How to Build a Rustic Mantel Shelf From Cedar

Rustic mantels work well in many home interior design styles. A cedar log or beam makes an ideal rustic mantel shelf because cedar has distinct grain patterns and is lightweight. Use traditional woodworking tools to hew the shelf for an authentic rustic feature for your fireplace. A hand-hewn rustic mantel can be made over the course of a weekend to add a custom design element into your home.

Use a cedar log to hand hew a rustic mantel shelf.
  1. Place the log on a work surface. Look over the log and select the sides you would like as the front and top.

  2. Pull a chalk line across the length of the log about 2 inches in from the back edge. Snap the chalk to transfer the line onto the log. Use the line to guide the amount of wood you cut off with the adze.

  3. Chip away slices of the back edge of the log using an adze. An adze is similar to a hatchet and is used for hewing timbers into beams. Stop when you've reached the depth of the line along the full length of the log. The edge should be flat so it sits against the wall.

  4. Flatten the top edge of the log with an adze. This will be the shelf. Cut gradually deeper strips from the log until you've hewn a flat surface that will act as the mantel shelf. The adze will create a rustic hand-hewn mantel.

  5. Sand the mantel with a progression of rough, medium and fine-grit sandpaper until the log is completely smooth. Always sand with the grain of the wood.

  6. Apply a wood finish. Allow the finish to dry before installation.


  • Wear eye protection when working with wood. Keep your body out of the path of the adze when shaping the log.