Custom Nasara Holy Water Fonts

Earlier this year, we were approached by a church in California looking to make some custom holy water fonts for a very special purpose – to show support for Christians persecuted by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

First a little background. Assyrian Christians in Iraq and Syria have been under threat since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, fleeing the region in large numbers. With the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State those still in the area have been threatened with death unless they converted to Islam or paid tribute. Christian homes were painted with the letter nun, the first letter in the word Nasara, which is the Arabic word for “Christians”.

The Arabic letter nun

The Arabic letter nun

Because of this, a campaign has sprouted which uses the nun to show support for Assyrian Christians. One church decided they wanted to add the symbol to some holy water fonts and came to us.

The initial request was for two sizes of holy water font, one close to what we make typically, and bigger version with a backplate about 18″ wide and 26″ tall. We decided to base the design on our 2524-83B font. We had to create new patterns for each size so they could be cast.

a 2524-83B holy water font backplate

The 2524-83B Holy Water Font backplate that served as the basis for the Nasara fonts.

Next, we had to make a machine-readable version of the nun so it could be cut from bronze plate. Basically it involved tracing an existing image of a nun to give us a computerized outline. That was then fed into a cutting machine to provide us with the raw bronze symbol.

Once we had the backplates and the symbols the rest of the job was as simple as polishing, painting, and assembling the fonts. Here are a few photos of how they turned out:

The finished Nasara Font
The finished Nasara Font - close up







And finally, here are the large fonts after installation:

the large Nasara fonts installed

If you have a custom project, or just a question or comment, let us know below or email us here.

Can I return this?

As long as companies are selling products, there will be customers asking to make returns. While returns are not anyone’s favorite topic, we thought it would be helpful to explain our return and restock policy.

We maintain some stock of a variety of smaller items such as candle sockets and burners, sacristy and altar bells, censers and boats, and holy water pots and fonts to have available for quick shipment, but the primary factor in our ability as a specialty manufacturer to offer over 10,000 unique products is in manufacturing most items on a made-to-order basis. For us, made-to-order means that while we maintain some inventory levels of piece parts and raw materials, we requisition most cast bronze and nearly all cast brass parts from the foundry after we receive an order from an Excelsis dealer.

Restocking charges are in place to encourage strong dealer and customer communication and accurate order verification on the front end as well as to recoup some of the labor expense of processing an original outbound order and subsequent inbound return. To assist with front-end order verification, we respond to every new order received from a dealer with a confirmation including quantity, item number, description, and list price for each item and an estimated availability lead time. Each time a return occurs, we undertake the following multi-step process:

  1. Pull the original order paperwork and shipping documentation from archives
  2. Physically receive and log in the return
  3. Unpack and inspect the item(s) to ensure it is still unused
  4. Return the item(s) to stock
  5. Process the approved return documentation
  6. Generate and mail a credit memo to the dealer

As a manufacturer that does not engage in direct sales of made-to-order items we are restricted in our ability to liquidate returned items. An unused, made-to-order return may stay in our inventory for months or even longer until we receive a new order from a dealer for that specific church appointment.

Return requests may only be initiated and submitted by an authorized Excelsis dealer and must be received by us within 45 days of original factory shipment. Undamaged, unused bronze items available for quick factory shipment, marked with a crown throughout our print catalog, may be returned at a 20% restocking charge. All other return requests are reviewed, approved or declined, and restocking fees calculated and assessed on a case-by-case basis. Our undamaged merchandise return policy can also be found on the inside cover of the Excelsis 2015 Catalog.

It is our hope that through upfront order qualification and verification between the dealer and customer, providing our dealers with confirmations for all orders received, and articulating our restocking policy that we can partner with our dealers to limit returns as much as possible and maintain the flexibility necessary to continue offering thousands of unique church appointments.

We hope you enjoy your Excelsis metalware for decades and never have occasion to consider returning an order, but if you do, please contact your dealer and we will work together toward a resolution.

Using Excelsis Churchware Outdoors

Almost all of the bronze and brass churchware we make at Excelsis have been designed with indoor use in mind, but occasionally we do get a request to make an item for outdoor use. In this post we’ll cover what items work best outdoors and what we can do to protect them.

First off, why can’t we just put out items outside? Our standard lacquer is oven-hardened and great at protecting finishes from oxidation, but it is designed for indoor use, and continued exposure to the elements will eventually wear it away. Once that happens, tarnishing sets in immediately.

We have two ways of dealing with the lacquer problem. The first is leave it off entirely, and allow the piece to tarnish naturally. Without lacquer in the way this should happen more evenly than if there was lacquer on the piece. When tarnish is allowed to happen naturally the result is called a patina. The metal will progressively darken, and eventually form a layer of green copper carbonate, also known as verdigris. In bronze, brass, and other copper alloys a patina protects the metal from further oxidation and corrosion. This means once it has a patina it’ll stay that way indefinitely, and if you ever want to take the patina off, there is polishable metal underneath.

An example of a Station of the Cross we typically protect with outdoor lacquer.

An example of a Station of the Cross we typically protect with outdoor lacquer.

The second solution is a different lacquer formulation, specifically made to be water-resistant. This allows the metal to have a polished finish which will be protected long-term. Most often we apply outdoor lacquer to Stations of the Cross, and we sometimes apply outdoor lacquer to symbols or wall crosses. There is no real limit to what we can protect from the elements, though.

It should be noted that some items which are already intended to be used with water have protection in the form of liners or lacquer included in the price. All new holy water pots and wall-mounted fonts include a plastic liner, and all standing holy water font bowls are coated with outdoor lacquer. This protection is only for those specific parts, however, so if the intended use is outdoors we’ll have to apply lacquer everywhere else.

The Sounds of Our Sacristy and Altar Bells

We’ve had several questions from you asking what our altar and sacristy bells sound like. In response to those questions, we present the sounds of the Excelsis Sacristy and Altar bells!

First we have our three-bell sacristy set. We have three different backplate styles for this type of bell, but the bells and bell frame are all the same. The item numbers are 1100-44, 1102-44, and 387-44. Click on the links to view the item pages in a new window or tab showing the different styles. All of these are available in brass or bronze, and most in high polish or satin finishes.

Next, our single-bell sacristy set, the 2350-43.

Here is the sound of our four-bell altar set. These are available with four different handles, but like the three-bell sacristy set the bells are all the same. The item numbers are 389-120, 390-120, 1100-120, and 1101-120.

Finally, our single altar bell, the 1100-121.

We hope this helps you determine which bell or set of bells is right for you. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or email us here.

From Smashed, Battered, and Broken to Immaculate

Earlier this year a customer approached us about restoring a number of items damaged during an attempted theft. Their metal ware had been damaged to varying degrees but overall it was in bad shape.



These two images give you an idea of what we had to start with.



As you can see we had our work cut out for us. The first step was to sort out all the parts and decide whether or not they were salvageable. Unfortunately, many of these parts were damaged beyond repair so we had to re-cast or re-fabricate them in order to successfully restore the candlesticks.

James Faklaris, our manufacturing manager, welcomed the challenge. James has been working in the industry since he was 18 and has experience with all types of metalworking and manufacturing. He prefers these kinds of projects where there is a lot of fabrication involved. In his words, “It’s all busted up and people go ‘What will we do?’ Well, you replicate it”.

In order to recreate the type of part you see above a mold must be made that could be used as a tool on a spinning lathe. Spinning is a technique where metal discs are spun at a high rate of speed then pushed over a tool using a roller, forming a piece in the shape of the tool. For several of the parts there was not an original piece in good enough condition to be used for replication. For those cases, we contacted the customer and had them send over some of their other  candlesticks so we could extrapolate the necessary measurements to create a mold. After hours of creating and tweaking, the first new part came off of James’ lathe. He ended up using eleven molds made from a combination of wood, aluminum, and steel to replicate all the parts he needed for the project. In the end, all his efforts paid off:


Here’s a remanufactured part (left) next to a refinished original piece (right)


Casting new parts creates a different kind of challenge. Molten metal shrinks when it cools and solidifies in molds, so re-casted parts are always slightly smaller than the original. This is not significant when you’re only dealing with one or two parts, but many of these candlesticks had multiple recast parts, which would create a height difference when the candlestick was assembled. James tackled this challenge by using a combination of brass discs and extended parts to make sure the candlesticks lined up perfectly when placed next to each other.

The original candlesticks included beautiful onyx shafts, some of which were destroyed during the burglary. There wasn’t a way to salvage these parts since stone cannot be restored to its original condition once it has been broken.


Here are some of the onyx segments that needed replacing. Each of these pieces started as a smooth cylinder.


Progressive Bronze does not work in special materials such as onyx so we contacted an Italian stone company to replicate the onyx shafts. When working with a variety of materials such as brass and stone, it is important to consider the properties of each material. For example, it is much easier to adjust metal to fit stone rather than vice versa. You can bend metal, you can’t bend stone.

After several weeks of crafting, the parts were ready for our finishing specialists. They used a variety of polishing and buffing techniques to bring out the beauty of the metal. They also applied our proprietary clear coat which ensures the metal work will stay shiny and brilliant for years to come.

Once the final touches were put on the candlesticks, we shipped them back to the customer in time for Sunday service. .

Can you tell what we remanufactured and what’s original?



Austin Ambrose

Spotlight on Acolyte Candlesticks

Acolyte Candlesticks

Continuing our series on better understanding Excelsis products, today we are taking a look at Acolyte Candlesticks.

Acolyte Candlesticks are small candlesticks with a built-in base that are intended to be carried by acolytes. They are often used by younger acolytes that may not be able to carry a full-sized processional candlestick, or in small chapels where space is at a premium.

We offer several different styles (see the image at the top) with both wood and metal shafts. Metal shafts are covered with a clear vinyl sleeve to prevent tarnish.

We also offer four different interchangeable globes – only the 444-139 globe cannot be used on the other styles, nor can the 444-139 accept other globes.

Available Acolyte Globe Styles

Most burn 15-hour votive candles, with the exception of the 164-139 which works with 1-1/2″ diameter oil cartridges and the 160-139 which uses 3/4″-5/16″ diameter taper-style candles.

We also offer an electric candle conversion kit, the EK-139. This kit comes with two rechargeable battery-powered candles, a charging station, and special candle socket so the battery candle will fit on your Acolyte Candlestick. This is an ideal solution if you can’t use candles, or would rather not.

EK-139 Battery Powered Candle

To view our complete lineup of Acolyte Candlesticks, click here. Or, if you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them below, or email us here.

How Counterweights Work

Happy New Year!

For our first post of 2014, we’ll be looking at counterweights – why you might want one, how they work, and how to properly set them up.

Counterweights allow a sanctuary lamp (or anything ceiling-mounted, really) to be pulled down in order to light or extinguish them easily, then retract to its normal position. This avoids having to use a step ladder or chair, making sanctuary lamp operation easier and safer.

Now let’s take a look inside.

How Counterweights Work

Counterweight at Rest

A counterweight in its resting state.

Excelsis counterweights are made up of, in simplest terms, a top bracket and pulley assembly, cable, body, and a ring on which to hang your sanctuary lamp. The magic is all in the cable – the ends attach to the top of the body, then loop over the pulleys at the top, come down back through the body, and loops through the ring at the bottom allowing for up to 30″ of movement.

When it’s time to light or extinguish your sanctuary lamp, simply pull the lamp down, and the counterweight does the rest.

Counterweight when Pulled Down

An illustration of a counterweight when pulled down.

By pulling down the attached lamp, cable is transferred from the sides that connect to the body of the counterweight, over the pulleys, and down through the center of the body. This raises the body up as you lower the lamp.

When you are finished lighting or extinguishing the lamp, simply allow the counterweight body to slowly fall again, which will raise the lamp up to its resting state.

How To Hang A Counterweight

Because counterweights and lamps hang on long chains and cables, they can easily twist. In order to avoid this, counterweights should be hung in a specific way.

First off, make sure you have a strong connection to the ceiling, with your hook embedded in a rafter or joist.

Second, figure out how much chain you need to hang your lamp at the desired height, taking in to account the length of the counterweight assembly.

Finally, hang the chain from the ceiling, then the counterweight to the chain, then the lamp to the counterweight using an S-hook.

Here is a diagram of the proper way to hang a counterweight:

Proper way to hang a counterweight

The proper way to hang a counterweight.

If you have any questions on counterweights, please leave a comment below, or send us an email here.

What are the Parts of Censers, Holy Water Pots, and Censer Stands?

Welcome back to the Excelsis Blog. Today we continue our product information series. We have already examined crosses and crucifixes as well as ‎candlesticks and candelabras, so today we’ll be taking a closer look at censers and boats, holy water pots, and censer stands.

Censers and Boats

Censers and boats come as a set, made of either bronze or brass, in several different styles. The boat stores raw incense and the censer is the vessel in which incense is burned. The smoke that wafts from the censer as it is gently swung during mass is meant to represent prayers rising to heaven.


Common parts:

Knob – A decorative finial atop the censer through which the chain is fed and connected to a bracket inside the bowl.
Top – The upper portion of the vessel that can be raised up from the bowl in order to load incense and has openings, typically decorative, through which smoke from the burning incense wafts out.
Bowl – The lower portion of the censer, which holds the ash catcher and burning incense.
Ash Catcher – A removable liner that sits inside the bowl, this is where the incense is placed and burned.
Base – Censers that have a bowl with a rounded bottom will have a decorative base or legs which allow the censer to sit flat and upright on an altar, shelf, etc.
Chain – A chain is used to dangle and gently swing the censer during mass and can also be used to store and display the censer on a stand. The chain feeds through the knob and is secured to the base, holding the knob, top, bowl, and base together as a single appointment.
Ring – The ring at the end of the chain helps secure the censer to a censer stand (more on censer stands below).

Top – A decorative lid.
Bowl – The lower portion which holds the raw (unburned) incense.
Base – A decorative base which allows the boat to sit flat.
Spoon – A small spoon used for transferring incense from the boat to the censer.

Holy Water Pots

Holy water pots are also made of bronze or brass, and are available with several different base and handle styles, from simple to ornate. The pot is filled with holy water, a sacramental which is sprinkled on the congregation.


Common parts:

Handle – A handle by which the pot is carried.
Pot – The basin in which a bowl and liner are placed for containing holy water.
Bowl – A finished bowl which rests in the pot.
Liner – A plastic liner placed inside the bowl to protect the bowl’s metal from wear and corrosion.
Base – Pots that do not have a flat bottom will have a decorative base or legs which allow the pot to sit flat and secure on a pot holder, altar, or other surface.
Sprinkler – The appointment which is dipped into the pot and used for sprinkling holy water on the congregation. The sprinkler head can be opened so the interior of the head may be dried and the sponge removed and dried between uses to stave off corrosion.

Censer Stands

While censers and boats may be stored on a shelf or other surface, censer stands are available to provide a formal storage option and attractively display censers and boats when they are not in use. There are several different styles available with classic and ornate designs. Some stands, such as our example today, are also available with a holy water pot holder. All stands range from 51’-54” in height.

Censer Stand Diagram

Common parts:

Boat Holder – A pedestal at the top of the stand which holds the boat.
Long Censer Hook – A notched hook extending from near the top of the shaft. The censer chain rests in the notch, allowing the censer to hang in place.
Short Censer Hook – An inverted hook located about a third of the way down the shaft. The censer chain loops over the hook, securing the censer in place.
Shaft – The vertical section which creates most of the height of the stand. Common shapes are round, square, hexagonal, reeded, and spiral.
Base – The bottom of the stand. It must be large and heavy enough to keep the censer stand stable. Common shapes are round, square, and hexagonal and more ornate bases include legged, funneled, and cylindrical designs.
Holy Water Pot Holder (available on some stands) – A pedestal located about a quarter of the way down the shaft which holds a holy water pot.

We hope this has been an informative primer on censers, boats, holy water pots, and censer stands. These appointments may be viewed in our online catalog and as always, please submit your feedback and/or questions here or here.

Medieval Treasures from Hildesheim, now at The Met!

Hildesheimer Dom 41

If you will be in New York any time between now and January 5, 2014, be sure to head to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for an exhibition of Medieval church furnishings from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Hildesheim, Germany. The Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and thanks to a major renovation some of its nearly thousand-year-old appointments, like the baptismal font pictured above, are on display.

For more info you can read The New York Times’ review (opens in a new window) here.