Designing a Mission Style Fireplace Mantle

They had a mantle made by the carpenters who trimmed out their place a number of years back. It was essentially three boards with molding applied to the face & a shelf. Like many facades, it lacked substance and girth.

They wanted a mantle that was substantial but had clean, bold lines, no fine detail or filigree. I rendered a corner of the proposed piece that I felt had those qualities. It ended up as ‘Mission Style’, in  appearance.


Here is a shot of one of the columns being assembled…


We wanted to appreciate that it was made from wood but to stain it very dark… so I was able to use poplar & maple ply.

arts n crafts mantle

As I write this post, we have just finished doing two rooms in wainscot & a wine storage wall unit for them, all in the same style. Seems they liked the way it turned out.

Russell Hudson / Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc.


Butterfly Inlay

Butterfly Inlay

Make a perfect fit with a shop-made template.

By Tom Caspar

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Don’t you just love it when something that looks extremely difficult turns out to be oh-so easy? Making butterfly inlay with a plunge router is a good example. The technique is very easy to learn. All it takes is a set of router accessories and some 1/4-in. plywood or hardboard to make your own template.

Butterflies appear to bind two pieces of wood together, but they’re really just for show and are only 1/8-in. thick. Few pieces of authentic Mission-style furniture were dressed up with butterflies, but in recent years they’ve become a common decorative theme in reproduction Mission furniture, adding a light touch to heavy-looking pieces.


Your router

The easiest way to make inlay is with a plunge router, but it’s possible to use a fixed-base router instead. The only problem with using a fixed-base router is that you’ll have to tip it into the cut by hand, which takes some practice. This technique may also put a good deal of stress on a fragile router bit.

Whatever kind of router you use, its base must accept a Porter-Cablestyle template guide. This is a stationary ring that screws onto the router base. If your router’s base doesn’t have a hole sized for a Porter-Cablestyle template guide, you can buy an adapter base.


The inlay kit

Inlay kits are available from several manufacturers, but they’re all very similar. You get a template guide, a 1/8-in.-thick collar that snaps onto the guide and a 1/8- in. solid-carbide bit. The bit is usually a spiral downcut that cuts exceptionally clean, chip-free edges.

The inlay set we used also includes a centering pin for installing the template guide in your router base. If the guide isn’t centered, the inlay may not fit well in the recess.

Click any image to view a larger version.


This kit has everything you need to make both the inlay and the recess it fits into:

1/8" Bit

Snap-on collar

Template guide

Guide-mounting ring

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2003, issue #99.

March 2003, issue #99

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