Church Cross from reclaimed oak

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Project by Don Johnson posted 08-09-2016 07:34 PM 1068 views 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Having previously made some items for our local church, it was no surprise to be asked by the vicar if I could make a cross on which to hang the poppy wreath on Remembrance Sunday when it occurs in November. He said that it would be much better to mount it on the cross than on a nail in the church wall – which is how it has been displayed in past years. He added that he wanted just a simple cross, and that he had some oak that had been removed when the church organ housing recently had been remodeled. Given this info’, I agreed that it would be ‘No problem!’

When he showed me the ‘oak’, I saw that the two posts had rather interesting cross-sections (about 4 inches by 3 inches) with decorative finials and bases, I thought that they could be reduced to simple rectangular lengths to make the ‘simple’ cross he wanted. I mentioned this, but he replied that ‘It would be nice if you could match the other pieces remaining on the organ’, so I began to wonder how I could make the simple cross-halving joint I had originally envisaged.

Thinking about how to keep the existing cross-section, I felt that if I tried to make a four-piece mitred joint it would be difficult to create enough strength in the joint – these are heavy bits of old oak to join using end grain! After some more pondering, I chopped off the top and bottom, then decided to take a slice off the top surface of one of the posts which would contain the central slot and side bevels, leaving a plain rectangular length (or ‘board’ as they say in the US). I cut this into two lengths – 36 inches and 18 inches – and made a straightforward cross-halving joint to mate them together. Now I had a strong base, onto which I could fix four mitred pieces of the top slice to restore the original cross-section.

I would have preferred to finished the cross at this point, but the vicar’s remark about ‘matching other pieces’, indicated I should add something from the finial area. However, using all of it would have made the cross very top-heavy and visually unbalanced, so I chopped off just the bottom part of the top finial and attached it using dowels. I knocked up a base from some odd pieces of oak, but attached this with screws in case it is not needed if the cross is fixed to a wall. Some sanding – mainly using one of those vibrating multi-tools – to clean up the ancient surfaces, then the application of some Danish oil finished off the job. Since this cross will go in a thirteenth-century church I deliberately did not restore everything to pristine condition, but left it looking as close as possible to the existing woodwork.

It will be collected by the vicar tomorrow, so I hope he likes it – but I will still suggest that we chop off that finial!

-- Don, Somerset UK,

3 comments so far

View kiefer's profile


5689 posts in 3233 days

#1 posted 08-09-2016 10:40 PM

Well done Don!
Reusing ancient material as you call enhances this cross tremendously and I am sure the Vicar will be more then pleased with your design,care and work .


-- Kiefer

View ralbuck's profile


6252 posts in 2832 days

#2 posted 08-10-2016 04:29 PM

Great Job=Great Project too.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 2974 days

#3 posted 08-10-2016 05:25 PM

You “nailed” this cross! Very nice job working with old material. I am sure the vicar will love it.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

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