Grandma J's Urn and Memento Boxes

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Project by PDK posted 06-21-2017 08:41 PM 1108 views 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Awhile back my father-in-law asked if I would create an urn for his 96 year-old mother (my wife’s grandmother). Even though her passing wasn’t imminent at the time, the family wanted to be prepared.

For anyone who has built an urn for a friend or family member, then you know it’s an incredible honor. Personally, I have never considered my projects to be good enough for such a monumental event (and honestly, I still don’t). If you look at my catalog, you’ll see a lot of fun and experimental projects – pet stairs, arcades, boxes, etc. So I spent a fair amount of time researching urns and funeral boxes and came up with the concept you see here.

Ultimately, I opted to build two boxes, one of which is a more formal box for the ashes, and another is a memento box for the family to keep some of Grandma J’s personal items around. Broadly speaking, I wanted them to be both understated (much like the woman herself), but elegant. Also, I wanted the boxes to be roughly the same from a construction standpoint (through dovetails and same dimensions) with subtle differences in lids, the number of crosses around the perimeter, and the finishes as each served a different purpose.

I chose mahogany as the primary wood as it was one of her favorites and has a warm, but elegant appearance when finished properly. A series of relief crosses were built out of maple, mahogany, and padauk. Padauk was chosen because it reminded me of the cardinal bird paintings she had around her house/condo. For the more formal urn box, I put a mahogany and padauk skirt around the base, which also made it look more like a casket. I rounded the bottom edge of the memento box as it will sit on a shelf and expect may be moved on occasion.

The lid was a combination of mahogany (border) and maple to make the cross stand out a bit more. Along the mitered corners I installed padauk keys to accent and tie it in with the crosses. For the relief cross on the lid, I put a smaller cross on the backside to both raise it up and provide a more dramatic and formal appearance.

The memento box was finished with Tung oil and paste wax. The urn was finished with Tung oil and a coat of wipe-on polyurethane.

Overall, I was pleased with the outcome. Unlike other projects, I really didn’t encounter any problems or issues that needed to be overcome. So either I’m getting better at this hobby (less likely), or I had someone looking over my shoulder and guiding me with the build (I prefer to think in those terms). Grandma J was admired and loved by everyone she encountered, and hopefully these boxes do justice to her memory going forward.

-- - The day I stop learning is the day I stop living.

4 comments so far

View Dan P's profile

Dan P

755 posts in 2858 days

#1 posted 06-22-2017 12:26 AM

Love the crosses.

-- Daniel P

View Ziggman's profile


127 posts in 1404 days

#2 posted 06-22-2017 01:48 AM


Nice..that’s all I can say.

Very sentimental piece.

-- In his retort, the alchemist repeats the work of nature-----Jim Morrison

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3833 days

#3 posted 06-22-2017 04:59 PM

These are very nice and attractive memorial and urn boxes. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View BB1's profile


1874 posts in 1814 days

#4 posted 06-23-2017 12:03 AM

Very nicely done. Thank you for sharing the details and the background.

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