by Fr. Ivan Nahachewsky
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
I am almost a week late for this “love letter” to the people of our Eparchy. Today I am going to share about making icon boards.
My first degree was a B.Ed., majoring in Industrial Arts. I am trained as a shop teacher. Technically I was a good at drafting, but woodworking gave me most pleasure. Welding was fun and small motors was my worst. In the wood working class we had to build specific projects which demonstrated proficiency in particular skills with a variety of tools. We also had access to the workshop for private projects. I built bedroom furniture for Debbie and myself and I also I built a bandura. So, you can see that it was no big deal for me to cut a square and call it an icon board.
There is a lot more to an icon board then cutting a square.
- First you have to consider how the board warps with humidity and temperature change so I laminate a series of boards, alternating the growth rings to reduce the impact of warping. I usually make a big board Transparent and in your field of vision #4 this way which resembles a table top and then I cut it into the desired sizes. 11” x 14” is a very standard size.
- The next step is to thickness plane the boards so that the surface is flat with no ridges and also to remove any varnish or paint, if I am using recycled wood. (The wood is always deciduous, that means it comes from trees with leaves. Trees with needles, coniferous, have sap and that makes them unusable for icon boards.)
- Once planed I carve the kovcheh, which is an indented center, leaving the board with a raised edge similar to a frame. It is from that hollowed out space that the Divine emerges and spills out into our world. I do this with a series of jigs that I designed and a router and a belt sander.
- Braces are inserted into the back of the board in an attempt to minimize the effects of eventual warpage. There are several traditional ways to brace an icon board. I use a wedge-shaped brace of wood. A matching wedge-shape groove is cut into the back of the icon board. The wedge and groove both have beveled edges so that they “lock together” and maintain their place without the use of any glue.
- The last stage is to do the sanding.
Icon boards are meant to cause us to reflect on the wood of the Holy Life-giving Cross. The Cross was a tree which was turned into lumber. It was shaped and perhaps notched to receive its intersecting cross member. Some carpenter’s job was to do that. When I do the woodworking, I accuse myself of the sins that Jesus died for. When I am in my garage, I love the isolation. I wear hearing protection and this further isolates me from others. I can pray the Jesus Prayer calmly and sincerely. When I am sanding I pretend I am the board and Jesus is “perfecting” me. He sands out my rough spots, reducing and removing my faults. I pray that He removes the slivers of my blunt language when I talk with people. I pray that He smooths the sharp edges of my relationships with others. I pray that He turns the ordinary piece of wood (and the ordinary person, me) into a space worthy to project His image. For me making boards is a spiritual experience. Pray for me that this sporadic occupation gives me a repentant heart and makes me a better servant of His kingdom as I serve the Eparchy of Saskatoon.
Just me, Fr. Ivan
PS I was the successful bidder for purchasing the pews of the Sheptytsky Institute Chapel of St. Andrew. I am repurposing the wood for icon boards. I like to think that the Institute lives on in those icon boards. I am patiently awaiting the establishment of the Foundation which is being created from the funds generated by the sale of Sheptytsky Institute. These funds are currently being held in trust in a separate account and will again someday give life to our Eparchy. May you be blessed with prayer, fasting and charity in the last week of the Great Fast and the celebration of Holy Week, so that you too can receive new life.