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How to build a portable baptismal tank

Updated February 21, 2017

Portable baptisteries are often used by smaller churches that do not have the resources or the physical space to install permanent baptistery. While portable kits made from nylon liners and metal frames, which look like miniature above ground swimming pools, are available, most churches want a baptismal pool that looks more like a professionally manufactured, beautiful cabinet. A custom-made bapistry can be finished to match any church's interior design and look beautiful in church photos.

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  1. Purchase a one-piece, fibreglass portable baptismal unit. These are fully finished fibreglass enclosures that are similar to the interior of a pre-moulded hot tub. They are watertight and have steps for the baptismal candidates to enter and exit the pool.

  2. Evaluate the weight of the baptismal pool when filled with water. One gallon of water weighs just over 3.63 Kilogram. The baptismal font will be incredibly heavy when filled, and the portable baptismal cabinet must be able to carry this weight.

  3. Purchase six heavy duty, solid rubber ball bearing casters, which are designed to support the total weight of the cabinet. Purchase four swivel casters and two fixed casters for the bottom of the baptismal cabinet.

  4. Draw and design a three-dimensional framed cabinet that will form the framework for the fibreglass baptismal. The bottom of the cabinet should be 3/4 inch exterior-grade plywood, supported by 2-by-8 dimensional lumber no further apart than 16 inches on centre.

  5. Draw and design the finish cabinet that will be built around the framework after the baptismal is installed. Make sure to draw into the plans access for the baptismal's drain plug, so the unit can be drained when stored for long periods of time.

  6. Draw and design a matching lid that fits securely over the top of the cabinet, and latches into place. If the baptismal is left for any period while filled with water, a lid should be placed over the tank to prevent debris or little children from accidentally falling into the water.

  7. Construct the frame for the baptismal font. Anchor all joints with 2-1/2 inch all-purpose screws for enhanced strength. Refer to any instructions that are included with the fibreglass tank to make sure and meet all manufacturer's requirements and suggestions.

  8. Mount the fibreglass baptismal tank into the cabinet frame. The bottommost surface of the tank should be evenly supported by the floor of the cabinet frame.

  9. Cut and install the oak finish surfaces to the cabinet frame. Fasteners should not be placed through the fibreglass tank. The tank will move and flex when filled and drained, and any fasteners that are drilled through the tank will create stress points where the tank could fracture. The tank should "float" in the cabinet, held in place by silicone caulk around the lip, and built into the cabinet so as to allow expansion without significant movement or slipping.

  10. Install the top edge of the baptismal cabinet so that it completely covers all unfinished edges of the fibreglass tank. The top finish boards should overlap the fibreglass tank edge so as to create a finished surface.

  11. Stain and finish the oak cabinet once completed. Apply at least two coats of polyurethane finish to the cabinet to prevent the oak from water damage. Apply a bead of silicone caulk between the oak trim and the top lip of the baptismal tank. This seal will prevent water from spilling down into the cabinet, and it will prevent the cabinet or framing from water damage.

  12. Install the casters on the bottom of the cabinet frame. Put the four swivel casters on the corners of the cabinet frame and two fixed casters at the centre point of the frame. This configuration will create maximum maneuverability and improve the weight carrying characteristics of the finished baptismal cabinet.

  13. Tip

    Do not use any particle board in the construction. Particle board will slowly delaminate if exposed to water, and it will crack rather than flex under heavy load.

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Things You'll Need

  • Fibreglass baptismal tank
  • 2-by-4, 2-by-6 and 2-by-8 dimensional lumber
  • 3/4 exterior-grade plywood
  • 3/4-inch oak plywood
  • 1-by-3 and 1-by-4 oak boards
  • 6 HD solid rubber ball bearing casters
  • 2-1/2 inch all-purpose course thread drywall screws
  • Commercial air framing nailing gun with fasteners
  • Commercial air finish nailing gun with fasteners
  • 7-1/4 inch circular saw
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter's square
  • Pencil
  • Electric mitre saw
  • Saw horses
  • Wood stain and polyurethane finish
  • Silicone caulk

About the Author

Since 2003, Timothy Burns' writing has appeared in magazines, management and leadership papers. He has contributed to nationally published books and he leads the Word Weavers of West Michigan writers' group. Burns wrote "Forged in the Fire" in 2004, and has published numerous articles online. As a trained conference speaker, Burns speaks nationally on the art, science and inspiration of freelance writing.

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