his mantel is typical of thosefound in many rural farm-houses in the early 19th century.Almost always made of wood andpainted, the style was taken directlyfrom classical architecture and imitatedthe design of basic shelter: columnssupporting a beam and roof. The simplemoldings and joinery indicate that itcould have been built by a local carpen-ter instead of by a furniture joiner. Butits simplicity doesn’t diminish its appealin any way. The mantel’s flat relief andplain treatment perfectly frame theFederal-period hearth opening and pro-vide a focal point for the display of family possessions and a backdrop forsocial gatherings and important events.The mantel’s design shows elegant pro-portion, restraint, and balance. And thesimple moldings cast bold shadows thathighlight its timeless appeal.The federal mantel is structurallystraightforward and can easily be builtin a weekend. Three boards joinedtogether with biscuits form the founda-tion, which is fastened to the wall.Plinth blocks (doubled-up 1-by stock)support the plain vertical pilasters,which support the horizontal archi-trave. Add a few moldings and themantel shelf, and you’re ready to paint.