A Second Experience in Building a Burial Casket (aka Thorsen Table Challenge Entry)

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 05-31-2007 01:30 AM 5362 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch


UPDATE 3-28-2012:

After Posting my Casket Stories and Photos on Lumberjocks, I have been overwhelmed by the response from readers. There is quite a long thread of folks wanting to build their own casket, or wanting to build one for a close friend or family member.

There are many reasons a person would build their own casket, including saving money, assisting someone with a need they have, doing something custom made because it is special, just because you want to, keeping your hands busy at something during the grieving process, a conversation piece, etc.

All of this email traffic about caskets has relayed to me some really sad stories, and stories of great courage, and exposed a real desire by some do-it-yourself folks to build a casket. And, there isn’t much on the internet or in Print Form to help you get started.

So, All of this internet attention lead me to a teaching invitation at the John Campbell Folk School in the summer of 2011 on the art of casket making. To assist the students in that class I wrote a step-by-step instruction book and drew some drawings, making the Book a total of 78 pages. I tried to use my Book as a way to teach the project, but also teach woodworking skills in the process.

If you would like a copy of my Book/Plans, visit my store to purchase a copy for yourself


A few weeks ago I blogged that my next commission project would be a Mission Style Casket for my Uncle John. He passed away last night, so in the midst of being filled will joy that this project is nearly complete, I am also saddened by his expected death.

Throughout my life, Uncle John has been an “encourager”, despite what path I took. Even when I’m sure he was concerned about decisions I was making, he always showed me respect, and encourgement. The type of “encourager” that a guy needs in life. The type of Uncle that was always excited and complimentary when looking at my first car (1974 Buick Century), or my new pickup trucks, or my Corvette, or the Harley’s, the Honda Prelude, and the other vehicles I have been through over the years.

He took time to go target shooting and hunting with me, and even helped me set up my toy train set one time, and many other great memories. We always talked about getting together to shoot some blackpowder guns, since we both enjoy that hobby, but we never made that happen. Something I regretted after he had gotten so sick this Spring. It was only a 3 hour drive to see him, but life seemed to always be too fast to make the time to go shoot some black powder together. His faith in the Lord gives us confidence that he is in a better place, free of the burden of fighting liver cancer.

Thorsen Table Challenge:
As I was working on this casket, I knew that the timing would mean that I would not be able to participate by the deadline in the Thorsen Table Challenge…....So, I adapted my design to include some Greene & Greene Elements, without departing from the Mission styling that I promised my Uncle I would complete. So, this is my Thorsen Table Project. If you look at it right, you could use it as a table, so I consider it to be a suitable entry in the Challenge.

I know, I know, this is a bit of stretch of the rules, but I’m hoping the Popular Woodworking judging team will see the heart behind the design, and at least include me in the Subscription award for all of the participants. The contrasting woods that I used are Red Oak stained Minwax Provincial and Kansas air dried walnut, also stained Provincial. I decided to keep the “home-made” look of the project by choosing to build my own handle brackets and handle bar, instead of ordering the metal ones from a catalog. I did order casket hinges, latches, and support arms from Lee Valley’s website.

I will post more photos with the mattress, pillow, and lining, once they are installed later, but the family was wanting to see some photos tonight as they are preparing for the funeral, so I wanted to upload the photos in a blog so that they could view them tonight. I will post the Project with all of the photos, including the interior lining, separately another time, when I have more time.

Phil Brown has been a big help to me as I was in the planning phase of this project, so I appreciate again the help of another lumberjock.

Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

12 comments so far

View rentman's profile


230 posts in 4629 days

#1 posted 05-31-2007 02:08 AM

man very nice craftmenship marc.

-- Phil, Chattanooga,TN

View Karson's profile


35207 posts in 4935 days

#2 posted 05-31-2007 02:24 AM

Mark Add tag challenge01 to the tag list.

Great Job, We are proud and I’m sure that Uncle John would approve.

Bless you.


-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4772 days

#3 posted 05-31-2007 02:24 AM

Nice Greene & Greene accents, there, Mark

View john's profile


2382 posts in 4916 days

#4 posted 05-31-2007 02:25 AM

I am very sorry Mark to hear about your uncle.
My heart goes out to you and your family.

You did a beautiful job on the casket

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4620 days

#5 posted 05-31-2007 02:32 AM

Marc, what a beautiful peice of work. I can see you put your heart in this and it shows. My family and I send our prayers and sympathies during this tough time. It is a comfort to know that your uncle is in a better place. I pray that the Lord will ease the pain of your loss and bring a sense of peace to you and your family during this time. I know that words can sometimes seem hollow and superfical but I assure you that they are heart felt and I only wish I could do more. If I were to go to be with the Lord, I only hope that someone with your skill and love of what you do builds my final furniture with the style and care that you have demonstrated.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

657 posts in 4668 days

#6 posted 05-31-2007 02:36 AM

Mark, I’m sure that your Uncle John is looking down on you right now and is smiling from ear to ear. I took one look at this and could tell it was all from your heart. Beautiful!!!

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4712 days

#7 posted 05-31-2007 02:52 AM

Mark, this is a wonderful tribute to your uncle; not only the fine craftsmanship of this work, but also the words you have written.

God bless you and your uncle’s family as you celebrate his life, death and home-going to his Father’s house; it’s a far better place, free from the pain and sorrow he had recently endured.

Oh, and one would have to be a mug to deny your entry into the Thorsen Challenge.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View mot's profile


4926 posts in 4571 days

#8 posted 05-31-2007 04:42 AM

Holy Cow! That is a terrific work of art and a great tribute. Thanks. A great read and wonderful pictures. I’ve often felt that a send off to a loved one would be to create the burial casket. I don’t have those sort of skills. Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4849 days

#9 posted 05-31-2007 05:23 AM


View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4621 days

#10 posted 05-31-2007 05:58 AM

A very moving tribute to your Uncle. He lives on in you in his encouraging nature. I’m sure he’s smiling and very proud of you.

-- Bob

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4781 days

#11 posted 05-31-2007 05:58 AM

Sorry to hear of your loss Mark, The Lord Be With You and With Your Spirit. GB Jockmike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 4779 days

#12 posted 05-31-2007 03:24 PM

Very nice work Mark, God bless you in your loss. You are a great man and a loving nephew.

After your first casket posting and our visit; I ordered the book you recommended for caskets. I look forward to you photos of the finished product.

-- Joel Tille

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