My next project is a Marian procession bier for the Baltimore Basilica. They requested a bier that would hold a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. I have made two biers before. One very simple one for my parish at St. Peter’s in Libertytown MD, as well as one for the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, MD. The first one I made was very simple, and the second was more complicated. Both required a design that would hold the statue in place, the second required the statue to be able to be rotated and the poles to be removed and replaced easily. Those two features make the design a lot more entailed. This bier will require a socket that will capture the base as well as removable poles. This bier will also be far more ornate than the previous two. One of the challenges will be to keep it as lightweight as possible while leaving it structurally sound.
The first challenge will be to create a socket that holds the base. The base is cast resin and irregular. I have to create a socket, lined with dense foam so the base will be held firmly and protected from damage by whatever clamps it in place.
This is my design, forgive the poor representation of the statue. I was mainly trying to replicate the base and the height of the statue in my model. This PDF shows my material requirements for this design: Marian Bier.PDF. I left out details on foam and hardware because that will be selected and installed as it is being built.
Here is some of the hardware that I will be using. I purchased four different styles of magnets to experiment with. They need to have counter-sunk holes to be screwed in place and have enough pull that the poles will not easily release. I have square, round, and rectangular magnets that range from 10 pounds of pull to 20 pounds each. They are strong enough to shatter if they are allowed too close to each other and they are drawn together abruptly. I separate them and store them on one of my steel dust collection pipes. This keeps them within reach but far enough apart to not be accidentally attracted to something else.
For my wood selection, I have picked up poplar and Douglas fir. These are paint grade and relatively lightweight.
For the rails that surround the bier, I have a red oak spindle rail that is designed to mount above cabinets or on a wall to display plates. If I cut the base to the correct shape it will work perfectly for this application.
The pews in the church appear to be made from a straight-grained, red stained, mahogany. I intend to use a similar-grained Spanish cedar to replicate the look while maintaining a lighter weight.
I have a white semi-gloss paint for the body of the bier, and I am experimenting with stain colors for the darker colors.
I have a very special piece for the poles. It is an extremely old growth piece of Douglas fir that has a split down the center. The split makes this board useless for most projects but the perfect size for these 1-1/2″ square poles. The tight, straight grain will ensure that the poles will not be likely to warp over time.
I flatten the face of the board on the jointer, then rotate it 90° and joint one edge to make it dead flat as well.
Then I cut away the first pole and rotate it to cut the final side.
This gives me two, 7′ long poles that are 1-1/2″ square.
Since the square, sharp edges will be very uncomfortable in the hand, I need to make the ends round, but leave the middle square so that it will not want to rotate when in use.
I installed a 3/4″ round-over bit in my router table and a stop, at the end of my fence that will allow me to cut a radius on all four sides of the last 24″ of each pole.
Taking my time and carefully feeding the pole through to the stop, I eventually create a round end on both ends of the poles.
Unfortunately the bit does not leave a perfect shoulder at the square section.
To clean this up, I need to resort to hand tools. I get out a few rasps and determine that my 10″ cabinet rasp is the right size and shape for the job.
I gently reshape the blend from round to square, then smooth it out with a sanding block.
Next, I carefully reshape the end of the pole to have a comfortable radius.
Once the top half is shaped, I flip the pole over and do the bottom half. It takes about a half an hour per end to get all of the hand-shaping done.
Before I finish with the poles, for now, I add a slight bevel on the square section. This prevents damage to the edge and allows for an easier installation into the receiving section of the bier.
Then I do a thorough hand sanding and the poles are done for now.
I will still need to add a hole in the center to locate the poles when installed in the bier as well as metal plates for the magnets to attach to, But those will be done later as the bier is built. It is getting late so I will pick this up again tomorrow.