Creating Altar Ornaments for St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wartburg, TN
Ad Crucem designed and fabricated new ornaments for St. Paul's altar
Rev. David Graves of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wartburg, Tennessee, asked Ad Crucem to participate in a project to update and beautify the church’s altar.
Local prison inmates made the previous altar ornaments many years ago, and the 175-year-old congregation wanted to revamp them.
Late last year, Ad Crucem scaled up its CNC machining capabilities to include the design and production of 3D engraved items. Three small concept ornaments — an Agnus Dei, a plain Luther Rose, and a ‘VIVIT’ Luther Rose — were produced and made available for sale as “less-than-perfect” since they had some “learning error” defects.
Pr. Graves purchased the set to assess their potential for the altar superfrontal. He was delighted with them, and we set to work figuring out the final cost and design specifications.
It was agreed to produce a large-scale Agnus Dei for the center and new designs for medallions representing Holy Communion and Holy Baptism. American Black Cherry was selected as the substrate, and carefully matched wood was selected and prepared for production.
Ad Crucem’s 3D artist was commissioned to develop the latter ornaments, starting with the Lord’s Supper. Pr. Graves approved the rendering, and we moved on to the Baptism medallion using the same basic form to achieve symmetry between the two designs. Both renderings were then sent to Pr. Graves for final sign-off before production commenced.
We had some difficulty scaling up the Agnus Dei because of the required machining time, but we tasked Ad Crucem’s industrial designer with optimizing the code to reduce the run time. The designer divided the artwork into components with a total machine time of six and a half hours.
Although the side medallions were half the size of the centerpiece, they required finer finishing tools to achieve the necessary definition. The total carve time from start to finish for both ornaments was eleven hours.
The long machine durations and multiple tool changes raise the risks of an error that could ruin the items and require a complete do-over, for which there was no room in the budget. Fortunately, the machine phase of the project was flawless.
The video shows a timelapse of some of the machining for the Agnus Dei.
Once CNC production finished, it was onto final finishing and staining, which is time-consuming, adding another three hours to the whole project.
After allowing sufficient time for the stain and wood treatments to set, the pieces were ready to ship to St. Paul, just in time for Holy Week 2023. You can see the before and after photos of the altar below.
Thank you, St. Paul. for allowing Ad Crucem to participate in this pioneering project to showcase our expanded CNC capabilities!
If your church has a custom project in mind, please don’t hesitate to contact Ad Crucem for advice and a quote. See more Ad Crucem’s wood plaques and related products online at https://www.adcrucem.com/collections/ad-crucem-woodworking, or please do visit our workshop and store if you’re in the Denver area.
Beautiful work! Thanks for sharing about the process as well as pictures of the completed altar.