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Church Altar Rejuvenation  

This project was done at the request of a local church.  In the process of a major remodeling, they asked me to build a new front altar, lectern, and tabernacle case, using as much of the old high altar (circa. 1914)  as possible.  They wished to maintain the look and integrity of the old altar, in the newly constructed pieces.  This turned into quite a learning process, considering that the old altar was solid plaster and stone.


Click on any of the photos to see a larger picture

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Original altar

This is the front of the original back altar. It was approximately 10 1/2 feet long

Altar close up

The center had a relief of the last supper

Altar back

This shows the solid plaster make up of the altar. There were some small wooden supports.

Grape relief panel

There were two panels like this on either side of the center last supper panel.

Remounted panel

The panel from the previous picture was cut out and mounted into a sheet of MDF in preparation to be used in the new altar.

Altar cut down

The old altar was cut down to 6 feet long. The top moldings were cut at a 45 degree angle to allow continuation of the molding on each side.

Side panels mounted

The side panels with the grape relief was attatched to the front section. This was done with construction adhesive to bond the wood to the plaster.

Corner view with sides attached

Side top molding attached

Top molding taken from the sides of the old altar are attached to the front and sides to complete the side.

inside view of side molding

Back view with support

One the side moldings were attached a back support was installed and 2 X 4's mounted to support the top.

Vertial supports

Vertical pieces were attached to the back support and sides to give more stability to the altar.

Bottom attached

The altar was then tipped over to attach the new base

Ready for finish room

With all seams and corners replastered,carved and smoothed the altar is ready to go to the finish room.

Corner detail

This corner seam was plastered, carved and sanded so as to appear as being one solid piece.

Preparing for the faux marbling

One the main coat of finish was cured the altar was prepared to marble the columns and to the gold accents.

Applying gold accents

Jeri is applying the gold accents to the grape relief on the end panel of the altar.

Masking to protect finish

The altar was masked off to prevent any paint splatter while marbling the columns.

Begin the marbleing process

The columns were first given a base coat of paint

Blending colors

Once the base coat was dry a combination of colors were added using a sponge and rag to create the marble look. This process takes three separate applications of paint to get the look of depth in the marble.

Altar in church

After many many hours of work and a vary nervous trip the church the altar was placed in the remodeled sanctuary.

Tabernacle before

The tabernacle unit was first cut from the origial stepped shelves

Tabernacle back view

Out of finish room

New sides and a base were added to create a stand alone unit.

Faux marbling

Jeri applies one of the many coats of paint to create the marble look.

Completed tabernacle

Ambo beginnings

The two corn moldings from the original altar were the starting point for the ambo.

Back view of corner moldings.

Two halves made one

Having been cut and matched up the two corner moldings were glued together.

Close up view of glue joint

A contructions adhesive was used to glue the pieces together.

Assembly begins

Once wooden reinforcement pieces were glued to the moldings and dried, it was glued to the front of the ambo.

Lattice panel

The was one of the end panels removed from the old altar. It was then mounted into what would be the side of the new ambo.

Sides attached to the front

Reproduced parts

Because the last two columns, capitals, and base were not in any shape to be reused, we had to reproduct much of it in wood. The column itself is 3" PVC pipe.

Column base parts

Each base consisted of four pieces, molded to look like the original.

Columns are dry fit

All the column parts and pieces are fit to the ambo. These are then removed to be finished individually.

Ready for finish

With the top and book support completed the ambo is ready for the finish room.

Out of finish room

With the finish cured it is ready for the gold accenting, marbling and assembly.

Capital close up

This is a close up view of the capitals at the top of the columns on the ambo prior to the gold accenting.

Fallen columns

These are the two outside columns from the original altar. As you can see there was not much that was usable.

Columns in progress

The PVC columns for the ambo now had to be faux marbled. Although there are only two columns on the ambo there was some practice pieces done.

Completed columns

Once the marbling is completed a durable clear coat of finish was applied to them for protection.

Final assembly begins

When all the finishing is completed the final assembly begins. Here the columns and associated parts are mounted to the main section.

Column support attached

Here Rob attaches the column support to the main unit.

Attaching bottom

With the ambo still setting on its top the base unit is fastened.

Set upright

When the bottom is completed the ambo is set upright and prepared to attach the top.

Old and new

This shows what a lot of time and work can do to create new parts that replace old damage ones.


All the assembly of the ambo is completed and awaits transport to the church.

Ambo setting in church

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