Over the last week or so I have been working on a mantle we recently acquired for our dining room. Our house has cast iron mantles and like many of you, ours had been removed or replaced with wood mantles.. Our goal is to restore the house to its original 1870's era so cast iron mantles are our best choice.
This particular mantle was typical for most several layers of paint and it had been sitting stored in a garage for some time. There were 2 layers over the original finish. Of course we made an attempt to see if there we could get to a restorable original finish but that was impossible, so we were faced with stripping the paint. There are several methods used with this ranging from scraping, to removers and Dremel tools.
It took considerable time to get to the bare metal. Couple of days of work in fact.. If I had my sandblaster set up I could have made short work of it it but I had to manually strip this. Once it was complete we primed it and then painted it with two coats of Black enamel. Now this is a decorative mantle so it will not be exposed to heat but if you were using a real fireplace you would want to use a high temperature paint designed for that purpose.
Once the base finish was on it was time to begin the faux finisihes. Now in this case I was not trying to match and existing finish but rather chose to create a finish appropriate for the Neo Grec designs discovered in the dining room. The finish is created by using 3 colors: Yellow Oxide, Burnt Umber and Alizarine Crimsom (red).
The colors are applied with a 1 inch nylon brush that has some wear on it. The colors are 'scuffed into each other to create a marble finish and I use a small brush called a liner or "rigger" brush to create fine lines like you often see in marble.
This mantle was designed with out a center medallion or keystone, so I explored various options that might have included painting a stencil design or even painting a landscape. However I has a historic print called "The Emporer Justinian". This antique lithograph however had some paper and condition issues so I elected to use it to be the focal point. I trimmed the print to image size and used a decoupage technique to adhere it. I also added several top coats to seal it much as you might see a jewelry box sealed. I created a simple frame out of a trim that will also be used in the overmantle that we are building for this. so the two will be tied together stylistically.
Borrowing from the style of our formal Parlor mantle I laid out similar 'panel areas' where the stenciling would be. These panels were repainted back in with black paint and then outlined with gold. The two side extension panels were also added back and temporarily attached. (The mantle will be moved to the house in pieces and blanket wrapped to protect the finish).
The stencil designs take their cues from the classic designs in the center painting and the Neo Grec designs of our dining room. The stencils are done in a gold leaf paint color and I 'washed' sections once dry with a light red wash. This will cause parts of the line work to sparkle in places without it being so overpowering in bright sunlight.
And here the final product, worthy of our 1871 Second Empire formal dining room....now I just have to get the dining room finished to put it in. STAY TUNED!