You are currently viewing How To Restore Vintage Corbels

How To Restore Vintage Corbels and Incorporate Them Into Your Modern-Day Home

Do you find you’re drawn to old, chippy, vintage items? Maybe you love the worn character and are drawn to the history of the piece? For me, this is always the case! When I first laid eyes on these old, broken corbels I knew they were coming home with me! I didn’t have a specific need for them, or even have an idea of where I was going to use them, but I knew I’d use them somehow eventually! So today, I’m excited to show you how to restore vintage corbels and incorporate them into your modern-day home.

(You may also like to watch our 👆 quick video tutorial to see these vintage corbels come back to their former glory, with step by step directions.)

1st Step To Restoring Vintage Corbels, Forming A Plan

Vintage Corbels

Now, corbels can be used in so many different ways, and we’ll give you a list of 20+ ideas at the end of the post, but today, you’ll see how we’ve incorporated them into our fireplace design.

To start, we had 3 vintage corbels I snagged from a vintage market years ago. Again I wasn’t really sure where I was going to use them when I initially purchased them.

I was drawn to the simplistic carpentry, the old chippy wood, the natural wear and tear. Upon purchasing them, I learned they came from an old home in Logan, Utah which was over 100 years old!

(If only I had a picture of this old home in it’s days of glory! Oh well, I can picture it in my mind.)

Vintage Corbels

For the use in our fireplace design, we only needed 2 corbels. Which actually turned out to be a good thing! We basically used the third vintage corbel for parts to repair the other two!

Labeling Vintage Corbel Parts

Vintage Corbels

After determining which corbel was in the worst condition, I labeled it “parts” so I knew which one I was going to be tearing into for replacement parts.

Vintage Corbels

Then I labeled each section I was planning to use from the vintage corbel labeled “parts”. I placed numbers on each section I needed to salvage.

Vintage Corbels

The same numbers were then written on the corresponding sections of wood to be replaced on the other two vintage corbels.

Loosen Vintage Corbel Sections For Parts

Vintage Corbels

Once everything has properly been labeled and you know which pieces of wood you need to salvage, the vintage corbel can be taken apart.

Now, upon first glance of a corbel you’d think it was one solid piece of wood right? I sure did! That is until I started digging into these vintage corbels and looking for ways to salvage them.

You can see in the image above that the vintage corbel is actually made from several different pieces of wood that have been attached together.

In this case because our corbels are so old, they have been secured with long nails throughout the entire corbel.

First we used a heavy duty pry bar and gently hammered it into each of the different joints to loosen the pieces of wood.

Cut Vintage Corbel Sections Apart Using A Hack Saw

Vintage Corbels

Again, these vintage corbels were assembled using long nails throughout each section! After loosening up each section with the pry bar, we used a hack saw to cut through the nails.

Once each section has been removed you’ll be able to see just how many nails were holding these vintage corbels together!

Each of the nails will then need to be removed. For the most part, we used the nail remover tool on the end of the pry bar to pull them out.

Others were a little more stubborn and we had to use needle-nose pliers to twist and pull them out.

And then there were even some that were more difficult to remove. We used a hammer to set them into the wood, to give us a flat piece of wood to work with.

(You can see what I’m talking about here much better in the video! If you’re like me, I learn a lot better when I can see things in action!)

Vintage Corbels

Once everything had been pulled apart and nails were removed, we laid each piece out in the order where we’d be using them for replacement parts.

This gave us a better visual of where each piece would be used, and gave me piece of mind that we really did have ALL of the parts we needed to put these amazing vintage corbels back together again!

Repair Any Broken Pieces To Be Salvaged

Vintage Corbels

When prying wood apart whether old or new, it’s likely that a few pieces of wood will end up breaking.

In the image above you can see that we had to repair one of the sections that would be used in rebuilding the vintage corbels.

We used wood glue and then secured the two pieces together using 2″ brads and our pneumatic brad nailer.

Rebuilding The Vintage Corbels

Vintage Corbels

After repairs have been made to specific sections of wood, you can begin to rebuild the vintage corbels.

(Again you can see a better visual of this in our video tutorial.)

Working on one section of the vintage corbel at a time, we applied a liberal amount of wood glue, held it into position and secured into place using 2″ brads and our pneumatic brad nailer.

Repeat this on all sections to be added to the finished corbel.

PRO TIP: Be sure to wipe off any excess glue with a damp rag while it it still wet to prevent globs of glue from hardening on your newly restored vintage corbels.

Vintage Corbels

Here’s a little look at the two vintage corbels we were able to rebuild…and all that remained from the third corbel that we used for parts.

(You can see just how many pieces are broken, which gives you an idea of how old this wood is because it was falling apart in many spots.)

Installing The Fireplace Surround

If you’re joining us from the previous post in our fireplace series, How To Make A Faux Wood Beam Mantel, we spoke a little bit about installing the cleat to hang the mantel.

This same method was used to install the surround we made using MDF. (More on building the surround in next weeks post.)

vintage corbels

The mantel was installed first, then we were able to fit the MDF surround and snug it right up to the bottom of the mantel.

To secure the surround we used 2″ brads and our pneumatic brad nailer.

How To Install The Vintage Corbels

Vintage Corbels

The vintage corbels are ready for installation now that the mantel and surround are secured into place.

NOTE: These corbels are purely ornamental in our fireplace design. They are not holding any weight of the mantel since we designed a “floating” mantel. Again you can see how we did this in the previous post.

To install the vintage corbels, we applied a liberal amount of wood glue to the back of each corbel, centered each on the sides of the surround and secured into place using 2″ brads and the pneumatic brad nailer.

Toward the bottom of the vintage corbels where the wood was a bit thinner we were able to drive the brads directly into the front of the corbel into the surround.

As it gets thicker toward the top of the corbels, we angled the brad nailer from the side and drove brads into the corbels and down into the surround.

Again because these vintage corbels are purely for aesthetics, the amount of wood glue and brads we used will keep these from going anywhere! These things are solid and sturdy!

The Restored Vintage Corbels

vintage corbel

And here they are, all fixed up to their former glory! I’m SO happy with the way they turned out, and the old charm and character they add to our fireplace design!

vintage corbels

(You can see how to install the decorative trim work, which adds even more architectural detail to this design here.)

After all of the trim work had been added, we finished off the restored vintage corbels by adding caulk to all of the seams, applying putty to fill in all the holes, and added a fresh coat of paint. Once dry, we took a fine grit sandpaper to distress the corbels just a little bit to bring out some of that old chippy paint look!

If you’ve missed either of these previous posts from our fireplace series click on each image to take you to the corresponding post.

Thanks for spending a little time with us today! If you were inspired by this post PIN it to save for later and share with your friends!

Be sure to join us again next Saturday for another post in our fireplace series.

And as always here at Sunny Side Deisgn


restore corbels pin

And as promised, here’s a list of 20+ different ideas where you can use old vintage corbels in your own modern-day home decor.

Vintage Corbels As Decorative Accessories

  1. Corbels provide visual transition from room to room.
  2. Bedside tables made using old corbels.
  3. Create a display shelf over a window.
  4. Create bookshelves using old corbels.
  5. Corbels prettify a window-seat.
  6. Corbels frame a window.
  7. Corbels frame a wide entryway.
  8. Corbels support a shelf.
  9. Create open shelving in kitchen.
  10. Corbels used as a shelf.
  11. Corbel used as a plant hanger.
  12. Create a shelf across a window.
  13. Create shelving above a window.
  14. Corbels repurposed as bookends.
  15. Corbel as window treatment.
  16. Corbels as countertop support.
  17. Corbels + doors = headboard.
  18. Corbels used as candle holders.
  19. Create towel storage using corbels.
  20. Corbels displayed just for their beauty.
  21. Support (or decorate) a range hood.

For more information on each of these ideas visit the original post.

For more budget friendly ideas be sure to follow us on Pinterest and subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more budget-friendly DIY ideas!

Learn how to build your own fireplace surround and mantel like this one.

Want to shop Steph’s style? Click on the image above to shop her house room by room.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kim Jones

    What lovely ideas you have ladies. I’m in a rental house. Do you have ideas for a rental? Not allowed to change things here. We sold our home and moved to the country and we love it. Appreciate any extra ideas.

    1. Stephanie Hofer

      Thanks Kim! More ideas using corbels? Yes! You can use them in so many different ways! You could use them to hold up a shelf, use them as bookends. They would also be fun just hanging on the wall with a candle on them etc. Hope this helps.

Leave a Reply