Looking for Some Design Help on a Baptismal Font

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by CharlesA posted 09-07-2016 09:46 PM 877 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View CharlesA's profile


3383 posts in 2250 days

09-07-2016 09:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

After building two baptismal fonts last fall, I thought I was out of that line, but I have another one to build. I don’t do this for profit—I might get enough out of this one to get a proper HVLP system.

My design parameters. I like open designs using a glass bowl so the water is visible. I like the symbolism to be in the design itself, not decorative designs attached (like a cross that is attached to it).

Here is the font I made last fall, a design I like a lot:

I’ve been asked to build a font for a colonial space: darker wood at the top and bottom with white painted middles. This sort of look:

The most interesting shape in the chapel is the window:

I’ve come up with a concept, but I think it has two major weaknesses: 1) I don’t think it would be stable over time. Looks like a design that could easily get wobbly; and 2) (related) that I’m not sure of joinery.

I will probably add a shelf to it like the one I did above, and that would help with the stability, but I think it may just be an inherently weak design.

I’m thinking there may be a more subtle way to include the window shape—more of an allusion than the actual fulll shape.

I’d love any design feedback you might have.

here are two views of the concept:

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

6 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1801 posts in 3312 days

#1 posted 09-08-2016 03:19 AM

Insert a cross into each arch, that would strengthen things considerably…

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View nightguy's profile


213 posts in 1115 days

#2 posted 09-08-2016 03:31 AM

What about that open design that you showed and in each open segment, mimic the shape of the cross in the window for looks and support, painted white or whatever.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1373 days

#3 posted 09-08-2016 03:38 AM


I like the overall appearance of the baptismal font design you are now considering; and the baptismal font you pictured looks very good. I hope my comments help you advance the design.

If some cross bracing were added within each arch, tendency for racking of the arched frames would be reduced. Taking a que from the stained glass window, the cross bracing could consist of a cross, where the post would run from the bottom rail to the center of the arched top. The cross member of the cross, let into the posts with a half lap, would connect the vertical stiles of the arch. Connecting the four points of the cross could also be done with half lap joints. The same trammel setting used to shape the short radius of the arch could also be used to form the half lap at the top of the cross where it meets the top of the arch. A flush trim bit, sanding and/or hand work could fair the top end of the cross’s post along the long radius (upper) of the arch. Alternatively, the posts of the cross could extend up past the top edge of the arch and provide support for the bowel’s retainer platform.

But since there are three arches, I assume to represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, arch cross bracing that represent each member of the God Head could also be used. I can come up with two of the three symbols; a cross for the Son and dove for the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately I come up short on a symbol that would evoke the Father. These could also be joined to the arched frame with half laps.

The bottom rails of the arches are even with the bottom ends of the arches. Any unevenness in the pedestal or the floor could cause the font to rock. Moving the bottom rails up some distance would create 6 legs, which would, I think, add to its stability. If the bottom rails are raised 3” to 4” up from the ends of the stiles that make up the arch, a toe recess would be created, allowing the man of God a little closer access to the bowel.

My guess is that the font will be portable and put away when not needed. Unless the font is permanently anchored to a base, there is no structure tying the arches together near the floor. I suppose this is one reason why you are considering a shelf of some design. Symbolically I like the idea of some structure that ties the three arches together to symbolize the Trinity as One.

One approach to the shelf is a triangle that connects the bottom rails of each arch or into the post of the cross (if this design element is added). Adding a gentle curve (concave or convex) to the triangle would soften the appearance of the shelf. The shelf could be attached to the rails with dowels or mortise and tenons (loose tenons might be easier). If further symbolism is desired, three shelves could be installed rather than one.

I am not sure how easily the font could tip over on its side. This would depend on the mass of the font at its base versus at the top, the height of the font, and the width at the base.

Lastly, though I am not sure whether you are pondering the construction of the arches, cutting the arch from a single piece of stock would increase the likelihood that the arch would split or crack over time. A bent lamination or steam bending I suppose are alternative options, but I would think the easiest way to construct strong arches would be to glue up segments from which the arches are cut. Since reinforcing the mitred end joints with dowels or splines would be tricky, considering a segmented face lamination of three segments where the mitred joints are supported by the adjoining segment could probably work.

View Lazyman's profile


3702 posts in 1840 days

#4 posted 09-08-2016 11:40 AM

I am a little confused. It doesn’t sound like you are going to make an enclosed base like the one you pictured as an example of what they want? Could you simply make the hexagonal cabinet and add the arched frame as molding? You could even apply a cross that mimics the stained glass.

I really like the curves of the font you made at the top. If you are going to create an open design as your sketch shows, perhaps you could embellish the design of the one you built by making the curved uprights into crosses whose horizontal beams merge to match the match the sides of the hexagonal base? (Does that make sense?) They could form the core support for the bowl. If you want to incorporate the 3 arched frames, then they are simply cosmetic and you won’t have to worry about them failing structurally.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View CharlesA's profile


3383 posts in 2250 days

#5 posted 09-14-2016 01:56 AM

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts. Three crosses won’t work symbolically win this as the foreign focus is Trinitarian. You’ve convinced me that this initial design is fatally flawed. I have another idea I’m playing with—I’ll post it soon.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View ChefHDAN's profile


1420 posts in 3302 days

#6 posted 09-14-2016 09:29 PM

Maybe solid panel the aches/windows and do the cross shape as a cut out???

BTW very nice work on the shown photo

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics