Some people like to carry a small cross in their pocket with their coins. The church where my wife and I attend recently had a work day, and one of the projects was to assemble kits for the homeless. Several street intersections near us are often populated with people holding cardboard signs written in black crayon: "Hungry. Please help! God bless!" The kit is a plastic bag holding several nutritious food items that will not perish, a printed guide to shelters and other forms of assistance in the greater area, and one of these pocket crosses. Each family at church took two of the kits home that day to have in their car so the driver could give a kit to anyone standing at a street corner seeking help. The very next day my wife gave away the kit she had in her car, and the person who received it was very happy to get it.
My wife wants to make up some of these kits on our own. We went to a Christian bookstore to see about the pocket crosses. They were $1.50 and more. We began talking about whether I could make some. The difficulty when working with rapidly spinning sawblades and small pieces is keeping the pieces from moving while keeping fingers from getting into the blades. The photo shows one of the nearly 50 pocket crosses I made in a couple of hours with a cash outlay of only $4 US.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Square dowels 1/4 x 1/4 x 36 inches (available in the USA at Lowe's)
Radial arm saw with an adjustable dado blade
Rule and square
Wood scraps for stops and jigs
The photo shows my adjustable dado blade on my radial arm saw. I clamped a piece of 3/4 inch chipboard from a piece of cheap shelving I had left as scrap. It is square to the fence. The dado blade is set to cut a width of 1/4 inch. Earlier I set the dado blade to cut at a depth of 1/4 inch, and made a channel across the shelving piece. One of the square dowels is resting in the channel in the photo. This jig holds the square dowel when it is being cut for a lap joint, and that keeps my fingers far out of the way. The dado as shown cuts 1/8 inch below the surface of the shelving piece for the lap joint. I added a piece of pine next to the fence to act as a stop. The distance between the right edge of the dado cut and the stop is 3/8 inch. When my pieces of square dowel got shorter, I began using pusher sticks to keep my fingers out of the way.
As you can see, I had four square dowels. I cut a dado for a lap joint near both ends of each piece. That meant I could make eight dados for the lap joints at one time.
Step 2: Saw the Dowels
With dadoes on each end of the four dowels, the next step was to cut the ends away to make pieces of the crosses. This project involved two repeating steps: make dadoes on the ends, and cut the end sections away to make pieces of the crosses. Once the pieces had been cut from the dowel ends, I made another set of dadoes on the four square dowels. A stop clamped to the saw table makes the pieces as uniform as possible. Moving air generated by the spinning saw blade was often enough to push the cut pieces off of the saw table and onto the floor. Or, I sometimes had to use a pusher stick to clear the area for the next cut. The saw is an attachment I made so I could use my wood lathe as a second saw when my radial arm saw is set up for another operation, as was the case with this project. You can see the lathe to saw conversion described here
In the photo, the stop is set so the pieces cut form the long portion of the cross. It is a total of 1 1/2 inches long or just a slight bit longer. The short piece of the cross is a total of 1 1/8 inches long. These measurements can be adjusted a little according to personal tastes.
Step 3: Assembly
The square dowels are not exactly 1/4 x 1/4 inch, but are just a little oversize, especially on one side. I thought I would need to glue the two pieces together, but I used a hammer on a sturdy surface to fit the two pieces by means of compression. This worked well, but one cross-arm on one of the crosses did split a little.
In the photo you can see two of the pieces: one longer and one shorter. The middle part of the photo shows two pieces laid over each other. Finally, you see one of the crosses after I used a hammer to drive the lap joint home. The sandpaper rests on a tabletop and I pushed each side over it in a circular pattern to remove discoloration or dents from the hammer.
Step 4: A Homeless Kit
This is what goes into the homeless kits we brought home. There is a can of hearty soup and a spoon. a package of trail mix (raisins, peanuts, and chocolate pieces in a hard shell), crackers with cheese spread, a drink, the homeless assistance information sheet, and one of the pocket crosses. A kit like this is a good solution to the problem on wanting to help, but not wanting to give cash because you have no way of knowing how it will be used, etc. This is something anyone can do. For the sake of those who wish to include a pocket cross, this Instructable tells how to make them. If you wish not to include the cross, you can give the kits without it.