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How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 Part 4: Make the Frieze

how to build a diy fireplace mantel from mdf

[This is Part 4 in my How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 series.]

How to Make the Paneled Frieze

This paneled frieze is so easy to make, but it looks like there’s more to it than there really is.  Like so many designs you’ll find on our blog, the foundation is an mdf board core that’s wrapped in moldings.

All you need to get started is cut a 1/2″ thick piece of mdf board to the width and length you’ll need to fill the space between your capitals.

The center panel is nothing more than a 3/4″ thick piece of mdf board.  The width is determined by the dimensions of the wheat and ribbon applique I bought for it.

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Glue and nail the center panel in place.

how to build an easy mdf fireplace mantel

Now cut 1/2″ thick mdf strips for the panel frames.  Glue and nail them in place.

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Now cut and install all of the screen molding pieces inside the panels.  This part will be time-consuming, so make sure you’re not in a rush when you do this part.

how to build a fireplace mantel step by step

It’s much easier to install the screen molding and then do some of the prep work with the frieze laying on the table.  When you’re all finished, glue and nail it in place.

Important Note About the Frieze Spacers

I didn’t take pictures of the spacers I used to make the frieze project out from the wall farther than if you just nailed it flat against the wall.  And I only have the two photos below where you can catch a glimpse of them.   But once you notice them, their purpose should be pretty obvious.

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Now you can install the right-hand capital.  And that’s all there is to that.

fireplace mantel made from mdf with corbels

How to Build FIREPLACE-102 Series Posts

1.  How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 for c. $162.00: Part 1

2.  How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 Part 2: Make the Pilasters

3.  How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 Part 3: Make the Collar & Capitals

4.  How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 Part 4: Make the Frieze

5.  How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 Part 5: Make the Hood

6.  FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 Gallery

10 Responses to How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-102 Part 4: Make the Frieze

  1. Nancy August 6, 2012 at 7:02 PM #

    So many great ideas- I don’t know where to begin. I moved into a new construction home with NO moldings and lots of arches. Where do I start? Is there a certain order if doing a whole room?

  2. Ken August 7, 2012 at 7:15 AM #

    Hi Nancy!

    So you’ve discovered the joy of moldings and need a place to launch into your first molding project. Well, our Design & Installation series would be a great place to start. In particular, I would suggest reading One Room at a Time and Architectural Subordination (which is just a concise way of saying that not all the moldings in your home have to be exactly the same.)

    Will you be doing the work yourself or hiring a finish carpenter? When you get to specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask for help, I reply to all comments and emails on our blog.

    Cheers, Ken

  3. Nancy August 7, 2012 at 7:39 AM #

    I was thinking about hiring a finish carpenter but after I read your post ($3200 for MBR) on how much I can save doing it myself, I’m going to try to do it on my own! I’ve signed up for a “learn to mitre like a pro” class at the local big box store. I will follow your advice and start with One Room at a Time. Thank you so much for such a great site with so many ideas!

  4. Brian August 11, 2012 at 12:40 PM #

    I love your site and am spellbound by the transforming power of moldings.

    I have a question about your “screen molding.” I haven’t been able to find anything that looks like this at my local box stores. I usually shop for moldings at Lowe’s. What are the dimensions of this molding and could you post a shot of the profile.


  5. Ken August 11, 2012 at 7:17 PM #

    Hi Brian,

    “Spellbound” is the perfect word for it! And once you start noticing them — moldings — you can never stop, I’m happy to say.

    Just to make sure we’re talking about the same molding, the screen molding you’re referring to is PM-004, is that right? If so, I’ve never seen a Lowes that does not keep it in stock. You can see a CAD drawing of it at Lowes web site by entering “glass bead moulding” into their search box.

    I’ll take a better picture of that molding tomorrow while Jennifer and I are working on our Half Bathroom Molding Makeover. I’ve decided to use that molding on that project. So check back with us tomorrow.

  6. Brian August 12, 2012 at 2:15 PM #

    Ken, thanks for your quick response. If I’m right, PM-001 and PM-004 have similar profiles, except 001 is smaller than 004. Right? As I see it, 001 is about 7/16″ wide and 1/4″ thick. 004 is about 3/4″ wide and 5/16″ thick. Assuming that all this is correct, I’m tracking with you perfectly, and my local Lowe’s always has these pieces in stock. Otherwise, I’m totally misguided.

  7. Ken August 12, 2012 at 7:28 PM #

    You got it, Brian. PM-001 is almost always located in a stand-alone molding rack with their “premium” moldings. Just dig around and you’ll find them. So Brian, are you building this fireplace right now?

  8. Brian August 17, 2012 at 5:48 AM #

    I only wish that I had a traditional fireplace. The fireplace in my home sits about a foot off the floor on a bricked step. Most of the wall around the fireplace is also bricked. I’m not sure that your design would look appropriate sitting a foot above the floor. That said, I’m taking notes on your construction concepts, hoping to apply them on other projects.

    By the way, let me say that your site is heaven on earth for someone like me, who loves moldings but has always been a little intimidated to start a serious project in my home. The first project I will tackle will be trim around a pass-through (from sleeping area to dressing area) in the master bedroom.

  9. Ken August 17, 2012 at 9:20 AM #

    Your pass-through project sounds like a great place to start, Brian.

    As for fireplaces, I had a friend who had a typical ranch home fireplace that was about 10″ off the floor with hearth in front, and red brick all the way to the ceiling.

    We wrapped the whole thing in mdf and built a nice traditional fireplace on top. It turned out great. I have a picture, but it’s an old snapshot that I’ll have to scan some day.

    Problem is, I hate scanners/printers. My relatively new one is sitting useless next to me after Windows automatically updated one day, and now nothing will make it get up and go, no matter how many times I install and reinstall new drivers. Computers. Pssh.

  10. Patrick March 3, 2013 at 6:10 AM #

    These step by step instructions are great! I’m attempting to make a mantel similar to this with a frieze board that will be paneled with an arched bottom. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the panels and screen molding on the frieze board have the same arch as the bottom of the frieze board will have?

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