Crucifix

The Carving Process
Before the first shovel full of dirt had been moved for our new church building, work had already begun on the new crucifix. Concept drawings for it were presented and approved by the Building Committee in the spring of 1998. From those drawings, life size paper patterns were made, showing front, left, and right views of the corpus. The quantity of the tupelo wood was then calculated, ordered and shipped to Alaska by the fall of the same year. The wood came in large, slightly twisted blocks approximately 2' x 9 "x 4'. Each block was planed and laminated back together in order to eliminate the potential for later damage due to cracking or hidden imperfections. The pattern views were traced onto the large laminated blocks and a block figure was cut out on a commercial band saw.

After the general shape was roughed out using a power chisel and hand chisels, the head and arms were attached and the process of refining the body to lifelike proportions began. Carving knives and a power tool similar to those used in dentistry were needed to refine, smooth and add detail. Glass eyes were chosen for added realism. A wood burning tool was then used to add detail and texture to the skin wrinkles, hair and rope.

In the meantime, the cross, nails, lettered scroll and the support pins (to hold the crucifix on the wall) were under construction. For added strength, the support pins were welded to the vertical steel framing inside the church wall.

Once the entire carving was sanded smooth and sealed, the skin tone and hair color was applied with an airbrush. The scourge wounds were painted on the back, legs and shoulders and the corpus was then turned over and attached to the cross. The remainder of the fine color detail was painted by hand. While still in the final painting stages, the nails, scroll, crown of thorns and a red oak trim were attached to complete the crucifix. The crucifix was dedicated Dec. 16, 2000

Interesting Facts
The crucifix is carved from tupelo wood which grows in the bayous of Louisiana. It was chosen because of its light weight, softness and the fine grain which accepts intricate carving detail. Acrylic paint was applied using red sable brushes, a variety of different airbrushes and a small sharp wooden stick.

The crown of thorns is similar to the plant used on Jesus by the Romans in Jerusalem.
The nails used in the crucifix were re-forged spikes from the original Alaska Railroad tracks that were laid in Wasilla. Two nails are positioned in the "space of Destot," a location on the wrists, known by the Romans to effectively suspend a nailed man on a cross.

The cross is made of aged cottonwood boards found on an old Valley homestead, They had weathered the outdoors for several decades, and regained new color after sanding and new stain was applied.

Every attempt was made to make the carving historically accurate. The general characteristics of the face, body, wounds, and scourge marks were a result of research data collected from the Shroud of Turin.The words Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews are written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.

The back of the cross is inscribed with the following words
"This crucifix is
lovingly dedicated
to all the children of the world,
especially the unborn and unwanted
who have found eternal life
and perfect love in the arms of Jesus"

Special Thanks
...to the families of Sacred Heart Parish for allowing me the honor and privilege of carving this crucifix.
...to Father Allie who took a leap of faith and believed I could go from carving ducks to a full size figure of Jesus.
...to Father Kaspar for his leadership and support, and the parish staff for their attention to the business end of getting this project completed
...to Brad Snodgrass, Sonny Traxinger, Walter Combs, Don Malone and Jim Spartz whose technical advice, assistance and hard work during various phases of this project was invaluable  and appreciated.
...to all the children whose small hands fetched carried, held,  sanded and moved wood piles a dozen times.
...to all those who offered up their prayers. Let us all pray that  contemplation of this artwork be used to serve God's will, to soften the hardened heart, to touch the lost soul and bring praise and glory to His name.

Charles Lochner