The Casket Story

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Blog entry by AKDave posted 04-13-2014 02:12 AM 2535 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

About 4 years ago I decided to build my own casket. I wanted to ease the burden on loved ones for the necessary activities and acquisitions, and costs needed at my passing, whenever that would be. After thinking about this quite a lot, I decided that I also wanted to make the casket somehow symbolic of my life, at least the places of import in my life. I was born in California (sorry) and lived there the first eight years of my life, then came to Alaska with my parents in 1956, and have lived here ever since, and I have family who operate a large Pecan orchard in SE Arizona. So, I decided to use California Redwood, Alaskan Birch, and Pecan tree wood in my Casket. I got some photos of it prior to completion, but I never did take a photo of it when it was finished. I didn’t want to post those photos in my projects gallery but I have decided to go ahead and do it. It can be seen there.
I also built an exact copy as a prototype. This was made from construction grade pine so as to keep the cost down. I used it to ensure fit and design, cutting and fitting each piece in pine prior to cutting the redwood. So when all was finished, I had two caskets, my own, and the prototype. Then a close friend passed away after a lengthy illness. He and his wife were not well to do after spending almost all their savings on his medical bills. I asked his wife if she would be interested in the prototype, and after looking at it, she wanted to have it. I gave the casket to her free of charge, and it was used at his funeral and viewing and he was buried in it. Many friends and acquaintances saw the casket and were impressed with it.
Then, about a year ago, my wife expressed the desire for me to build her casket. When it was completed, and prior to placing it in it’s storage box, she mentioned to her friend that I had built her casket and would the friend and her husband like to see it. They came to see it a result requested that I make one for each of them.
I told them the approximate cost and they said go ahead. Those two caskets are now finished and ready to be delivered.
In the meantime, those friends have been telling others and now I have commissions for four more!

-- AKDave Chugiak, Alaska, [email protected]

5 comments so far

View rednecknurse's profile


45 posts in 2500 days

#1 posted 04-13-2014 02:44 AM

Wonderful story to match a wonderful casket. Nice work.

-- Do something nice for me and I'll say thanks. Do something nice for my children and I'll be your friend forever.

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 3685 days

#2 posted 04-13-2014 11:49 AM

great story,glad you could help a frind out with the prototype.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View John_G's profile


165 posts in 4186 days

#3 posted 04-14-2014 07:13 PM

That’s a great story, not to sound ignorant but how much do caskets go for these days anyway? Is it cheaper to have one made? I’m 37 so my experience with pricing out caskets is, well, none. Great story again and i saw our project post as well of the casket, beautiful.

-- John Gray

View AKDave's profile


57 posts in 3954 days

#4 posted 04-14-2014 08:18 PM


Great questions.

An internet search is real easy to find costs of the mass produced products, both steel and wood. One to two thousand. Here is one link:

Here in Alaska things are a bit different. One local mortuary lists pricing on their caskets. Basically two thousand to nine thousand. Here is the link for them:

Is it cheaper to have one made? Well, now were getting into the subjective. It depends. The caskets I make are a woodworkers and joiners dream, in my opinion, and they take a lot of time. Mine take me 60 man hours. (Course, I’m old and slow). Even being retired, I feel my time is worth $20 an hour. (After all, it’s a labor of love and I give a lot of stuff away) There are several hundred dollars in materials. I don’t want to say what I actually charge but you can make a ballpark guess for what I do.
Hope this helps,


-- AKDave Chugiak, Alaska, [email protected]

View AKDave's profile


57 posts in 3954 days

#5 posted 01-24-2016 05:24 AM

Since the last post on this blog, I have made four more caskets, for a total of nine. The last two have a good story so I thought I would take a minute to tell it.
I got a phone call from an older (older that I am!) lady who told me that she had seen a photo of one of the previous caskets I had made, and she and her sister would like to have me make one for each of them. I met with the two to discuss the species of wood they would like, and showed them more photos of my various pieces. They made their selection and then stated that they would both like for me to incorporate some Alaskan Diamond Willow into the boxes, perhaps as the handles on the side. Well, I was not too excited about that, so, basically to try to get out of it, I told them I didn’t think the idea of handles was a good one because diamond willow is very crooked and also tapers quite rapidly for the length, and further that I didn’t have any diamond willow, and didn’t know where to get any. I hoped that would pretty much kill the idea. Then they said that they had already had a half dozen pieces and would I reconsider and think about some way to use it. Well, I agreed and began to try to think of a way to incorporate it into the design. I came up with the idea of placing a short piece as a column at each corner. I ran the idea by them and they agreed. So that is what I did and I think it came out very well. I have placed some photos in my gallery. They were absolutely overjoyed with the results. By the way, the light wood is birch, harvested from my sons property a couple of years ago. He lives about a quarter mile away from me. The dark wood panels are walnut or cherry veneer.
Hope you all enjoy looking at the photos and reading about the project.



-- AKDave Chugiak, Alaska, [email protected]

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