How to Construct a Pulpit for a Church
Church pulpits and lecterns can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. But you can build your own very attractive pulpit with simple woodworking tools and building materials from your local hardware store. By using off-the-shelf millwork pieces, you can give your pulpit the look of finely crafted wood even if you don't have carpentry skills yourself. This design features an easy-to-make cross on the front, but you can easily adapt it for other faiths as well.
Cut one of the 8-foot lengths of two-by-four into four 2-foot sections.
Create a base frame by nailing the 2-foot sections of two-by-four into a square, with the sections resting on their 2-inch sides. The side pieces of the frame should cover the ends of the front and back sides of the frame.
Cut one 8-foot length of two-by-four into two pieces at a 45-degree angle across the widest side, so that you have one 4-foot 6-inch section and one 3-foot 6-inch section. Do the same for a second 8-foot length of two-by-four.
Nail the two 4-foot 6-inch sections of two-by-four so they run upright from the front of the base. The 45-degree cuts at the top of the uprights should face the rear of the pulpit. Drive two 6-inch nails through the bottom of the base frame up into the ends of each of the uprights.
Nail the two 3-foot 6-inch sections of two-by-four so they run upright from the rear of the base. The 45-degree cuts at the top of the uprights should face the rear of the pulpit. Drive two 6-inch nails through the bottom of the base frame up into the ends of each of the uprights.
Make sure all four uprights are plumb (perpendicular to the floor) with the spirit level.
Measure the distance between the inside edges of the two front uprights, and cut a section of two-by-four to that length. Nail this section between the two front uprights, about 3 feet from the base, so that it is squared and flush with the uprights. Use two 6-inch nails on each side.
Measure the distance between the inside edges of the two uprights on one side, and cut a section of two-by-four to that length. Nail this section between the two side uprights, about 3 feet from the base, so that it is squared and flush with the uprights. Use two 6-inch nails on each side. Repeat for the other side of the pulpit.
Measure the dimensions of the front of the pulpit frame, from the outside edges of the frame on the sides and from the floor to the top of the upright. Cut a rectangular piece of veneered plywood to these dimensions.
Put a bead of construction adhesive along the front edges of the pulpit frame and glue the plywood into position on the front, with the finished surface of the plywood facing you. Fasten the plywood to the uprights with seven finishing brads on each side, about 6 inches apart.
Measure one of the sides of the pulpit frame, from the outside edge of the front panel to the outside edge of the rear frame, and from the floor to the top of the front upright. Cut a rectangular piece of veneer plywood to these dimensions. Starting at the front edge of the top of this panel, mark a 45-degree angle line to the back edge of the panel and cut along this line. Fasten the plywood to the side uprights with construction adhesive and seven finishing brads on each side, about 6 inches apart. Repeat this process for the other side of the pulpit.
Apply construction adhesive to the top edges of the plywood and glue the 30 inch square solid wood top into position, so that it extends two inches off each side and is flush with the rear of the pulpit. Allow the construction adhesive to set.
Measure the length of one of the corners of the pulpit, from the floor to the underside of the top, and cut a piece of corner molding to that length. Glue it into position by placing a thin bead of construction adhesive to the inside corner edge of the molding and pressing it into position. Repeat for the other four sides.
Measure the front length of the base of the pulpit, and cut a piece of base molding with 45-degree angle cuts, so that the rear of the molding is the same length as the front of the pulpit and the sides angle outward from the front of the pulpit. Attach this piece of molding to the bottom front of the pulpit so that the bottom of the molding is resting on the floor. Hold in place with construction adhesive and attach with finishing brads.
Measure one side of the base of the pulpit, and cut a piece of base molding so that one edge is straight and the other edge angles outward at a 45-degree angle. Put this into position on the bottom of the side of the pulpit so that the beveled cut meets flush with the corresponding cut on the front base molding. Glue and nail into position. Repeat for the other side of the pulpit.
Glue a 28-inch length of quarter-round molding to the top of the pulpit, so that the rounded edge faces the rear of the pulpit and the molding is flush to the lower edge of the top.
Mark a pencil line down the center of the back of the decorative molding, and cut it into one 20-inch length and one 16-inch length.
Cut the 20-inch length of molding into one 6-inch length and one 14-inch length. Cut the 16-inch length of decorative molding in half.
On one of the short edges of each of the four pieces of decorative molding, cut a point by making a 45-degree angle cut in both directions, from the point at which the center line meets the edge. You will now have four pieces of decorative molding with a point on one side.
Mark a vertical pencil line down the center of the front panel of the pulpit.
Glue the 6-inch piece of molding point-down on the front panel, so that the point aligns with the center line and the top is about 6 inches from the top of the pulpit. Glue the 14-inch piece of molding point below the 6-inch piece, so that the point aligns with the center line and the two points are about 1/4 inch apart.
Glue the two 8-inch pieces of decorative molding horizontally on the front panel so that they point inward toward the two points of the vertical molding. The points of the two horizontal pieces should be about 1/4 inch apart, they should be level with each other and at a 90-degree angle to the vertical pieces.
When you have the position of the four cross-pieces the way you want them, fix them in place with finishing brads.
Stain and seal the pulpit.
- Measure carefully when you're cutting the paneling pieces for the front and side of the pulpit. The two-by-four framing pieces are actually a little narrower than the specified size, so it's better to go by measured dimensions than calculated dimensions.
- One nice touch is to use corner and floor moldings that are in a contrasting wood color to the front and side panels. You can also stain the front cross a contrasting color.
- It's easy to add an inside shelf to the pulpit by simply cutting a piece of shelving so that it lays across the upper interior frame.
- You can save time by using a brad gun to fix the exterior molding rather than nailing the brads by hand.
- Always wear eye protection when cutting or nailing wood.
- Be sure to clean away any excess construction adhesive immediately. Once it sets it is very difficult to remove and may damage the underlying wood.
- Follow manufacturer's safety directions when using paint and polyurethane finishing products.
Scott Knickelbine began writing professionally in 1977. He is the author of 34 books and his work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including "The New York Times," "The Milwaukee Sentinel," "Architecture" and "Video Times." He has written in the fields of education, health, electronics, architecture and construction. Knickelbine received a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in journalism from the University of Minnesota.
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