So, we finally got the altar all fixed up. The slot in the plywood wasn't quite big enough for the altar stone originally, so my priest had to hack away at the edges of the hole with a steak-knife until it fit, but once we got that on, I think the new linens and frontal cleaned up rather nicely.
Here is a picture of the altar last year:
We didn't even have an altar stone yet, just a relic corporal. And, as you'll see in the "after" pictures...since then the Sisters, whose chapel it is (we just use it in the mornings), moved the sanctuary lamp to the floor and put a big crucifix up on the wall.
Also, the altar wasn't even normally this "good" as usually it is not set-up for an ad orientem TLM, but merely a Novus Ordo versus populum. We have to "set it up" and "take it down" again each morning after Mass, and that's like reliving the iconoclasm of the 1970's over and over again, like some perpetual cyclical nightmare (I better get some Purgatory off for that!) So it usually didnt even have the altar cards or altar crucifix or missal, just the table with two candlesticks in the corners. There were only two layers of cloths, not 100% linen, not even hemmed, and the top one only covered half the mensa.
Here is the altar now, after all the projects I was working on over winter break were installed:
It's hard to see some of the changes because they're covered by cloth, but the surface was raised about 3/4" with a sheet of wood, and an altar stone inserted in a square hole in that sheet. There are now three layers of linens (blessed this morning before Mass!) that actually fit the table, the topmost or "Fair Linen" with a lace trim along the front (I don't really like lace, but we needed something that would hide the edge of the plywood when the antependium wasn't up) and hanging down to the floor on the sides. And, of course, the reversible white/purple antependium held by those strong magnets epoxied in the edge of the plywood.
Here is the white side, though I like the purple better. It does need to be ironed again, I suppose:
I had a lot of extra linen, and bought a bag of 100% beeswax pellets, so we're hoping to make a better cloth for the credence table and hopefully a chrismale/cerecloth (a waxed linen that sometimes was put under all the others to protect them and the surface of the mensa). That carpet serves as our "predella" as we can't actually alter the structure of the chapel.
And all of this cost under $300. Plus those altar cards I made for the Latin Novus Ordo cost only about $100 (mainly the cost of framing), so presumably so could Old Rite altar cards, if people would simply print their own and have them matted and framed. Add some candles and a crucifix, and an altar can be totally transformed for probably under $500 if you budget wisely. Making your own stuff is much cheaper.
So, hopefully, a step in the right direction, and maybe an example for other churches of how a nice frontal is perhaps the best way to get the biggest visual "bang" for their buck.