How to Build a Wood Cross

Updated February 21, 2017

A small wooden cross, decorated with a person's name and set upright in the ground in some significant location, can be a memorial for a deceased loved one. If you plan to make a cross to leave out in the weather, choose wood that's durable, such as treated wood or a naturally decay-resistant species such as oak or cedar. You may be able to find stakes that are made to last outdoors at garden centres.

Saw a piece of 1-by-3-inch wood 24 inches long, using a hand saw or power saw. Saw one end into a V shape or sharpen it to that shape with a hatchet so you can drive it into the ground. This will make a cross 18 inches high after you pound the bottom 6 inches in the ground.

Saw another piece of 1-by-3-inch wood 9 inches long. Sand both pieces with sandpaper to remove splinters or rough edges.

Lay the two pieces across each other, placing the shorter piece about one-third of the way down the longer one. Check that the smaller piece is centred against the larger one by using a tape measure, and check that the two pieces are at right angles to each other with a square.

Trace a line on each piece of wood where the other piece crosses it. Take the two pieces of wood apart.

Saw halfway through the thickness of the wood on each of these four lines. If you have a power saw with a guide, set it for half the thickness of the wood. If you're sawing by hand, draw a line along the edge of the wood to mark half the thickness and stop at the line. In addition to the saw-cuts on the marks, saw halfway through the wood about every 1/2 inch in between the marks.

Chisel out the area between the saw cuts with a hammer and chisel. Test the fit by placing the two halves of the cross in position and seeing if they both drop down in the groove on the other piece. Chisel or sand away any high or tight parts until they fit together.

Spread epoxy where the two pieces touch and place them together again. Let the epoxy dry.

Hammer two 5/8-inch-long finishing nails into the joint from the back to reinforce it or drill pilot holes and insert two 5/8-inch-long screws.

Paint or stain the cross with an outdoor finish. Let the background colour dry, then use a smaller brush to paint a name, date or other memorial information.


To set the cross in the ground, lay a scrap board on the top and pound on the board to avoid damaging the top of the cross. If you don't need a cross that's set in the ground, make it the same, except saw the longer board only 18 inches and omit the V shape on the bottom.

Things You'll Need

  • 1-by-3-inch wood
  • Hand saw or power saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Tape measure
  • Square
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Epoxy
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About the Author

David Thompson began writing for eHow in 2009. He has written how-to articles on home improvement, carpentry, cabinet making and gardening.