Saint Stephen statue for St. Steven church in Elkin, NC

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Project by JimArnoldChess posted 10-12-2016 01:57 PM 2247 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I carve lots and lots of different things…not just chess sets. The chess sets pay the bills, but once in a while I get to have some fun with the art form. This is a statue of Saint Stephen, the patron saint of a church here in Elkin, NC. The church had been around for over 60 years and they actually have an alcove in the steeple for a statue, but they never got one because the cost was prohibitive. Then one day this woodcarver comes along and tells his friend, a Sister of Saint Joseph nun who runs all the programs at this church, he would do it.

At the time, the church was cutting down some old and dead oak trees, that were planted at the same time the church was built. The wood was VERY green, and you guys know that working with green wood can have lots of drawbacks, but I threw caution to the wind and had the tree guys cut out a 7’ long, 24” diameter hunk for me. I wrapped it up tight in a tarp and left it alone for a couple months. On Easter Sunday I asked the priest to bless it for me, which he did, and then I built some saw horses and started carving on him right in front of the church doors you see in a couple of the pics. I first ‘roughed’ him out with a chainsaw. Then used my regular chisels with my 28 oz. estwing (I quickly switched to a 20 oz. fiberglass hammer, lol) to bang out the details. I have to admit I ‘milked’ this job for many weeks as lots and lots of people would stop and come and talk, or honk their car horns as they drove past, but I think the work took about 80 hours (the second will take half as much time).

The Saint is Saint Stephen, one of the first martyrs. I learned that by looking at a picture of a saint you can tell many things and you can tell Stephen is a martyr because he’s holding a palm frond. His shoulder robe indicates he was a teacher, the diagonal robe underneath means he was a teacher of religion, his eyes looking towards the heaven indicate part of how he died (I wanted to make him looking straight down at all the sinners passing through the doors below the alcove, but I was out-voted, lol). The rocks on the religious book indicate that he was ‘stoned’ to death.

He stands about 4’ or so tall and weighs about 185 pounds. In about 2 months, I’ll give him a bath in teak oil, and about 6 months after that he will take his place about 30’ off the ground in the alcove he was always supposed to stand in. I’m putting 4 s/s bolts in the base to lift him an inch or two off the ground to help with the maintenance that will be required.

It was the most fun project I have ever been involved in. I have another church project nearing completion for a different church…that one not so much fun, but both these projects will be around long after I’m gone, ha! Hoping to shift to more of this religious carving work as I retire from the chess crap in a few months (I hope). Thanks for taking a peek!



10 comments so far

View GR8HUNTER's profile


8861 posts in 1924 days

#1 posted 10-12-2016 03:20 PM

very nice …...... GREAT JOB

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View rdlaurance's profile


381 posts in 4558 days

#2 posted 10-12-2016 05:03 PM

Fabulous story, Jim .. and great sculpture! I’ve thought on and off and on again about doing a religious sculpture myself … largely for the knowledge that it would certainly be around for a long time, barring any catastrophes. Still may do so, as I have a few creative thoughts in mind. Nothing near as complicated or involved as your piece, though… I think I’ve cold feet for that…LOL …. I’m impressed… also takes a lot of gumption to jump into a project like that. My hat is off to you, bro.

I’ve focused my sculptural work away from my past with abstract and non-objective pieces and lately have been employing the human form in my creations, for the first time. Your St. Stephen kind of gives me more inspiration to work on a larger religious theme as well. Thanks for that.

Presently I’ve been focusing on the satirization of social/political/economical/environmental ills of the capitalist system, through my sculpture…. hard to run out of ideas with so much corruption around the world. My latest piece, “Creation of Wealth” finished last week, is earmarked for a national show here in Stockholm, next Spring.

-- Rick, south Sweden

View knockknock's profile


473 posts in 3384 days

#3 posted 10-12-2016 09:29 PM

Wow, that’s a good sized carving. Looks great.

-- 👀 --

View ClaudeF's profile


1362 posts in 2918 days

#4 posted 10-12-2016 10:19 PM

View ralbuck's profile


6763 posts in 3477 days

#5 posted 10-12-2016 11:52 PM

Fantastic work!

Should be an attractive display!

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

View BurlyBob's profile


9293 posts in 3477 days

#6 posted 10-13-2016 04:36 AM

That’s truly amazing.

View Ivan's profile


16958 posts in 4079 days

#7 posted 10-13-2016 05:53 AM

Nice work, you are very tallented.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4015 days

#8 posted 10-13-2016 12:48 PM

Gr8 carving

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Eli Adamit's profile

Eli Adamit

744 posts in 4501 days

#9 posted 10-13-2016 07:13 PM

Nice job and I know it is not easy to sculpt a figure. If I may offer constructive comment, you wrote that next time it would take you half the time, it is true and also, you will improve the result. My suggestion for the next time: the eyeballs will be less prominent and it doesn’t matter if he is looking up or down. Good luck.

-- Eli Adamit, Israel

View PPK's profile


1869 posts in 2021 days

#10 posted 10-13-2016 08:12 PM

Jim, thanks for doing this for the Church! I actually looked on Google maps I can see the church the alcove that it will go in! I do know about St. Steven, but I didn’t know about the diagonal robe, etc! Awesome!
Great carving, very impressive.

-- Pete

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