Fireplace Mantel Project

This isn’t normally a home improvement blog, but I have to show Joseph Moore that I have some manly skills too.

Our fireplace, when built along with the house in 1958, was made of rough, re-claimed brick, the kind with chipped edges and black and white paint here and there. (Kind of fun to wonder what buildings they were originally a part of, and how long ago.) I like re-claimed brick, but it had become rather dingy looking from smoke stains and the build-up of grime through the decades.

A year or two ago my wife put the bug in my ear to install a wooden mantel over the brick. The problem was that the surface of the bricks was not flush. Instead, each of the top three rows of bricks extends beyond the previous row by an inch or two, like an upside-down ziggurat. Here’s a photo from a few Christmases ago:


So you couldn’t just buy a pre-made mantel and stick it on there and have it look right.

Aside from chiseling the bricks down to a flush surface, which promised to be extremely messy and which I feared could end in disaster, the only solution I could think of was to build a mantel from scratch. I was damned if I could figure how to do it though. However, after several months of letting the idea soak in, and reading various mantel-building webpages and seeing what kinds of pre-made moldings were available at Lowes, I came up with something that I thought could work. Here’s how the process went.

Step 1: Glued thin boards to some of the bricks to create a more-or-less flat surface on which to glue the pieces of the mantel, since some of the bricks stuck out farther than others, even within the same row. I used Loctite construction adhesive, which worked great.


Step 2: Glued MDF boards onto the third row down from the top to create the bottom edge of the mantel.


Same for the second row from the top.


Step 3: Here I’ve skipped a couple of steps since I forgot to take pictures, but first I attached a wide board to the top of the original fireplace to make a shelf, then attached crown molding to the bottom of the shelf, extending down to the MDF covering the second row of bricks, thereby covering the top row of brick.


Step 4: Attached a decorative strip of molding to the edge of the top shelf.


Step 5: Attached an additional strip of decorative molding over what used to be the third row of bricks. This is called egg-and-dart molding. La-dee-dah.


Step 6: Caulk and paint.



And decorated for Christmas again, just like in the movies.


Of course I see all the flaws in it but my wife says I’m crazy. Some of my family and friends, who have been to our house a thousand times but apparently are not very observant, thought it had been there all along. In other words that it had been built along with the house. Which I guess is a complement.





The Myth of Liberalism

“The desire-based polity, that is, the polity whose philosophical and legal norms are said to reside in the primacy of individual desires, must in its own logic, … be based on a voluntarist concept of law that has no other justification but what those in power choose. Aristotle had long ago explained that democracies based on ‘liberty’ for its own sake and not for a purpose must end in tyranny.”

James V. Schall, S.J., Review of The Myth of Liberalism, The Imaginative Conservative blog, June 3, 2017. (H/T to Junior Ganymede.)

Book Review: Belloc’s Europe and the Faith

Yard Sale of the Mind

Short and sweet: Read this book. It is available free through Project Gutenberg. It’s only a little over 100 pages – a long essay, really – in which the conventional presentations and meanings of many central European historical events as understood by those educated in the second half of the 20th century – me, for example – are convincingly challenged. Think you understand the Fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Saxon and Norman conquests of England and the Protestant Reformation? Even if you disagree with Belloc’s take, you’ll never think of them the same way again.(1)

Image result for Europe and the Faith by Hilaire BellocHis main premise: Europe is the Faith, the Faith is Europe. What he means – and here’s where conventionally educated Americans of the 21st century are likely to recoil –  is that all those things, those institutions, habits of thought, habits, indeed, of soul, that make Christendom special and – hope you’re sitting…

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Why I Left Providence College

Sometimes a single encounter with what is healthy and ordinary—I use the word advisedly, with its suggestion that things are in the order that God by means of his handmaid Nature has ordained—is enough to shake you out of the bad dreams of disease and confusion. If it isn’t quite yet like meeting Saint Francis …

Source: Why I Left Providence College – Crisis Magazine

Why man must submit to the preaching of men…


“The Son of God is soon to ascend to His Father. He has said to His Apostles: Going, teach all nations: preach the Gospel to every creature. Thus, then, the nations are not to receive the word from the lips of Jesus, but through His ministers. The glory and happiness of being instructed directly by the Man-God were for none but the Israelites, and even for them for only three short year.

The impious may murmur at this, and say, in their pride: ‘Why should there be men between God and us?’ God might justly answer: ‘And what right have you to expect me to speak to you Myself, seeing that you can otherwise be as certain of My word as though you heard it from Myself?’ Was the Son of God to lose His claim to our faith unless He remained on this earth to the end of…

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What it feels like some times

“The followers of the old Church must be overwhelmed per fas et nejas [through right and wrong]. They must be ‘based, discredited, and proceeded against . . . involved in the law and not pardoned . . . till they put themselves wholly to her Highness’s mercy, abjure the Pope of Rome, and conform themselves to the new alteration.’ Nor must they ever again be allowed liberty, for whenever the occasion offers they will probably once more ‘maintain and defend their ancient laws and orders.'”

The English Catholics in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth: A Study of Their Politics, Civil Life, and Government, 1558-1580, from the Fall of the Old Church to the Advent of the Counter-Reformation, by John Hungerford Pollen, S.J. (London:Longmans Green & Co., 1920), quoting “The Device for the Alteration of Religion in the First Year of Queen Elizabeth” (1558) attr. to William Cecil.

I don’t mean that only Catholics feel that way nowadays, but anyone trying to swim against the tide by holding fast to traditional morality.

Song of the Day

The blog Siris has an occasional feature called “Music on My Mind,” where he apparently just posts a song that he likes or happens to be listening to or thinking about. So I’m ripping off the idea from him. I don’t want to go so far as to call it by the same name, so I’ll just call it “Song of the Day” until I think of a better name. This doesn’t mean that I’m planning to post a song every day, only when one really strikes me for one reason or another.

Today’s song is “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” by Roberta Flack. I’d never heard it before today and thought it was a really nice song.