Carving a Greek Pectoral Cross
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Here is the process of carving an Athos style Greek Pectoral cross shown above. If you would like to see a close-up, just click on the picture.  

Step One: The pattern taped to the wood

It is a nice, sunny day in July at the Stony Creek Metropark. I've got a blanket to sit on. Let's carve a cross! What is in the box? It is an old cigar box with the tools I use to make this cross. You'll see a razor strop with a diamond lap plate glued to the top of it, a pocket knife, a straight chip carving knife, a bunch of micro chisels, and some chisels that I made myself from drill bits. Also there is a steel ruler you can't see. I didn't buy the razor strop, I made it. To make a razor strop, just glue an old piece of leather belt to a piece of wood, shape one end into a handle, and rub polishing compound into the leather. Easy, right?

Step Two: Carve the depth of the pattern.

You can see the pattern cut free of the paper. You carve the pocket until the paper pattern fits inside. If it is snug, then you don't even need glue to hold it in place. After that, you take the smallest chisel you have and carefully cut through the pattern lines to transfer them onto the wood. Be careful with the lines that form closed shapes because after you outline them with the chisel, the paper they are on will fall free from the pattern. For this reason, I start in the center and work my way outward.
Like the chisel? Make one by using a cheap (high carbon steel) drill bit. First anneal the steel of the shank using a torch to heat it red hot and let it slowly cool. Using a hammer and anvil, flatten the smooth (shank) end and then sharpen it using a file. If you have properly annealed the steel, it will be much easier to sharpen because the steel will be soft. Now, to make the steel harder again, heat it up with the torch red hot and quench it in water. The steel will be very hard and too brittle. Using emery cloth, clean the surface of the steel to make it shiny again. Make the steel hard but not brittle by slowly heating up again just until the steel changes color to a straw yellow color (there are charts online that tell you what temperature the colors mean). Now, make a handle for it from wood. More detailed instruction on making knives and chisels is beyond the scope of my website, but there are many good resources on the web.
Once you've got the pattern transferred to the wood, deepen all of the transfer marks. These now serve as stop cuts. Using the chisel, cut from the side down to the depth of the stop cut (making a tiny ramp from one stop cut to another) and making the stop cut deeper. To get rid of the ramp,  cut from the side.


Here is the cross after most of the details have been carved. I must note that to be correct, this cross should have "INBI" because those are the Greek letters. "INRI" means the same thing in Latin. All that is needed now is to cut the cross out. I use a scroll saw. If you don't have a scroll saw, you could also use a coping saw, and then carve the edges smooth. I hope you enjoyed seeing the process. Keep your knives and chisels sharp and happy carving!
I've added another slideshow of carving this pattern. Click on the movie below to start the slideshow:

Carving a Greek Pectoral Cross