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Measure the dimensions of your existing mantel and cut down the 8-foot plywood into two long strips that will fit around the mantel when assembled. Be sure you allow an extra 1-1/2" to the top and front length to accommodate the 3/4" sides. Cut down a third piece the same length that will have a shorter width to tuck beneath the mantel. On one of the large pieces of plywood, create screw holes with a drill and pocket jig about every eight inches.
Glue the first two pieces together at a right angle. The pocket holes on the first piece should face inside. Don’t add too much glue because this type of wood doesn’t absorb it too well. Secure the plywood together through the pocket holes with hex head screws. Add clamps as you work your way down to help the glue dry.
Stain the maple inlay pieces to accentuate the seam. Cut a mitered end on each piece of maple so that they meet in the middle to form two sides of a triangle. Glue and nail them in place at the edge of the long pieces.
Determine the remaining length of the mantel, divide it by two, and cut the smaller extension pieces to size accordingly. Create two pocket holes in the bottom half that line up with the existing pocket holes on the long piece, and three on the other side that are perpendicular to the inlay pieces for easy attachment. Glue and clamp the extension pieces together with the rest of the unit and screw them in with hex head screws.
Add to the unit the third long piece with a shorter width, parallel to the first piece with the pocket holes. Create pocket holes in the third piece with a pocket jig and screw it into the bottom piece. This piece won’t have any inlay attached to it and will be used for stability, to ensure the cover stays on securely around the mantel. Now that the cover is assembled, secure it around the mantel with 2-1/2" finish nails.
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