How to Build Church Altars

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Modern church altars are built from all kinds of materials including marble, granite and even glass. Traditional 3-piece altars are usually made from oak. You can build an altar with a few basic tools, some plywood and a few pieces of oak lumber.

1 Lay

Lay the 36-by-72-by-3/4-inch plywood out across two sawhorses. Set the table saw blade at 45 degrees. Turn on the table saw and miter all the ends of all four pieces of the 2-inch lumber. Spread glue around the outside edge of the 36-by-72-inch plywood. Nail the lumber to the edge of the plywood with the pin nailer, bringing the mitered corners together, flushing the top edge of the lumber to the top edge of the plywood. Using the putty knife, putty all the nail holes. Let the glue dry for 1-hour. Sand off all the rough edges and putty using the hand block and 100-grit sandpaper.

2 Face down

Lay out one piece of oak plywood across two sawhorses, face down. Spread glue over the back of the plywood. Lay a piece of fir plywood on top of the oak, spread glue on it. Lay another piece of fir plywood on top of that one and spread glue on top of it. Lay another piece of oak plywood on top of that. Repeat the order stacking the remaining pieces of plywood spreading glue on each successive piece until you finish with a piece of oak on top of the stack. Place three clamps on each side of the stack and apply pressure. Let the glue dry for one hour.

3 Remove the clamps

Remove the clamps. You should have two legs, 3 inches wide with oak on the outside and fir on the inside. Spread glue along the 3-inch wide edges. Using the pin nailer, nail the 3-inch lumber to the 3-inch legs. Putty all the nail holes with wood putty using the putty knife. Wait one hour for the glue to dry. Sand with the hand block, blending the edges and removing any dry putty and sharp edges.

Spread glue on top of the legs. Nail the 30-by-10-inch pieces of plywood to the top of the legs, centering them on top.

Turn the 36-by-72-inch piece of plywood upside-down on the sawhorses. Turn the legs upside-down on top of the plywood centering them to make 3 equal spaces. Screw the legs to the top by screwing through the edges of the 30-by-10-inch plywood using the cordless screw gun. The altar is ready to be taken down off the sawhorses, stained, and lacquered.

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.