Midnight Woodworking


St. Kilian chapel – Wall mounted holy water fonts

I had a new challenge sent to me from Monsignor Rowan at Saint Kilian parish in New York. He had me make four consecration candle holders for the chapel they are renovating. Ultimately they only needed two so he sent two back to me to have them incorporated into two new holy water fonts. I had to start by removing the candle support arm. I used my table saw in a rather “unsafe” manner to do this, so I won’t show you how… probably would have been better to hand cut it with a flush-cut pull saw. Maybe next time…

The goal was to come up with a simple design that incorporated the crosses and the font hardware. It also had to match the chapel furniture in some way. Since the rest of the furniture is oak with walnut details, I am starting with oak. I will also be mounting the cross to this so it will need to be very stable. I have a piece of 1-1/4″ thick quarter-sawn red oak that will work perfectly.

We also decided on an octagonal back plate to match the octagonal legs of all the furniture. I cut a piece of oak that would be big enough for both back plates.

I used a jack plane to take down the high spots, so that the board would sit flat without rocking.

This allows me to plane the opposite side perfectly flat.

Then I can flip the board over and plane the reverse side perfectly parallel.

Once that is done, I clean up one edge on the jointer and cut the opposite edge parallel on the table saw.

My intent is to inlay the crosses into the back plate so that they don’t stand out too far and get in the way of removing the bowl of the font. I decided to have my CNC carve out the pockets instead of building a jig and routing them by hand.

The router is slower, but more precise.

I left a tiny bit of space all around the cross to create a bit of a shadow line.

To enhance this look, I am adding a small, 1/8″ radius along the edge with my trim router and a very small bit.

This leaves a nice rounded edge that I hope will look good.

After I sanded the face smooth, I started laying out the octagons.

I used the miter saw to separate the back plates and trim the 45° corners off.

I used a 45° chamfer bit, in the router table to bevel the outer edge of the plate.

The font’s bowl ring is mounted from the back with two screws. The screws, that it came with, are very short. I don’t want to counter-bore all the way down till they fit, the wood would be very weak and crack if some small child pulled on the bowl. Instead, I made a thick back plate and purchased longer screws. This should add a good amount of strength for support.

To recess the heads of the screws, I create a small 1/8″ counter-bore.

The screw heads are now below the surface of the wood so that they will not scratch the wall.

I attached the screws for a test fit. I found that adding a very small split locking washer added a tiny bit of spring tension to the fit and seems to allow for better tightening of the screws.

Here is a dry-fit of the cross as well, after I removed the bottom of it, where the arm stood out. I like the shadow line that outlines the cross. Once everything is stained and finished to match, it will help the cross to stand out a bit.

Before I can fix the crosses in place, I need to remove the finish from the back of them or the glue will not stick well.

I also searched around for some more durable hangers. I used a keyhole bit on my router to create the hole on the crosses, but they were only holding up a candle. If I used the same style hole on the fonts, I fear someone would pull too hard on them and break the keyhole open. I purchased some metal ones that looked like they would do the job better.

I start by centering them in place on the back of the plate, then I marked the locations of all the holes.

I used a 3/8″ forstner bit to create the pocket for the screw head, then a 1/16″ drill bit to create pilot holes for the mounting screws.

I used a thin chisel to open up the pocket the rest of the way.

I attached the mounting plate with the screws it came with. It looks good, but I realized the plate needed to be recessed or it would also scratch the wall.

After marking the outline of the plates, I drilled a 1/6″ deep pocket for the plate with a 1″ forstner bit. Of course, I had to deepen the other holes as well.

Test fit looks good.

Before applying the stain, I masked the bottom of the recess for the cross with painter’s tape. This will allow bare wood for the glue to bond to.

I applied the matching cherry stain to the back plates.

I also stained the cut ends of the crosses.

When the stain was dry, I removed the masking tape.

I decided to go with epoxy over wood glue because of the slightly uneven bottom of the recess. Epoxy is gap filling and will bond strongly.

After setting the crosses into the epoxy, I clamped them in place and let them sit over night.

The next morning they were dry and ready for polyurethane.

Between coats, I sand the surface with 400 grit paper to smooth the surface and prep for the next coat.

I let each coat dry for about eight hours before moving on to the final assembly.

I reattached all of the hardware with a screwdriver. I really like the shadow line around the cross.

The final product looks pretty good, but I want to test the hanger.

I placed a couple of wood screws into my work bench and hung the fonts in place. They hang straight and seem to be very strong.

This was a challenging little project. I enjoyed being able to reuse the crosses so that they did not go unused.

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