Oh, how I love a good vintage corbel! When I remodeled my kitchen there was no question that it had to have a good set of antique corbels. And I found love in this gorgeous Eastlake design from a local salvage store:
Unfortunately this one’s mate was in really rough shape. They were also not the right size for where I need them. So I purchased this beauty under the pretense of using it for display purposes, and used it to create a piece with the dimensions I needed.
But that was all a lot of work, so I’m going to save you all that and give you exactly what you need to make these for yourself.
To get that authentic look I needed precision and the ability to plunge cut the designs on either side. So for this project I partnered with Inventables to carve these corbels using my X-Carve CNC machine.
Now, hopefully you know by now that I have always advocating for using whatever tools you have, and at the same time investing in quality. I have long admired what CNC machines can do, but it always seemed like an unattainable dream. But in recent years home-based CNC machines have opened the market to everyone. And it is awesome. Inventables makes the X-Carve in three sizes so you can find one that fits your budget. Go check it out – you’ll be surprised how affordable they are. This design was cut on the 1000 mm, but can easily be modified to fit on the smaller machines.
You’ll find the template for this design on Easel, Inventable’s free software for the X-Carve and on Inventable’s project page here. These corbels require four separate pieces per corbel. That amount of cutting takes some time, but there is just no substitute for that gorgeous bulkiness.
How to Carve the Corbels
You can find the link to the Easel file for these corbels HERE.
Two of the pieces are the inside of the corbels, and are sized down to sit recessed in the finished corbel. The two outer pieces are mirror images. You could choose to carve these with a V-Bit, which would make a great look. I elected to use a straight bit because the piece I was simulating had straight edges, albeit worn down by time. I use a 1/4″ straight bit here as the crazy amount of material you will be carving away would take a lot of time with anything smaller. Also, given the depth of the material breakage of bits was a concern, as well as the ability to get down far enough into the design.
You can find all of these details on the Inventables website as well, where you also find an impressive library of ideas to keep you busy for a very long time.
All four pieces are on the same template, but to carve it I simply masked the pieces as I went along and carved one section at a time. To mask a section create a box, then overlay the pieces you are not carving and set the carve depth to zero. When you are ready to switch sections simply delete the box.
Getting that vintage look
*This post contains some affiliate links, which doesn’t cost you a pretty penny extra but does help me run this blog. You can learn more about that here.
Here’s the tools and supplies I used to create the look of my corbels
white paint (any will do)
Silicone glue brush (with the scraper end)
clamps (I’m linking to Amazon so you know which ones I used, but watch Home Depot for this. Sometimes they go on sale.)
heat gun (*optional)
drill (I use this brushless set, and they are kind of the bees knees)
paint brush (I used this stencil type that works well for dry brushing)
CNC machine (did I need to list that?!)
My corbels are carved out of pine wood. Keep in mind that harder woods will take longer to carve. The original corbel I was inspired by was out of pine, and I like that the softer wood is easy to age. It’s also easier to sand, which is a huge bonus. I used a micro sander to clean up the edges after carving.
I used this little brush from Rockler to wipe away the glue squeeze out as it started to dry. You don’t want to have to sand that stuff later.
Once I had the corbels glued up I attached a piece of trim to the back section for some added dimension, and to further simulate the look I liked from the original, vintage piece. Simply cut to length and use a brad nailer and some glue to attach. This particular trim has a little lip that allows it to sit up against the back perfectly.
To age the corbels I used this cool sanding mop tool I picked up at Rockler. Attach the “mop” to a drill and use it for the middle decorative sections to soften the corners. Play with the pressure a little to get the look you like. I also used this mico sander to smooth the wood and make sure the sections sat level. I also used a bristle brush to rough up sections, so will be smoothing and roughing all at once, if that makes sense.
This part is all personal preference, so mess with it until you get the look you want.
I very lightly stained the corbels with Weathered Wood stain by Minwax. To really lighten it I didn’t mix the stain first, so a good deal of the pigment actually settled to the bottom of the can.
I then spread a little Elmer’s glue over spots on the corbel that would wear naturally. I was pretty liberal with what that meant. You can see in this photo that I had already been playing with a little white washing. That would be because I was making this up as I went along. If I did it again I would move straight to the glue step at this point.
Give the glue enough drying time to be not quite tacky but not all the way dry, then lightly brush a little white paint over the entire thing. Think dry brushing – where only the tips of the bristles contacts the paint. I actually blot the loaded brush first to ensure I don’t overapply the paint. A stencil brush works really well for this, though any other bristle brush will so.
If you get a little more than you like on a section simply sand it back. Working with such small amounts of paint means it drys super fast, so you can actually work with it almost right away.
The final step is to lightly sand the entire thing. Where the paint is laying over glue it will crackle and peel away, creating an aged look. Bonus tip: If you want to move this step along quickly you can use a heat gun to bubble the paint a bit and then sand.
The final steps of this project are basically playing with how much painting and sanding you want to do. I originally hung these with more white then decided I really wanted and did a little light sanding in place.
I attached these to my kitchen bar area after the new quartz countertops were installed. So the best option was to screw them in from the back/insides of the cab to attach them.
These corbels definitely took some time to do, given the four separate carves per corbel. But they were well worth the time and effort. They are a highlight in our recent kitchen renovation. I love the dimension they add to that bar area.
A big thank you to the amazing and friendly team at Inventables for partnering with me to bring you this idea. If you are looking to jump into the CNC market, I don’t think you can do any better than picking up an X-Carve or Carvey (their smaller, enclosed machine that you might just see in your local classroom). Guys, I’ll be honest with you – I’m not exactly mechanically minded. There’s a learning curve with CNC’s, but Inventables makes that curve so manageable and has definitely helped this tech dodo get going. Though I’m not quite willing to admit how many stupid questions I have had. That’s kind of embarrassing.
DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post, which means I was provided with both the product and compensation, but as always, all opinions are completely my own. And in case you are wondering if that leaves you wondering whether I would purchase an X-Carve myself, the answer is absolutely.
Finally, I leave you with one last beauty shot. If you have any questions, please it me up in the comments, or over on Inventable’s website, where you can also find a link to carve these corbels for yourself.