Chuck Strandberg and His Crosses

Little wooden crosses that fit perfectly in someone’s hand have become known as “pocket crosses,” and Chuck Strandberg has become a creator of a multitude of them. His idea to create these crosses began when he and his wife, Marilyn, were in their Texas retirement park. A dear friend of theirs had entered hospice, and Marilyn discovered a cross in her desk drawer, which she and Chuck delivered to their friend. Later, the Strandbergs learned that their friend clutched that cross every day, all day long, and as she drew her last breath, the cross remained in her hand.
Friends learned of this and began to request the crosses, so Chuck started making crosses in the park’s extensive wood shop. Soon after, the person in charge of Wellness in the park’s chapel became the distributor of the crosses, giving them to people who entered the hospital. Strandberg said, “Some have held [the cross] while lying on the [gurney] to go into surgery as it gave them comfort.”
From initially making a dozen crosses to making over one hundred of them, Strandberg explained that he “finally commandeered other people in the wood shop to do an assembly line of cutting and sanding the wooden crosses.” Quilters from the retirement park sewed little bags for each one, and a calligrapher included a Bible verse. “It was a group effort down there,” Strandberg explained. The crosses found their way into people’s hands, “whatever the need,” he said. “It’s not always physical.”
Once Strandberg and his wife moved back to Mason City full-time, he began making the crosses at home, devising a sander and a “mop” attachment for his drill.  “I just made it up!” he smiled. “I’m like MacGyver!”  He chose a size a bit smaller than some patterns recommend as it fits into a hand a bit easier, for “older people especially,” he said.
This ministry is a “labor of love” for Strandberg. He completes approximately six crosses a day from beginning to end. It’s a monotonous process

Process of Making Crosses

involving standing for a long time…which has become more difficult since his hip surgery last year. In fact, during his preparation for his hip surgery, he bumped up the process and completed 50 pocket crosses the month before.
Strandberg’s process involves using one of four kinds of wood: pine, walnut, butternut (his favorite since it’s soft and grainy), maple, or oak. He uses three coats of spray finish. He then uses his self-designed motorized sanding drums to round the edges. “The shape, size, and highly buffed edges create the comfortable feel and fit to the hand,” he explained.  His “distributor” now is Pastor Dahl, and Strandberg explained that he gave 50 crosses initially and then another 35 for Pastor Dahl to give to those needing peace and reassurance.
Since it’s quite a process to make the crosses, including using a scroll saw and other tools, getting dust all over (forcing him to work outdoors and limiting creation to only the warmer months in Iowa), and standing for long periods, Strandberg hopes someone else will want to become involved. “ on YouTube describes how to make these pocket crosses. My present facility is not conducive to making so many crosses. Perhaps other woodworkers could expand this project. I’m hoping someone will step up and start doing this,” he said.
Strandberg has filled a need and then some. His woodworking skills include wooden bowls, intarsia (a technique comparable to stained glass pictures, except using wood), and an immense nativity set. Wood is his medium of choice, and most of his creations are donated and shared with those who need it most. Of all his creations, Strandberg is proud of putting them into the right hands at the right time. “This labor of love has its own special reward. There most certainly is a need.”†