Building an Ark of the Covenant from our kit


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Philip Wise here to show how to use our Ark kits to build an Ark of the Covenant, just like the one I finished years ago. The kit has been posted in the classified section.

Since we had a couple assembly commissions waiting on the kits, we used that first one to document the process so I could post this build guide.

The creation of my original build, and the source of all the parts, was chronicled over at my Rebelscum forums:

Here is my gallery of reference photos of one of the Arks on tour. These photos were taken at the Cube in Anaheim. Rebelscum Star Wars Photo Archive

Here's my Ark at the unveiling during one of my prop parties.


A finished kit



Here's the cast parts in the kit.


Lid custom milled double cove wood pieces


Here's the custom milled wood trim parts


Here's the aluminum lifting ring parts.


The kit includes everything needed for the build except the cherubs, flat boards, and miscellaneous assembly hardware like screws and nails. This material I recommended for the lid top and bottom plus the cabinet bottom is 1/2" MDF. 3/4" plywood for the cabinet sides.

The first thing you want to do is wash all the plastic parts well with soapy water. We don't use mold release on the parts, so having paint stick shouldn't be a problem, but it's a good practice to do this first anyway.

Here is a cut list spreadsheet for the ark box parts. You will need this for the build.

Assembly starts with the very large wood double-cove profiles that make the frame for the top. You will receive 4 pieces that are already mitered for assembly.

You can see that we use a long band clamp and corner clamps to join it together. You can user your 1/2" MDF that becomes the bottom of the lid and assemble the four lid pieces with it in place to hold your parts square. Just don't glue it in yet. Be sure and check that your pieces are square with diagonal measuring during assembly. We use a special inside corner nail gun for this but you can use glued wood blocks or screwed metal corner brackets attached inside the corners. You will need something to stiffen the joint since you can't rely on just glue for the miters. Since they miters are HUGE, the joints may not be perfect. Do the best job you can getting them close in a dry fit so you can see what you're up against. This is a large and stressful glue-up even for an experienced woodworker. Be sure and get an assistant to help you. You'll want to use epoxy in the miters instead of wood glue. Don't try to use a 5 minute version. Get something that's longer and do two on one end first, then the other two. Use blue painters tape to prevent the gaps from leaking and don't worry about squeeze out as you'll be sanding them anyway and the joints don't show on the finished ark.



Here's the orientation of the lid profile pieces showing which side is up.

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The top and bottom of the lid should be cut from 1/2" MDF. First flip the frame over to install the bottom. Install it with wood glue. You don't really need nails, but if you use them I'd recommend using a 23 gauge headless pinner as that's the same type of nail gun you will need to attach all the cast parts to the top. Don't worry about filling the gap around the edge yet, as you'll do that after you have the top side attached.

Flip it over to have the top side up. You'll want to place a support in the open area of the lid between the bottom and the top to ensure the top never droops at all. Anything will do, such what's in the photo below.


Once this is all set, you will need to sand and fill the long seams on the lid profile pieces, the large miters, and the gaps around the top and bottom pieces. We use Apoxie Sculpt modeling compound to fill our gaps. 1 lb should be enough for the entire Ark. Here's a link to it at Amazon.



I added a 1/4" piece to the underside of the top that serves two purposes. First it will prevent the lid from sliding too much on top of the box. The other is important if you are planning to send it off to be spray chromed. The piece covers up the bottom of the lid where they will need to support it during the chroming process. This piece will get separately chromed, and then it goes in place to cover up the area that's not chromed. It's cut about 1/2" inside the edge of the inside of the box all the way around. Just to make sure it goes back on how it comes off, the middle screw hole is off-center by 1/2", forcing the same orientation each time it's attached. I used #6 brass wood screws for mine.

You can decide if you need the piece at all.

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Went to your site, but didnt find any info on it. Do you guys have a price in mind yet? I I assume the pieces will not be goldplated?
How much was it to ship and get plated?

For mine, we built a crate, and shipped it via uship from Texas to Pennsylvania. It was Cosmichromed for $3600. I learned some things about how to send a better prepared ark as mine required some repair after it arrived. I *think* that price included additional labor to fix the problems. I believe it was $275 each way for shipping, which took 3-4 days.

The Cosmichrome cost included the Cherubs, which I had from Mark (sskunky).

I have a lot more to write about in the build guide that's specific to the Cosmichrome process. I expect many of the arks built will be sprayed gold in garages, and weathered. I also have quite a bit of information on that, though I haven't done one that way personally.

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Installing the leaves on the lid

he only way I found to install the leaves well was to use the 23 gauge headless pinner I mentioned earlier. They aren't terribly expensive, though if you get a Grex, it is the best one made. Others will shoot the pins you need for this project fine. You'll want to use 1/2" long pins. You'll also use 5 minute epoxy and a lot of acid brushes.

You will need help to put all these pieces on as it's a two-person job. Get your epoxy, your pinner, some rubbing alcohol and q-tips. You'll use the q-tips and alcohol to remove any epoxy that squeezes out.

The process is to first fit the corner pieces, all four are the same.

Notice how the edge of the leaves fit flush to the edge of the lid on the bottom in the photos below. On the top leaves, they sit down about 3/16" below the top surface. Look closely at the position photos for the large leaves so you can see where they fit.

Test fit the corner leaves so you know how they fit. Mix up some epoxy and use an acid brush to apply it to the back side of the corner leaf. Don't go all the way to the edge because it will squeeze out badly if you do. With your assistant holding, put pins into the top edge. Then, using the leaf tip spacing template, push each tip down and put a single pin in it. If you have squeeze out, deal with it right away. Do the remaining 3 corners the same way. The leaves between the corners are different between the long side and the short side. There are 12 sections for the long side and 6 for the short side. The long side leaves have 3 dots in the back side of the casting for identification. The short side leaves have no dots.

Get your leaves and use one of them to place and mark the end of it over and over to see how they space out. It should be pretty close to fitting end to end, but it might require slight adjustments to the spacing so you don't have an overly big gap at the end. Take some time with this as taking the time to get this right will really pay off in how well the finished spacing looks.

Once you are satisfied with the spacing at the tops of them, use the same glue process as before, doing the top of each leaf section first then the leaf tips using the spacing templates.








Top Leave Position



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The top rail has 4 unique corner pieces. Look at the first photo below to make sure you are putting them where they go relative to each other. They will have numbers on them.

The front edge of the rail pieces fits flush with the edge of the top, all the way around.

I found when shipping my ark for Cosmichrome a few of the rail-to-rail joints cracked. I had used bondo to smooth the joints. Now, we drill a tiny hole in these joints and superglue in a piece of about 14 gauge wire, but anything close will do as you're just working to eliminate any possibility of flexing during shipping.

Start with the four corners and epoxy them all to the top, along with pinning them with the nail gun. The middle rail sections are all the same. Lay them out and pencil in the location of the joints to get a feeling for any adjustments you may need to make for an even spacing of them. There will be enough play in the fitment of the pieces to slip in the joint pins as you fix the location of each piece with epoxy and pins from the pinner.

After you have them all attached and the epoxy is cured, start working on filling the joints with Apoxie. You'll really appreciate the way you can finish the Apoxie by smoothing with wet fingers, just like you work clay. The bottom joint of the rails to the top needs to be filled with Apoxie as well.






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Thats awesome. How come the kit does not come with the cherubs?

Years ago sskunky sold beautiful cherubs here on therpf. The only other ones available were budget priced, but not great. Certainly not up the quality of this ark.

The ones from sskunky were so well done, the set I received with primer on them went straight with my ark to be Cosmichromed. Nothing had to be done to them.

As my project went along, I advised everybody that was interested in a kit to get cherubs from him. Still stands today as the recommended cherub.

Years ago sskunky sold beautiful cherubs here on therpf. The only other ones available were budget priced, but not great. Certainly not up the quality of this ark.

The ones from sskunky were so well done, the set I received with primer on them went straight with my ark to be Cosmichromed. Nothing had to be done to them.

As my project went along, I advised everybody that was interested in a kit to get cherubs from him. Still stands today as the recommended cherub.


Im still learning who people are from here. Have you had any contact with him lately? Would you know if he even still offers the cherubs for the ark? I would hate to buy an ark and not be able to complete it due to unavailable pieces. And important pieces. But it looks awesome so far. Great work
Im still learning who people are from here. Have you had any contact with him lately? Would you know if he even still offers the cherubs for the ark? I would hate to buy an ark and not be able to complete it due to unavailable pieces. And important pieces. But it looks awesome so far. Great work

Definitely. I thought I had linked him earlier, but it seems I didn't. We bounced some email recently and specifically about more Cherubs a couple weeks ago. He's sskunky here.

Building the Ark box

I made the sides and ends of the box from 3/4" plywood, which in the US is thinner than that. How much thinner depends on what plywood you buy, but mostly it's 23/32" thick. The thickness matters because the long side dimension depends on knowing how thick your material is. Make sure you select plywood that has a face without defects or the football patches some plywood has. I use plywood because it's more stable than solid wood, which I feel is very important. In the time since mine was finished, there have been no issues show up related to the wood moving due to changed in humidity, which might be a problem with solid wood.

Each side is made up of 4 boards. The boards need to be glued and screwed together using pocket screws. The recommended method of doing this is to buy a basic pocket screw kit from KREG. Their Kreg R3 Jr system is $39 on Amazon and includes everything but a clamp, which you will need as well. The clamp is used to hold the drill guide to the board while drilling for the screw. It's also used to hold the boards to the table while fastening them. Kreg sells the clamp for about $21 at Amazon as well. You'll also need Kreg 1-1/2" long coarse pocket hole screws assuming you're not using hardwood for your sides. If you decide on hardwood, get fine pitch screws.

Kreg Kit:

Kreg Clamp:

Regardless of which wood you select, be sure and test your joint as it's not uncommon for the screw to penetrate the front of your joint, which isn't what you want to happen. It can also happen if you run the screw in so hard it goes farther than the pocket in soft wood.

When you finish your box, it needs to be 33-15/16" x 17-13/16" outside. The height of the box needs to be 15-5/8".

You'll receive a cut list in your kit with specific dimensions for the box boards.

However, the width of the long side vertical boards (called the stiles) will need to be calculated. Referring to the cut boards photo below, the stile width is determined by the taking the thickness of two of your boards away from the overall length and then taking away the length of the long board (called the rails). IE, if you measure two of your boards thickness at 1-7/16", and the rail is 24-9/16", then the calculation is 33-15/16" - 24-9/16" - 1-7/16" = 7.9375". You need to divide that in half for the two boards, which is 7.9375" / 2 = 3.9688" or 3-31/32".

This is an important dimension to calculate correctly, so be sure and check your numbers before cutting.

The rest of the board dimensions are in the cut list and may be run as indicated.


The end panels are a bit more tricky to prepare for assembly because the edges that go into the legs have to be beveled at 45 degrees to match the inside profile of the legs. Look at the corner detail photo below to get a feeling for how this joint goes together. When you cut the bevels, you aren't going to cut a full bevel, you will leave about 1/16" of the board flat, not beveled. It's easiest to do this before you join the rails and stiles together.



It's pretty easy to get confused when working with this corner, especially when you go to do the pocket hole screws since you always pocket the boards with the good face down on the table. I recommend laying all the boards for a panel out just like they will assemble, but put them face down. Note the top rail is narrower than the bottom rail on all 4 sides. The top rails are all 3-13/16" wide and the bottom rails are all 4" wide. Mark the back side of the boards that will receive the pocket holes so you don't accidentally either do it on the wrong side, or do it on the ends of the wrong boards. You will put two holes in the end of each board.


Assembling the 4 panel pieces is pretty straight-forward. I use a long parallel clamp to bring the pieces together and the Kreg clamp to hold the boards face down to the table well. Be sure and use that Titebond III glue in the joints. I also make sure my drill driver has the clutch set to slip pretty easily so they screws don't go too far in. You'll see the joint come together as you tighten the screws.


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