TAKING CENTER STAGE
Playing a supporting role can be a rewarding one.
SHOP OWNER: Alan Young
LOCATION: Ypsilanti, MI
Sometimes you get the lead in a play and sometimes you play a supporting role. When I was in high school I tried out for the one of the leads in a production of Hello Dolly. I didn't get one of the two roles I was auditioning for but was assigned the role of Ambrose the Painter. As it turned out, that was really great for several reasons. I got my name in the program as a supporting character, the role itself was fun, I actually learned to dance a two-step, and I didn't have nearly as many lines to learn so I had a lot of "fool around time" back stage, which is where all the fun is anyway! Well, this project reminds me of that stage experience. I built only the corbels for this magnificent fireplace surround. Like myself, the corbels indeed play the supporting role, and along with the makeup, or faux marble finish, combined to give a spectacular performance. Dallas Designs in Flint, MI, who contracted with a very talented artist to perform the faux marble finish, created the mantle for this magnificent fireplace.
The design calls for a double pair of corbels - one each for the left and right - each attached at 90 degrees to a box. Each of the four corbels is a glued-up lamination, comprised of two two-inch pieces in the middle and one-inch pieces on the outsides. The base trimmed out at 7.5 inches and the total height is 42 inches.
I began by cutting out the profiles of the four middle pieces. I made this main template from MDF, which I transferred to all sections.
With the profiles transferred, I headed to the bandsaw where I cut them out.
The one-inch outer pieces came from some wide boards that I milled down to size. At this point the cuts are rough but you can get an idea of where the project is going!
Before routing the inside profile, I clamped all the pieces together. Then I sanded and filed the profile so it was smooth and continuous.
To create the interior profile with my router, I used a couple of different router bits on the mating edges of the two-inch and one-inch sections before gluing them together. This gave me the look of a coved groove once the pieces were assembled. With that process done, it’s time for some glue and some clamps.
To create the sweep or curved lines on the outer faces, I used a template I created from a project I had a few years earlier. This template was originally used when a rocking chair needed repair. Then I used it again to make a baptismal font, and even later on a table design, and now on this project to create the sweep outline while creating the main template that I used.
Once I had the sections all glued together and sanded, I needed to rout away a pattern that would leave the desired scroll and spiral design. To create the upper spirals, I made a template from Baltic birch plywood. I placed the template over the upper section and traced the outline and flipped the template over for the other side of each corbel. For the lower section, I cut out individual rosettes, which I glued to the base of the corbels.
From the upper scroll to the lower rosette, I wanted a one-inch wide raised edge. So I just placed the spiral template across the upper edge of the corbel and moved it in an inch, marked it. Then, using the main template I drew a line from the upper scroll to the lower rosette position.
Once I had the patterns traced onto the sides of the corbels, I took a series of chisels and chopped the lines into the corbel. I then used my plunge router equipped with a straight cutting bit, which I set to cut at about 1/8th of an inch, and hogged out the majority of the waste while moving as close to the chopped lines as I could. Most of the time the chiseled line allowed for a clean break. I went back over the entire profile and cleaned up irregularities with chisels, files, and sandpaper.
I also added rosettes to the upper scrolls to see if that would help define the look. The client decided the lower rosettes were fine but the upper ones were a bit too much. So I cut them off later.
At this point, this set of corbels is about half way done! The pieces in this photo are not glued together and the box behind the two corbels still needs to be trimmed.
Here is a shot of the completed pairs of corbels. Notice the absence of the upper rosettes in this picture, which is what the customer wanted.
With my work now done, the corbels were delivered and Dallas Designs assembled and installed the fireplace surround and mantle. Their artist applied the faux marble finish to complete the look. This is a grand looking fireplace and I am pleased with the role I played in its production. Here are some final shots –
. . . Alan Young