Stan Asbell

Wood work

Salvaged Chapel wood becomes display case for The St. John’ s Bible

BY Pauline Oo

STAN ASBELL HAS BEEN A CARPENTER for 37 years, but this is the first time he's built a display case for a giant Bible. St. Kate's Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible — comprising seven distinct volumes — weighs over 350 pounds, and measures two feet tall and three feet wide when open. Each volume will have a turn in the case that Asbell built with wood salvaged from a kneeler and confessional in Our Lady of Victory Chapel.

"This project was challenging and fun," says Asbell, one of three carpenters on staff at St. Kate's. When you reuse wood, there are slight imperfections, like little scratches or nicks, but I think that makes this stand unique and gives it more of an antique look.”

The Bible is a gift from Lois Rogers SP'63 and her husband, John. It is one of 299 fine-art reproductions of the original, a handwritten and illuminated Bible crafted in medieval tradition. To protect it from environmental damage, including light and temperature fluctuations, each page will be publicly displayed for only a few days.

The display case is located in the lower-level atrium of Coeur de Catherine on the St. Paul campus.

Asbell sought advice “from a lot of people” during the building process, including carpenters Jerry Beckman and Jim Fincel; the trio's supervisor, Joseph Pallansch; and Jim Manship, director of facilities management. "Once I cut the wood, that was it," Asbell says. "I had to get it right the first time.”

Photo by Dawn Villella.

He’s from rural southern Illinois. “My grandfather and great grandfather were carpenters, and my dad had a woodworking shop. I think I just picked it up,” he says.

The design is based on a keepsake box Asbell saw in a magazine. Museum-quality acrylic was used for the top because it’s more shatter resistant and lighter than glass.

HALF-BLIND DOVETAILS (cover corners):
“In the old days, you would have to cut each one out with a coupling saw, and you had to be very precise. Nowadays, I have a jig with a router. They come out perfect almost all the time,” says Asbell. “It’s a strong joint. And I just like the look.”

This was part of a Chapel kneeler. “You have to respect the guys who originally worked on this. It looks really simple, but that’s what I like about it. Back then, it was all done by hand.”

STAINED GLASS (panels under the case):
Asbell had some leftover pieces from a home project. The wood frame came from a confessional — the same one used to build the Chapel pulpits more than 10 years ago.

This oak panel came from the back of a kneeler. “ We sanded all the wood, and Derek [Clark, a staff painter] put a new finish on them. Old wood is a little harder and totally dried out, but it doesn’t splinter that easily.”