Keyhole Mantel

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Project by pintodeluxe posted 04-20-2015 06:11 AM 4488 views 20 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my Keyhole Mantel, so named for the walnut inlay modeled after an early 1900’s skeleton keyhole. I started with a Montauk black slate hearth, and added strong arts and crafts lines with quartersawn white oak. The posts are made with locking miter joints. If you’ve never had the occasion to use a locking miter bit I highly recommend them for strong, seamless joints. The inlay is from the nicest, darkest piece of walnut I have ever laid my hands on.

The panel is ‘frame and panel’ construction, and the whole unit slides into grooves in the posts. I thought that might be a good way to prevent visible gaps where the post meets the panel, and it worked just fine. The corbels are formed from solid 12/4 stock. Apparently 12/4 white oak is not a hot selling item, as it was buried under 6 full pallets in the back of a warehouse at my local hardwood retailer. I milled vertical dados in the panel for the corbels. Then I made a hardwood strip to fit the dado, and screwed it to the back of the corbels through slotted holes. This worked really slick because it securely registered the corbel during glueup, yet allowed adjustment in two directions. The corbel can slide up or down (hardwood strip slides in dado), or can tilt a bit thanks to the slotted screw holes. Basically it allowed me to pre-fit everything to make sure the corbels would meet the underside of the mantel beam, and that the corbels would sit plumb.

For trimming out the fireplace I considered buying pre-fab crown molding, however it can be difficult to find in white oak. Ultimately I decided to make a 3-piece crown molding set. It gave the mantel the traditional look of crown molding, but allowed me to finish the top of the posts a little easier. Two parts of the trim terminate at the post, while the small cove molding gets coped and continues to wrap around the post.

The fact that this is a corner fireplace added some complexity to the job. The top mantel board is a large triangle that had to be scribed to the walls. Actually I made a full-size template from scrap wood, and scribed that to fit the walls. Then I used the template to pattern rout the mantel top. The shoes that dress out the base of the posts were mitered to meet the wall, as were the cove moldings top and bottom. After the main components were installed, I think I counted 41 additional pieces of trim to install! The six walnut buttons are caps for 8” lag bolts that secure the mantel beam to the wall.

This whole project started because the old fireplace had some blue tape on it. Besides being a sad and plain little fireplace, apparently that blue tape really vexed my wife. Neither one of us could get it clean, so I declared “I can fix that” ...exit room to retrieve mini maul hammer…

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

19 comments so far

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4141 days

#1 posted 04-20-2015 12:06 PM

A very fine improvement. Nice one.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4334 days

#2 posted 04-20-2015 12:51 PM

Just my opinion:
Your custom trim is always much nicer than PRE-FAB mouldings. I was taught many years ago, thats the difference between cabinet maker and handy man !
Plus your mantle goes well with the furniture. Did you build these pieces as well ?

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4334 days

#3 posted 04-20-2015 12:53 PM

I just answered my own question. Viewed your gallery. You have REALLY cool items built.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Skylark53's profile


2867 posts in 4397 days

#4 posted 04-20-2015 12:59 PM

Very nicely done. Great attention to detail.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View Mamaria's profile


6 posts in 2471 days

#5 posted 04-20-2015 01:26 PM

Wow, nice!

View Hammerthumb's profile


3140 posts in 3312 days

#6 posted 04-20-2015 01:30 PM

“I can fix that” …exit room to retrieve mini maul hammer…

My main repair tool.

Great job Willie. Very impressive!

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View Jerry's profile


3508 posts in 2985 days

#7 posted 04-20-2015 02:01 PM

Geez, does it ever end?! When I first laid eyes on this my whole body relaxed like I’d just had a beer or something. The beauty and artistry of this piece is so beyond my comprehension. It has qualities that are not immediately knowable. You sir, are the complete artist, designer, maker, finisher. Bravo.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 3680 days

#8 posted 04-20-2015 02:10 PM

looks great

View peekasan's profile


26 posts in 3042 days

#9 posted 04-20-2015 02:20 PM

Absolutely beautiful!

View sb194's profile


197 posts in 4355 days

#10 posted 04-20-2015 04:02 PM


As usual, that looks fantastic. You do a great job of making quality A&C projects.

Looking forward to your next “addition”.


View Daruc's profile


460 posts in 2469 days

#11 posted 04-20-2015 04:43 PM

Thats nice

-- -

View Luddite's profile


253 posts in 2575 days

#12 posted 04-20-2015 05:13 PM

Very pleasing to the eye. Loved your description & photos.
Thanks for sharing.

-- T Loftus -- Just on the edge of common sense

View CL810's profile


4242 posts in 4325 days

#13 posted 04-20-2015 08:18 PM

Really nice Willie. Man you do fine work! And based on the hammer call I can tell you are a decisive man of action!

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8594 posts in 3319 days

#14 posted 04-20-2015 09:43 PM

You’re a stone cold pimp. I like it all.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 4027 days

#15 posted 04-20-2015 11:48 PM

That was NOT a simple project! But you did a masterful job. Corner builds are always problematic for me (the scrap template should have occured to me – duh!)

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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