Monday, June 2, 2008

How Am I Going to Make a Pulpit?

So just how am I going to make this pulpit? Well, before I can answer that question, let's talk a little bit about what was going through my head while I was designing it.

Initially, I wanted the pulpit to be made completely of solid wood. I didn't want to use any ply at all. It turned out later that certain problems were easier to solve by using ply. As it is, this project calls for a little less than two sheets of 3/4" ply & a tiny bit of 1/4" ply, which I'll get from some scraps I have lying around. It's more than I wanted, but it should make the build a little easier in some respects and go a little faster.

I wanted the rails & stiles for the frame to be 2" wide on all sides. If I made the front & sides as separate frame & panel assemblies & then tried to join them, I'd have carefully hold them at 90° & cut some kind of joinery, probably a rabbet, in one of the stiles. In addition, unless I got really lucky with the grain match, I'd have a visible seam between the front stile & the side stile

In the end, I decided to go with solid 2" x 2" posts in the corners. If I get them square to start, it will be that much easier to get a square assembly, though there's always plenty of room to screw it up & get it wrong. Also, the beefier corner posts should make this a very strong cabinet when it's done. I expect all kinds of speakers to be leaning on it periodically as they preach, so I want to make sure it will hold up to the weight.

After deciding to go with the solid 2" x 2" posts, that's when it became obvious to me that I needed to use ply for the sides of the center section & the sides of the wings that butt against it. Ply won't move with humidity changes & will allow me to use bolts & threaded inserts to attach the wings to the center section when they're done. It also became obvious that using ply for the shelves would be better, as I wouldn't have to worry about wood movement, since the ply partitions & the frame & panel assemblies won't be moving either.

Now, about the steps. There are so many of them, I decided to separate them into logical groups. I will work on each group in turn until I get to the last step. Here they are:

Initial Preparation:

  1. Partially mill stock for posts, rails, stiles, panels, fixed shelf supports and shelf edging (do not take stock to final thickness!)
  2. Let milled stock acclimate another week.


  1. Finish milling stock for posts to thicknesses (most are 2", some are 1 3/4").
  2. Cut posts to final width + 1/32" (2 1/32").
  3. Joint saw marks off of posts. Posts should now be exactly 2" x 2".
  4. Cut posts to final length + 1/2" (extra will be on top end to help prevent blow outs while cutting mortises).
  5. Layout mortises & grooves for panels & ply partitions on posts.
  6. Cut mortises using plunge router & edge guide.
  7. Square up corners of all mortises.
  8. Cut grooves in posts for panels.
  9. Cut grooves in center front posts to accept ply partitions.
  10. Cut groove in right front post for the center section for running power strip power cord.
  11. Cut rabbets in inner wing posts & center rear posts to accept ply partitions
  12. Cut rabbets in bottom of posts that must be rabbeted for the base.
  13. Drill shelf pin holes in posts.
  14. Drill bottom end of posts to accept leveler foot t-nuts & leveler.
  15. Epoxy leveler foot t-nut into bottom of posts.
  16. Sand everything smooth.

Ply Partitions:

  1. Cut ply partitions.
  2. Test fit ply partitions to posts that accept them.
  3. Make any adjustments to fit of dados as needed.
  4. Glue ply partitions to posts that accept them.
  5. Sand everything smooth.

Rails & Stiles:

  1. Finish milling stock for rails & center stile.
  2. Cut all rails & center stile to final width + 1/32" (2 1/32").
  3. Remove saw marks on rails & center stile using jointer. Rails & center stile should now be 3/4" x 2".
  4. Cut all rails & stiles to final length.
  5. Layout haunched tenons in all top & bottom rails.
  6. Layout stub tenons in center rails & center stile.
  7. Cut haunched tenons in top & bottom rails.
  8. Test fit tenons in mortises.
  9. Adjust tenons as necessary.
  10. Cut stub tenons in center rails & center stile.
  11. Test fit center rails & center stile.
  12. Adjust stub tenons as necessary.
  13. Drill pocket hole screws for mounting cap rails in all top rails & ply partitions.
  14. Dry fit all posts, rails & stiles.
  15. Sand everything smooth.


  1. Measure for fixed shelf supports.
  2. Finish milling stock for fixed shelf supports.
  3. Cut fixed shelf supports to final width + 1/32" (1 17/32").
  4. Remove saw marks from fixed shelf supports using jointer. Shelf supports should now be 3/4" x 1 1/2".
  5. Cut fixed shelf supports to final lengths.
  6. Drill ends of fixed shelf supports for pocket hole screws.
  7. Drill fixed shelf supports for screws to hold fixed shelves.
  8. Dry fit fixed shelf supports to dry fit posts, rails & stiles.
  9. Cut blanks for all shelves from ply stock.
  10. Finish milling stock for edge banding.
  11. Cut edge banding stock to final width.
  12. Cut edge banding stock to final lengths.
  13. Glue edge banding stock to all shelves.
  14. Trim edge banding flush with shelf.
  15. Cut notches in all shelf blanks to fit around posts.
  16. Dry fit fixed shelves to the dry fit post, rail & stile assembly.
  17. Make any adjustments to fixed shelves necessary.
  18. Drill holes in upper fixed shelves for cup holders.
  19. Test fit adjustable shelves.
  20. Make any adjustments to adjustable shelves necessary.
  21. Sand everything smooth.


  1. Finish milling panel stock.
  2. Repeat the following steps for each of the 5 glue-ups, working through each glue-up in turn:
    1. Lay out panel stock & determine best configuration for the glue-up.
    2. Once final orientation & order are determined, mark boards so they can be put back together in proper configuration.
    3. Joint all edges to be glued for best fit.
    4. Glue-up panel.
    5. Cut panel to rough width & rough length, squaring it up.
    6. Cut panel into the individual top & bottom panels for its intended location. This will cut everything to final size.
  3. Route raised profile on to all 12 panels.
  4. Sand everything smooth.
  5. Dry fit all parts together.
  6. Make any necessary tweaks to the panels & shelves.
  7. Stain all panels (DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP).

Carcase Odds & Ends:

  1. Glue-up the center carcase & the two wing carcases in turn.
  2. After glue dries, cut all posts to final length.
  3. Drill through holes with counter bores in center ply partitions for assembly bolts.
  4. Transfer hole centers to wing ply partitions.
  5. Drill holes for threaded inserts in wing ply partitions.
  6. Install threaded inserts into wing ply partitions.
  7. Put the three carcases together using the assembly bolts.
  8. Mill stock for faux rails on the sides of the center carcase.
  9. Resaw oversize 1/4" thick pieces from stock for faux rails.
  10. Plane stock for faux rails to 1/4" thick.
  11. Cut faux rails to final width & length.
  12. Sand everything smooth.
  13. Glue & pin nail faux rails to center carcase.


  1. Make a template for the base with one foot on it.
  2. Mill stock for the bases to final thickness.
  3. Cut base stock to final width + 1/32"
  4. Remove saw marks from base stock using jointer.
  5. Cut base stock to rough length.
  6. Cut rabbets to accept the carcases in all base stock.
  7. Cut miters in base stock where needed. This will get all base stock to final length.
  8. Layout base shapes using template.
  9. Rough cut bases to shape on band saw.
  10. Pattern route bases to final shape.
  11. Sand everything smooth.
  12. Glue & nail (from the inside) bases to carcases.

Cap Rails:

  1. Mill stock for cap rails.
  2. Cut stock for cap rails to final widths + 1/32"
  3. Remove saw marks from cap rail stock using jointer.
  4. Cut cap rail stock to rough lengths.
  5. Miter cap rail stock to final lengths.
  6. Sand everything smooth.
  7. Glue & pocket hole screw all fixed cap rails. Make sure the three carcases can be taken apart & put back together!

Removable Lectern:

  1. Mill stock for lectern glue-up & lectern supports to final thickness.
  2. Lay out lectern stock for best configuration.
  3. Joint all edges to be joined.
  4. Glue-up the lectern.
  5. Sand glued-up lectern smooth.
  6. Cut stock for lectern support to final width + 1/32"
  7. Remove saw marks from lectern support using jointer.
  8. Cut lectern supports to rough length.
  9. Miter one end of lectern support to correct angle.
  10. Place lectern supports in place & mark for final cut.
  11. Miter cut lectern supports to final length.
  12. Drill pocket hole screws into ends of lectern supports.
  13. Mount lectern supports in cabinet dry & check fit.
  14. Make any necessary adjustments to lectern supports.
  15. Sand lectern supports smooth.
  16. Glue & pocket hole screw lectern supports to center carcase.
  17. Cut lectern to final width & length.
  18. Layout notches on the lectern.
  19. Cut notches in lectern using band saw.
  20. Sand all band saw cuts.
  21. Mill stock for book stop to final thickness.
  22. Cut book stop to final width + 1/32"
  23. Remove saw marks from book stop using jointer.
  24. Cut book stop to final length.
  25. Sand book stop smooth.
  26. Round off corners of book stop using band saw.
  27. Sand all band saw cuts smooth.
  28. Attach book stop to edge of lectern.


  1. Mill purple heart molding stock to thickness.
  2. Cut purple heart molding stock to final widths & rough lengths.
  3. Route profiles onto purple heart molding stock.
  4. Mill hard maple trim stock to thickness.
  5. Cut hard maple trim stock into 1/8" thick x 3/4" wide strips.
  6. Veneer two (2) maple strips to two adjacent sides of each purple heart molding.
  7. Cut hard maple strips to final widths, leaving proper over hang.
  8. Miter all moldings to final lengths.
  9. Apply a seal coat of blond shellac to the profiled face of all moldings.
  10. Attach moldings to base & under cap rails.
  11. Sand everything smooth.


  1. Cut blank for cross backer from 1/4" plywood scraps.
  2. Cut cross shape from blank using band saw.
  3. Sand all band saw cuts smooth.
  4. Thickness purple heart stock to 1/2"
  5. Rip purple heart center pieces to width.
  6. Cut cross pieces to rough length.
  7. Miter cut cross pieces.
  8. Cut cross pieces to final lengths.
  9. Dry fit cross pieces on plywood backer.
  10. Glue & pin nail purple heart pieces to plywood backer, leaving 1/8" of plywood backer exposed all around. Drive 1/2" long pin nails through backer into purple heart.
  11. Mill hard maple stock for cross trim to final thickness.
  12. Cut hard maple stock for cross trim to final width.
  13. Cut 1/4" wide x 1/8" deep rabbet in all hard maple cross trim stock.
  14. Miter one end of all hard maple cross trim pieces.
  15. Using only miter cuts, carefully measure, mark & miter cut all cross trim pieces, wrapping the purple heart in the maple.
  16. Glue & clamp maple trim pieces to cross.
  17. Sand everything smooth.
  18. Apply a seal coat of blond shellac to the cross.

Final Steps:

  1. Locate cross on front of center carcase & mark it's location.
  2. Drill through mounting holes for the cross.
  3. Have someone hold the cross in place while transferring hole centers to the back of the cross.
  4. Drill pilot holes in the back of the cross.
  5. Have someone hold the cross in place while driving screws from inside the carcase.
  6. Mount lamp, microphone holder, and power strip.
  7. Remove cross, lamp, microphone holder, and power strip.
  8. Stain all oak. Be sure to wipe all stain off of the moldings before it dries.
  9. Apply water based polyurethane to all surfaces, including the cross.
  10. Transport to church.
  11. Install.

That's all for now. Next time, we'll talk about purchasing the wood.


neil said...

Tony sorry....I was jumping back and forth between the procedure sheet and drawerings, ended up posting in wrong place. OOOPS!!

Tony........finally got the chance to go through the entire procedure sheet. Really thorough. In essence you got the pulpit built in your head aready....SWEET!!!!

I had a few questions as I was reading, but I believe as we see the build take off....I'll get answers, if not I'll ask.

What a great opportunity for you Tony......only the best man. After you are complete, Sundays will never look the same. The purple hear cross..nice touch.


Tony V said...


Thanks a lot, I appreciate the well wishes!

I haven't been neglecting this blog. I took this week & next off from work & we just got home from a week at Hershey, PA. We all had a great time, but it's soooo good to be home!

Before we left, I did mill up the corner posts & the wood for the rails & stiles. I will probably make a trip to Dykes lumber in Hawthorne tomorrow & get the 2 sheets of ply I need. I'll get a couple of days to work on this next week, and I'm hoping to have the carcases dry fit & all of the glue-ups for the panels done by the time I go back to work. I won't promise I'll have the panels cut to final size & profiled, but we'll see.

So much to do, at home & on this project. Only one of me. Oh well, what else is new, right? ;-)

Thanks for checking in again, Neil!