Holy Woodworking – Ash Wednesday Crosses

This is the third post in a row that is about something woodworking-related, but that’s what has been taking up most of our spare time. So I apologize if you are getting bored. I promise the next one won’t have anything to do with wood or Jay’s workshop.

By now all of you are getting tired of hearing about the Advent Wreath Stand that we made for church. Do you remember that we had three pews to use?

wreath-stand-church-pewsIf I remember correctly we had only used about two of these for the wreath stand. Since we still had so much left we volunteered to make the little tchotchkes that are given out on Ash Wednesday in our church. These tchotchkes are a physical symbol and reminder of Lent and all that we are called to do during this time of fasting, praying and alms-giving. Again, knowing how much it would mean to the parish to have a piece of the old church with them during Lent we cut out crosses from this wood.

pew-wood-for-crossesWe started out with the bigger pieces, pictured here on the left, but we didn’t want crosses that thick as they were supposed to fit nicely in your pocket. So Jay cut the boards into 4″x20″ planks, and then we ran them through the table saw to cut the thickness in half (the pieces on the right).

pew-plank-for-crossesJay designed the cross and used the CNC router to cut them out. Our friend Dave was sent a copy of the file so that he could cut out some crosses, too. When I asked how many we would need I was told around 250. I believe that between Jay and Dave we had almost 300. That extra little cushion made me feel better so that everybody could get one.

cnc-routing-pew-crossesJay was able to fit 7 on each 4″ x 20″ plank. He discussed with Dave the layout and they made sure that the grain was running in the same direction on all of the crosses.

pew-crosses-routedBy the way, this creates a LOT of sawdust!

Jay didn’t cut all the way through the planks because he didn’t want the crosses to come loose and fly off. This meant that after the router was done he would take the plank over to the band saw and finish cutting them out.

rough-pew-crosses-2-21-17This left the crosses a bit rough. Yikes! I wouldn’t want to stick one of those in my pocket. Thank goodness for the Uppie-Downie sander! Or, for the more technically minded, the Spindle Sander. After Jay had cut out a bunch of crosses I went into his workshop and was shocked…

holy-scrap-2-21-17Holy scrap!!

For as beautiful as the crosses turned out there was more excess material than I realized. Since this is blessed wood we don’t dare just toss it. So, we will have a few fires this summer to properly dispose of it. And I might make some fire-starters with the holy sawdust, too.

Once Jay was finished doing the rough sanding the crosses then went to the finishing department.

box-of-crosses-2-7-17That looks like a lot, but isn’t even a quarter of what we needed.

cross-sanding-stationIn the finishing department I tried various strategies to make the process quick and easy. Due to my anal tendencies and perfectionist nature, however, I ended up settling on a very manual process. I started with 150 grit sandpaper and smoothed the front, back, edges, and broke the corners. Once the edges had reached the level of smoothness that I required I would then pull out the 220 grit and give the whole thing a final go over. It was a tedious and hand-hurting process. We ended up taking over half of the crosses to our Small Faith group and asked them to take them home to do some sanding. The group was more than happy to help out, but I still had more at home to sand.

finished-crosses-2-27-17Dave had an easier sanding process (his are in the plastic bag). He had made his own “mop” sander that he put on this drill press. That’s how he sanded all of his crosses. Last weekend I think that I had 51 crosses left to sand. It took me a total of 10 hours to do them all.. 2 hours Friday, 3 hours on Saturday, and 5 on Sunday. Needless to say, on Monday my wrist and hands were not very happy at all. I didn’t dare crochet for a few days in order to give my wrists a chance to rest.

It all ended up being worth it.

crosses-in-baptismal-fontOur church had an Ash Wednesday service at 8:30 a.m. and another one at 7 p.m. I was told that people were very happy when they found out the crosses were made from their old pews.

crosses-ready-for-ash-wednesday-3-1-17Aren’t they beautiful?

Some of the crosses are darker because Dave used some butcher block oil on them to see how it would turn out. I liked the look, but we didn’t have the time to do it to all of them since we were just getting the balance of the crosses back from the Small Faith group two days before they were needed. The oil would never have dried in time. But that’s okay. Each cross is different, just like us. Some are rougher around the edges and some are darker. There are crosses that have holes in them from where the pews were screwed together. One cross had a nice knot in the corner of one of the arms.

The only bad thing is that we ran out of crosses that night. I figured we would be golden since we’d made more than the number we’d been given as a guide. We think that when people found out that they were made of the old pews they took extras. Perhaps for themselves or family members who weren’t there. Either way, I was upset that some people didn’t get one. I ended up giving my cross away to a girl who hadn’t received one. And Jay’s grandma wasn’t able to make the service that night so he gave his cross to her.

Knowing all of this Jay and I have another project in mind to use up a good chunk of the wood that is left. We would feel guilty using it for our own purposes and feel that it should be given back to the Parish. So, you’ll have to stand by to see if our idea comes to fruition and just what we end up doing with it!

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