In October of 2012, I received and email from my friend Jim Colledge. He had left the church he founded in Hudson, Ohio to be the lead pastor of a church in Canton, Ohio. He was faced with a lot of opinions about their need for a cross in the sanctuary. He asked if I would be willing to design and build a cross for them. My immediate response was, yes.
Next I had to decide whether to build it in Ohio or in my studio in Rhode Island. I knew I had to travel there to see the sanctuary before I could settle on the size and design. Jim sent me several pictures and expressed his wish for another simple and rustic cross like the one in Hudson. I envisioned a rough sculpted cross with wood pegs that would stand out.
I contacted my friend, Rich Grell to see if I could use his shop for a few days to build the cross. He was very gracious and accommodating through the whole process. Rich is a gifted artist and craftsman who has built Windsor chairs for the past 40 years. He also built his own house and has hundreds of highly skilled woodworking and finishing projects to his credit. You can check out his website www.richardgrell.com.
Two weeks before I arrived, Rich contacted Terry Lumber to see what they had available for wood. I told Rich that I needed a timber that measured 8” by 4” and was at least 14’ in length. They found a 16’ piece of cedar that was beautiful.
I arrived in Ohio on Monday Dec 17th. I visited the church and met the man who would install the cross and spent some time with Jim as well. Next, I went to Peninsula to see the timber. On Tuesday, I woke up early and was still doing drawings to settle on the exact dimensions of the cross. I don’t remember exactly what I settled on but it is about 7.5’ by 44”. Terry Lumber cut and milled the two main pieces to my specifications. I picked up all the other materials I needed from them as well.
When I arrived at Rich’s house, he was sharpening tools and he had everything ready for me. One of Rich’s tools was a unique drawknife that is made especially for sculpting. That tool became my new best friend for the next several hours. By the time I left that night, I had made the cuts to join the pieces and sculpted all the edges.
I completed the cross on Wednesday and stained it to ensure the color of the cedar would not change drastically over time. Thursday was used to apply two coats of satin varnish. I delivered the cross on Friday. During the whole time I worked, Rich was quick to help and point out various ways of cutting pegs, staining, staging the piece for finishing. I learned several things that will improve all my wood pieces in the future. While we worked together we talked about his new teaching venture and about our faith. I know he enjoyed watching this cross emerge in his shop. All the cedar shavings made the place smell like a pencil factory.
Never have I had a project go so well. This was due to the help of my friend and God’s blessing. I even had time to see a few other friends and introduce them to Rich. I also had the chance to reconnect with my Pastor and friend, Jim Colledge.Get more information