any of my others ever were. It handled this oversized plank without even getting warm. I had to make several cuts to get it ‘just right’, but, in the end, I think it turned out nicely.

I fastened it to the old stone mantle with some “Kwik-Tap” masonry screws. Again, if you have to attach anything to masonry, these or the “Tap-Con” screws are the ticket. Oh, and for masonry drill bits… the Black&Decker FireStorm bits are the “real deal”, they cut quickly, and hold up well, and (more importantly) are about half the cost of some other brands.

I also fixed the toilet in our Master bathroom yesterday, but I didn’t think y’all needed pics of that!!

I’m off to go play electrician and wire up those outside floodlights and outlets I found while cleaning the shop last week! I hope everyone is having a great weekend!


Greg said... certainly is an improvement! I think we should work on your Photoshop talents though...oh it is halloween!

Congrads on gettin' that out of the way. I've also had excellent results with Lowes on warranty and advertising issues...Home Depot too. Actually quite surprisingly helpful and decent.

But I did go through Home Depot the other day, a challenge, find one thing (other than lumber) not made in China....I failed the test.

Ilene said...

Actually I thought I owned a major interest in Lowes when I spent my entire inheritance fixing up our building back in Oklahoma. Most of the money went directly to them. I have failed to receive any dividend checks however from your investment! (smile) Looks good!

Firehawk said...


The mantle looks nice. It's rare when you encounter a store that actually is interested in keeping you as a customer. Most of these big places could give less than a crap if you're satisfied. They figure there's a lot more people where you came from. You usually have to really give it to 'em with both barrels to get them to move off their butts.

The only thing I've ever bought at Lowe's is a lawnmower. It's been a good one, though. A wonder of the global market, it's a Canadian mower with a Kawasaki engine! Actually, that Kawasaki engine gets top marks in my book. It's been a killer.

Well, I do have to go with Greg about the photoshop skill thing...unless the red eye was intentional!

Bill said...

Greg - We left the top 'rough-sawn'... and it actually look s better in person than in the photo.

Ilene - I've spent not only my own, but the inheritence of any potential heirs there as well! I definitely should have bought stock.

Firehawk - I mentioned the incident mainly because you mostly hear only the down side type stories, this was definitely a very fair solution. I thought they deserved a mention.

Y'all I never photoshop any of the pics.... and Greg you especially know, if I did, I'd be 50 lbs lighter, have a full head of hair and be a lot better looking!!

Thanks, as always for stopping by.

jenbeauty said...

Nice job!

Chloe said...

The mantle looks great, Bill. And I'm so glad the Lowe's people treated you well. I've only gone to the Home Depot in the past, and my experiences have always been negative. I feel a conversion coming on!

Bill said...

Jen - Thanks!

Chloe - Thanks, and they did, my experience with HD has been much the same as yours.

Nina said...

Wow what a nice fireplace mantle . . . we don't have a Lowe’s Home Improvement center here yet. I think they are planning on opening one. We have Home depot and they have always been helpful too.

Flash said...

Fantastic job, looks awsome!

And I can't go to the Lowes. I walk in for a box of drywall screws, I walk out with $1000 Mikita Set and a new DeWalt Table Saw.

But it was really cool how that actually cared about you and your project. That kind of stuff really makes you want to go back.

Again, great job.

Trevor Record said...

I'm such a useless urbanite, I wouldn't know the first thing to do with power tools. I own a $40 Home Depo toolkit and if that can't do the job I have to get my dad to do it for me!

Bill said...

Nanina - Thanks, I'm glad HD has been helpful to you, I, unfortunately have not had good experiences there.

Tony - Thanks, my wife loves it and that's all that really mattered. She's been waiting very patiently for a while for this project to hit the top of the queue!

I have the same problem, I stopped by there yesterday to pick up two small things and hit the checkout to the tune of $200... I can't remember the last time I got out of there for under $100!!

Trevor - Believe it or not, I was very much like that, at your age, when it came to home repair(s)... over the years I've made a ton of mistakes, butchered a lot of wood, and learned quite a bit.

Just keep trying, and learning. Watch your Dad, ask him to let you do it, but guide you along the way. No one is born knowing all this stuff.

Comfort Addict said...

I'm glad that Lowe's treats you well. My sister-in-law works at one.

Nice mantle. As always, I envy your manly skill. I often wish that I had some of it (as does Mrs. CA).

Bill said...

CA - Thanks, it's all about the amount of time you spend doing these things. It's like I explained to Trevor, none of us are born with these talents. Each one is a learned skill.

This is my 4th house and my 3rd remodel... I've always wanted to be able to be self-reliant, and in the process found a passion for learning how to work with my hands.

I'm still more like "Tim the Tool Man" than "Al"... but I sure do love trying!

Kim said...

ok Bill, I'll be home all day Saturday, we have lots of home improvement projects for ya....

Jay said...

I really like the plug yoou gave to your exceptional service - it's nice to know it still exists, somewhere.

Also, good job on that mantle, it really looks great.

Beth said...

Cool, Bill. I love the before and after shots. =) Good job you!

Whit said...

I am so bummed that you don't live closer! We have a whole list of honey-do's at our house, and my husband is not handy around the house. I think I could do some of them, but there is just never enough time all condensed together to get it done!

Hope all is well -- going to sift back through a month of blogs to catch up. I have been radio silent for so long that I have lost touch with everyone!

Bill said...

Kim - I'd be happy to stop in and help! There is beer involved right??

Jay - Thanks, I do believe in giving credit where it's due. They didn't *have* to do anything, I was pretty impressed they did!

Beth - Thank you, If you can believe it, it really looks a lot better live, than it does in the pic. I even surprised myself!

Whit - I sometimes wish we all lived on the same block! I can't tell you the number of times I've wished for 'just one more pair of hands'. As for time, I find I just have to 'make time'.. let some other things wait, regardless of how loudly they might be screaming for attention!

Good to see you all, and thanks for the kind words.