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To build the mantel, start by placing a backer board on the wall. Then attach dentil molding to the bottom of the backer board.
Set crown molding in front of the dentil molding, and set the shelf on top (Image 1). Use decorative molding to finish the edge of the shelf. For a different look (Image 2), place decorative molding directly above the dentil molding.
If you'd rather not deal with the compound miter cuts necessary for installing crown molding, dress up the backer board with prefabricated brackets or stamped wooden decorations. Another option for beginners is a precut, premitered mantel kit.