Henry is right, this is a demanding, expensive and time consuming project. I'm not trying to dissuade you from doing it, if you do, more power to you and good luck. I am a master carpenter and I just didn't have the time to design and do it right so I bought one on EBAY.com for $400 delivered. It was custom sized, hardwood, primed for paint and came in 3 pieces that went together in 2 minutes. It was from http://www.netease.net/amc/ their Jefferson model. I did a ton of research and their mantels are much better than the ones usually encountered in stove shops or home centers. I am very happy with it. They post one of each of their mantels on ebay every week.