Christensen creates a wooden beauty out of The Lord?s Prayer

Gerald Christensen carefully cuts out tiny pieces of wood creating meticulous designs, sometimes taking a whole day, to create two small frame pieces to surround one of the oldest prayers in the world from one of the most aged, and very well read, tomes.

This many-times-repeated solemn request, which is from the Bible, is The Lord?s Prayer.

Christiansen has made fancy renditions of The Lord?s Prayer for a variety of reasons.

?I just cut ?em out, and you feel like you accomplished something,? he said at his North Newton home.

He also makes The Lord?s Prayer because, he said, it looked interesting and ?I?m a good Lutheran.?

For his masterpieces, Christensen uses baltic birch, which is one-eighth inch thick, and he buys them in 5- by 5-foot sheets.

?It?s a real easy wood to use (with) these scroll saws,? the 83-year-old said.

Holding up a portion of the prayer, ?Thy kingdom come,? Christensen said, ?That?s a pretty delicate little piece.?

After all the parts are cut out for The Lord?s Prayer piece, Christensen uses a spray stain on them and a clear varnish, which he also sprays on the pieces after the stain is dry. When making The Lord?s Prayer from a pattern, Christensen uses one sheet of baltic birch and maybe part of another.

?You just cut it like a jigsaw and kinda put the pieces together,? Christensen said.

In preparing to cut the wood, Christensen gets a copy of the pattern and pastes it onto the wood. From there, he cuts and then peels off the paper and sands the wood a little.

Creating The Lord?s Prayer from birch is no speedy matter. Just cutting out the wood for The Lord?s Prayer part of the project, Christensen puts in about 50 hours, with 60 hours in all for the entire piece. Other parts of the project include attaching the wood to the cloth-covered back and the frame.

?I guess it does take a little patience,? Christensen said. ?It?s not a speedy project.?

Seeing scroll-saw-cut Lord?s Prayers actually piqued Christensen?s interest in his scroll-saw hobby about 25 years ago. At the time, he and his wife were on vacation in Iowa. Driving down the road, they saw a sign that advertised a ?wood fair? just ahead. As fate would have it, the wood fair was that day. The couple wanted to see what such a fair was all about, so they went. The wood fair featured people who made ?everything? out of wood, Christensen said.

At least one person had scroll-saw-made The Lord?s Prayer. Christensen decided to do that himself. He said he sends off for the pattern, as there are three or four companies in this section of the country that sell scroll-saw patterns.

?It?s just a hobby I got interested in going to that wood fair,? Christensen said.

Christensen and his wife have one of the finished pieces with a purple cloth back as kind of a canvas for The Lord?s Prayer hanging in their family room. The finished product appears to be about 3 feet by 4 feet.

In all, the retired Santa Fe Railroad worker has made 21 of The Lord?s Prayer pieces, at least as of December, and they?re scattered throughout the country. There?s a church on West First Street in Newton that has one.

?They were real appreciative of it,? said Christensen, who also made one for Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita, the church he attends.

Others are in various places.

?We have four children, and I?ve made one for each of them to put in their homes,? the son of the late Robert and May Christensen said.

Another one is in a town near Padre Island, Texas, while a man who worked on electrical lines during the ice storm of 2005 bought one or two. One piece is in California, and another is in Minnesota.

Christensen does consider the amount of work it takes to make his creations.

?Just to make one, I have to get in the mood for it because, like I said, it takes a lot of work,? he said.

As of December, he was working on two Lord?s Prayers for his son?s father-in-law. He doesn?t work with the scroll saw all the time, as he has other things he likes to do outside during the summer.

Christensen?s woodworking hobby seems to be a far cry from his job as a telegraph operator and computer operator for Santa Fe, where he worked for 42 years. For the first 20-30 years, he said, he was a telegraph operator, while computers came into the picture a year or two before he retired in the early 1990s. His official retirement was in January 1993.

Christensen seems to enjoy his hobby, with his scroll saw in the basement of his home, and he thinks others might enjoy it, too.

?It?s a rewarding little hobby if a person is looking for a hobby,? he said, adding it takes up one?s free time and one accomplishes something. He also said he doesn?t do it to make a living.

In addition to creating The Lord?s Prayer, he?s also created some ?Hail Mary? pieces for St. Mary Catholic Church in Newton. He?s also made other kinds of wood-working, in addition to scroll sawing. About 25-30 years ago, he created pie safes for his daughters and wife, and he also makes birdhouses, which he sells at craft shows. Other projects have included a toy box and step stool.

Even though he does recommend scroll sawing as a hobby, he doesn?t think it?s something everyone can do, as it takes a lot of work and concentration.

?The bottom line is it?s gratifying; it?s not something everybody can do,? he said. ?When you do it, it does look nice, and people appreciate it.?

by Wendy Nugent

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