How to Build a Rustic Fireplace Mantle Shelf

Written by lisa east hunter
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How to Build a Rustic Fireplace Mantle Shelf
A rustic mantle will add character to a fireplace. (room with fireplace image by Dumitrescu Ciprian from

A mantel shelf can dress up your fireplace and serve as the anchor for the room. The mantel, when installed over a roaring fire, becomes the focal point in any room. A rustic looking mantel shelf is an easy do-it-yourself project. You can construct your mantel from any type of wood you like. Reclaimed lumber from an old building or a burn area makes a great looking rustic mantel. You can also choose to use a simple piece of lumber and distress the wood until it has a rustic appearance.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Lumber
  • Scraper
  • Hammer
  • Sandpaper
  • Router
  • 1 by 1 lumber
  • Stain
  • Rags
  • Nails
  • Wood putty

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  1. 1

    Measure and cut your piece of lumber to whatever dimensions you want for your mantel. The lumber should be at least two inches thick.

  2. 2

    Scrape the top, bottom and edges of the mantel with a scraper. Use an irregular pattern to create the appearance of natural ageing. This will contribute to the rustic look. Add as much or as little scraping as you like.

  3. 3

    Tap firmly on the wood with a hammer to create small dents along the surface of the lumber. This will create a worn and aged look.

  4. 4

    Sand any rough edges with medium grit sandpaper to smooth splinters. Use the sandpaper to round out the edges of the wood as well.

  5. 5

    Turn the mantel face down so that side that will be next to the wall is facing up. Use a router to create a one inch wide by one inch deep indentation along the back of the mantel. The indentation should be roughly two thirds as long as the mantel and centred in the back of the wood.

  6. 6

    Cut a piece of 1-by-one lumber to match the length of the indentation.

  7. 7

    Dip a rag into water-based stain. Wipe the stain onto the mantle. Apply stain more liberally in some areas to create variations in the colour of the wood. Let the stain dry.

  8. 8

    Drive screws through the one by one lumber into the wall where you are hanging the mantel. Drive the screws into wall studs to firmly support the mantel.

  9. 9

    Slip the mantel over the lumber so it fits flush with the wall. Drive nails from the top of the mantel into the lumber every few inches to secure the mantel to the wall. Fill the nail holes with wood putty.

Tips and warnings

  • You can also choose to hang your mantel shelf with brackets. Brackets are available at home improvement stores in a variety of finishes.

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