Never seen a book on them, but was a finish carpenter before master carpenter... That's when I first learned about making mantles.
First decide how ornate and ornmental you want to get, whether a paintout or woodgrain, etc.
Basic parts of a fireplace mantel from bottom to top-
legs (sometimes with plinths), header, mantel shelf, over mantel, crown.
In what makes a mantel, in order of importance through pieces being optional-
mantel shelf, header, legs, leg plinths, over mantel with crown.
The legs are a 3 piece wrap for each leg, with the sides nailed to the back of the front of the legs. The outside going to the wall the inside going to the fireplace. The front piece could be plain, panels, fluted, etc.
The header is just 2 pieces, with the front going between the legs, the bottom nail to the back of the header bottom and goes the the face of the fireplace. The header could be plain, panled, fluted, etc.
The mantle shelf nails to the of of the legs and the top of the header. I use mixes of trim and crown moulding to make it more ornate and add depth. I route or add trim to the edge of the shelf based on the design.
I add nailers to the masonry and wall, to make it easy and solid to attach to.
Above the shelve is even more optional and based on the design... and over mantle and crown... adding more ornament.
Sometimes, I tied the legs and/or over mantel into custom shelves. Usually shelves beside the legs. Sometimes shelves in the over mantel. One job, they wanted a flat screen in the over mantel.
Fitting and construction tips:.
Measure it out in detail. Check level and straightness of the fireplace and wall. Especially in a remodel, it's usually the worst wall in the house for level and straightness. The masonry is rarely even with the wall. It's a creative challenge. Think 3 dimensional.
How I make up for that is taking the unstraightness to the back wall and measure that to where the fron of the mantle shelf "will be", compensatinge for thosee curves to bring the front face of that shelf even (across left to right) with the front of the fireplace.
That will then guide you with the measurements of the top sides of you legs. Take a level and go down from there. That will show you the tapers for your legs.
Cut out the mantel shelf and legs sides within 1/8 to 1/4 over... set in place and mark with your pencil flat against the wall or fireplace... That will give you the contour. The cut doesn't have to be exact... As i use trim moulding or other moulding to bend right to the edge and blend it in.
I think I have some pictures around here somewhere of the last one I did. It was a basic hardwood mantel with some trim and crown to match the rest of the house. Over what was a concrete faux stone fireplace... new black with green granite hearth and face, with a new fireplace insert. ... With hardwood side cabinet shelves. I'll try to find it to post.
"Don't worry, I saw this work in a cartoon once."
"Usually learning skills and tooling involves a progression of logical steps."
Last edited by MAFoElffen; 06-26-2013 at 05:10 PM.