How to Build a Colonial Fireplace
By Christine Hardy
When I first moved to the Philadelphia area, I was captivated by the classical simplicity of the historic homes here and wanted to recreate this style in my dollhouse. After touring several homes and poring over reference books, I realized that one of the distinctive features of the Colonial style is the woodwork covering the internal chimneys. I decided to try building my own using a Jamestown fireplace by Houseworks for the base. I then built the chimney to fit on top of it using stripwood from the local hobby store and a few pieces of Houseworks molding.
To construct the Colonial fireplace you will need:
A Jamestown fireplace by Houseworks
One piece of 1” by 1/8” basswood
Two pieces of 1/4” by 1/32” basswood
One piece of 1/2” by 1/32” basswood
One piece of 2” by 1/32” basswood
One piece of 3” by 1/32” basswood
One piece of Houseworks small crown molding
One piece of Houseworks 3-stepped door and window casing
Mitre box or Easy Cutter
You will see in the photos that I have already painted my fireplace white and am using some white trim on the chimney as well. Normally you should paint the entire chimney after it has been assembled, but in this case it will help to illustrate the pattern for the woodwork.
1. First measure the height from the top of the fireplace to the ceiling. Then cut two section of 1”- wide basswod to that height. Next, cut two more sections of the same wood that are 5” in length. These will form the box that is the basic structure of the chimney.
2. Next, glue the pieces of basswood together to form the box. It is very important to put the horizontal pieces between the vertical pieces, since gluing them on top will add unwanted height. Before the glue dries, test fit the box to be sure it fits snugly but can also be easily removed. Masking tape or clamps can be used to hold the box square while it dries.
3. Now cover the front of the box with wide basswood, starting with the 3”-wide basswood and then cutting a piece of 2”-wide basswood to cover the rest of the opening. After the glue has dried, take this opportunity to square off any overlapping or rough corners with a craft knife and sand them down with very fine grit sandpaper.
4. The next step is to trim the box. First cut the molding to fit around the top. You will need to cut one piece 5¼” long of both the crown molding and the window casing. Then cut two more pieces of each that are 1” long. Mitre the corners to fit around the box and glue in place. You can use spackle to fill in any small gaps where the corners meet. Note that if there is molding around the top of the wall in the room, you will also need to mitre the edges of the chimney molding where it meets the wall.
5. Now measure and cut four horizontal and four vertical pieces of 1/4"-wide basswood to frame the panels on the sides of the chimney.
6. Do the same for the front of the chimney. Then cut a third horizontal piece to divide the front. Below it, place a panel of 2”-wide basswood that is roughly 4 ¾" long. Above it, place a panel of ½”-wide basswood of the same length. Depending on the height of your chimney, you may need to vary the size of your panels so that there is approximately 3/16” of open space around the center of each panel.
The Colonial style reflects the ingenuity of our American forefathers, who created elegant living spaces using the materials they had on hand. Be creative and enjoy building your miniature Colonial room!
7. Your chimney is finished! Now it can be painted and installed.
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