Coffin-making. For Reals


Judging from the e-mails I’ve received today, some readers thought I was making a macabre joke when I mentioned we’re having a coffin-making party in August.

It’s no joke. And I’m dead serious about the project. Everyone has personal desires about how they want to pass into the next world; I want to go in a simple pine box I built myself. I don’t want my family to spend a single cent more than necessary.

I’m also not planning on dying anytime soon (sorry, WoodNet). This coffin will live as a bookshelf in my office until it’s needed. And I am certain my wife will want to borrow it as a prop for the lawn on Halloween.

If you want to read more about coffin-making and the special jigs for the process, check out “Coffin-making and Undertaking” by Paul N. Hasluck (a reprint is available from Lindsay Publications).

We’ll be sure to shoot some video of the process.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to Coffin-making. For Reals

  1. Joe says:

    That book is in the Crafts and Hobbies section of Amazon.

  2. Video of the coffin-making but not the undertaking please… 🙂

  3. rdwilkins says:

    Pretty neat. Daniel Boone had his coffin made from walnut in his later years and kept it propped up in the corner. He’d try to shock visitors by climbing in it to show them how well it fit.

    • steveschafer says:

      Japanese coffins are usually not much more complicated than that, although you can get fancy ones with elaborate carvings. They all end up as ashes, though.

  4. I think your idea is excellent! Here here.

  5. Eric R says:

    Makes sense to me.
    I’ve seen $10,000.00 coffins. For what ?!
    To get buried 6 feet under?
    I’m with you Chris. A simple pine box will do thank you very much.
    Looking forward to seeing what your coffin party produces.

  6. Daniel Roy says:

    When he gets to the chapter on hand carved toilet seats and the history of the water closet, true furniture of necessity, I hope the photography is not too graphic.

  7. toolnut says:

    I’m planning on ascending.

  8. Dave Smell says:

    Chris, when I read about this to my wife she is all in and wants to sign me up to learn she feels the same way you do in fact was thinking about how to bring it up to me just today . Thanks Dave

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. rickbowles says:

    I hope we’ll get to dovetail options. Rick

  10. If you drill your “bookcase” for shelf pegs, just be careful not to blow through the sides, because you’ll regret it in the distant future. Larry

  11. stryder762 says:

    Yes but what kind of finish?

  12. Jack says: is out of business, but they sold their remaining stock to someone else. Lindsay just retired. … There are some great boot hill pix in the tourist trap that is now Tombstone AZ (yes, it is a real place, and for the touristy they still print the Tombstone Epitaph! at least they did the last time I visited.)

  13. Ben St John says:

    You might want to check this out:
    If all goes to plan, someday you might be furniture (in a good way).
    But building a coffin would still be fun.

  14. alanjbishop says:

    Don’t put on weight!

  15. bloksav says:

    Will you be making the models with canted sides and canted lids (like the ones that are briefly shown in the classic Clint Eastwood movie “For a few dollars more”?

  16. Andy in Germany says:

    The carpentry where I’m currently the apprentice still does undertaking so I fit out coffins as part of my job. Unfortunately we get them ready made, but we do the lining ourselves. In our small town there’s a very high chance I’ll know whoever is going in the coffin, and it is a good thing to be able to give them a proper resting place…

  17. runamokwoodworks says:

    I’ve always wanted to make my own coffin, too. It seems fitting. Not to mention, avoiding a case pumped fill of preservatives…. I want my box to root as easily as I do.

    A book case is a great idea for it’s life in the mean time.

  18. One method described in the Hasluck book involves kerf-bent coffin sides, but the really amazing thing is that the standard way, apparently, was fire-bending. Set a small fire in the coffin with some oily rags or wood scraps, Hasluck writes, and if your handiwork starts running the risk of catching fire, sprinkle some water on it. Wow.

    — Don from

  19. Coffins have also been an important product for Norwegian “snikkarar” (carpenters). I had a post on my blog with a photo from 1898. It shows Ole Ellingsen Bruheim, a “snikkar” in his workshop.

    A lot of the products that Ole made was coffins. When he died in 1923 he had made 1866 coffins, the last one to himself. He logged each coffin with the name of the dead, birth date, death date and the course of death. Some of the customers brought their own materials for the coffin.

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