So I am in the midst of making a plan to replace the mantle piece (which is currently made from oak), with one made from cherry, that is somewhat smaller, and a bit simpler. The first step is always some form of exploratory surgery. In this case, I took the end piece off to see how it was constructed. Basically not very well. It seems like a core frame of 2×4 covered with the ¾” oak.
But often it is what is behind these old mantles that truly tells a story. I found this licence for gas during WW2, and a ration coupon book. Not in the best condition, but it was sitting behind the mantle for over 70 years. At the start of rationing, “non-essential” users (“A”) would get 65 gallon “units” per year.
Stricter rationing meant that by 1942, non-essential users, now classified as “AA”, would get half the units per year. Here’s one of the ration coupons: