These words may sound the same, but they have different meanings.
On International Podcast Day, I joked that people should celebrate by hanging garlands of ear buds from the mantel—but I used the wrong spelling of mantel. That’s always embarrassing, so I made up a memory trick to help myself—and you—remember the difference.
A mantle is a cloak. It’s also the spelling you want when you talk about passing the mantle of power (think of a king or queen passing that red royal robe on to a successor), the mantle of darkness (as in "cloaked in darkness"), and the Earth’s rocky shell layer between the crust and the core.
A mantel is the shelf above your fireplace. In the house where I grew up, the mantel was brick, but they can be stone or a big wooden beam or something else.
How to remember the difference between 'mantle' and 'mantel'
Both words have the same origin, but they evolved to have different meanings. Maybe early on, someone thought that the shelf above the fireplace wrapped around it like a cloak..
Regardless, you can remember the correct spelling by thinking of a telephone sitting on your fireplace mantel. The tel in telephone will remind you to use the mantel spelling that ends in -tel for the mantel that sits above the fireplace. All the other meanings are spelled the other way.