Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Commemorative Plaque

Another dedicated and enthusiastic group of mission workers from Beulah Presbyterian Church in Churchill, PA is preparing for another trip to "Katrina-land" to help some of the unfortunate individuals in Mississippi try to put their houses and their lives back together.

Most of us who came through that big storm without so much as a scratch would probably shocked to realize that it has been over 5 years (!) since Katrina hit.  This occurred to me when Jeff, the trip organizer, came to see me a few weeks ago to ask if I would be willing to carve another "housewarming gift" for the group to take along.

Jeff's request was a little different this year.  Previously the gift has always been given to one of the families that they help during that trip, but this year Jeff wanted to show the team's appreciation the church that serves as their "home away from home" for the construction week.  That church is a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and the carving is a rendering of the church's logo.

Except for the cross which is made from cherry, the plaque is done in basswood. Each piece was fashioned separately and the "let-in" to the round basswood back to give it a relief-carved look.  I turned the crown on the lathe, cut it almost in half and then veeeerrry carefully cut the points into the crown (the points were very thin and cross-grain).  It was the last thing to be "let-in" and needed be shaped to fit over base of the chalice and the pitcher (see the second photo).

The only real problem that I encountered was in the final step of the finishing process.  I sprayed the plaque with polyurethane, but I had to do it in the garage where it was pretty cold (remember, it's February in Pittsburgh!).  Immediately after spraying, I rushed the still dripping plaque into the shop and sat it under a lightbulb to keep it warm while it dried.  After a couple of hours I went to buff it with some #0000 steel wool prior to applying a coat of paste wax.  While the polyurethane felt dry and hard, under the surface it had the consistency of chewing gum.  It grabbed a hold of every single particle of steel wool "dust" and just wouldn't let go.  All I could do was repeatedly wipe down the surface with mineral spirits to remove the stickiness, sand it all smooth again and apply the wax.  As a result the finish is anywhere near as nice as I had hoped for.

Note to self: Give more thought to the idea of adding a nice warm spray booth to the shop!

One for the Bench:
    Those who criticize our generation...or the next...forget who raised it.

'Til next time...keep makin' chips!

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