MISSION CASKET BOOK & PLANS AVAILABLE:
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 Etsy.com store to purchase a copy for yourself
NOW BACK TO THE ORIGINAL POSTING:
I’ve really tried hard during this recession to focus on working, and not typing.
To that end, I’ve not spent much time on Blogs and Project Stories and Forum Topics, like I did the first year after I joined lumberjocks. My goal for the silence has been to work hard and survive as a business entity until the public starts buying expensive furniture pieces again.
So far, I’m doing well, I’m busy, healthy, and booked for several months out. I’ve not been selling much furniture, especially not the time consuming carved things I’ve been asked to build in years past, but I’ve been staying busy with smaller items that people have ordered. And I can attribute 94% of my sales the past 18 months to my lumberjock’s postings, Etsy Sales, and eBay sales, the rest has been word of mouth marketing.
So, I’ve been trying to keep off the computer and just work on the commissioned items, while adding a bedroom onto our house, handling church issues again, and spending some quality & quantity time with my Wife and two kids. I’ve also been helping one of the neighbor kids build a solid-body electric guitar, while I build a Bass guitar, a long-term goal that I’m finally accomplishing. Just a lot going on, and not much time for typing lately.
But, I decided to break the silence this morning with some exciting news….....
I believe the class will be called “Hands to Earth: Building a Family Casket.”
Actually, I’m a little scared. My dad was woodshop teacher, and so he’s more experienced in teaching, but I’ll just have to do the best I can. At least I have about 16 months to sweat it out and get the preparations made. I’d like to come up with my own Casket Building handbook, and some drawn plans by that time as well. So, I’ll have plenty to get done between now and then.
The goal of the 5 day class will be for each student to complete a casket, roughly based on my design, allowing for some styling deviations that I feel we can accomplish in the duration of the course. This will be mostly a product-skills based class, but rooted in the process of teaching how a family can build a casket for someone they love.
The class is not intended to teach how to start up a business building caskets, which I get contacted about quite often from internet surfers. Rather, the goal with the J. Campbell Folk School course will be more family oriented, and personal, and designed for me to teach about hand making one casket for someone you love. The process can be very helpful in dealing with the grief associated with a dire diagnosis.
Due to the time it takes to hand build a casket, normally it is not possible to wait for the death to happen and then start the work on the casket. Therefore, normally the situation is one where a family member knows the inevitable is approaching, adn the family has time to make the plans and build the casket. Then the family works together to build a casket for the funeral.
In one case that I worked on, the wife of the sick man couldn’t bring herself to ordering a casket while he was still fighting his cancer, so her family contacted me secretly and asked for me to start work on a casket for them, just in case he lost his fight with Cancer. Two weeks later, I delivered the casket to the furneral home.
From that experience, I saw first hand how stressful the process can be for the survivors. In the case of my Uncle’s casket, the nurses at the hospital reported that he was so pleased to tell them about his nephew building him a a special casket, a Mission Style one, just like he wanted. He called me on the phone and we talked about the wood to use, the design that he wanted, and many other things that he wanted to tell me.
And so the goal of my class will be to teach the skills needed, save some money for the family, and let them work to handle their grief while working in the woodshop together.
The handmade casket can be simple, elaborate, personalized, and perfectly fitting for the situation. The last time I had to help my family pick out a casket, all I could think as I walked slowly through the display/selection room was, ”boy, I wish Grandpa would have let me build one for him…...I could have made it so much more personal for him, and probably saved some money in the process…...”
My grandfather just never could make the decision to have me start on the casket for him, and so I missed out on that opportunity. So, instead, while waiting for the funeral, I built a Hat Rack/Cane Stand/Coat Tree that held his favorite Cowboy Hats, Walking Canes, and Blazer. So, eventhough I didn’t have the chance to build his casket, I did pour my grief into another tribute for his funeral. Incidentally, the Pastor that did the funeral service contacted me after the service and asked to buy the Hat Rack Stand for his office. We made a deal on it, and placed a brass plaque dedicating it to the church in the name of my grandfather.
I work out grief the best when I’m busy building something. I restored a Corvette one time after a breakup of a long-term relationship. Then, a few years later I restored a Harley Davidson one time when my wife and I were having struggles. I just seem to work out grief best by staying busy. I’m hopeful that there are at least 8 other people that are the same way, who would like to come and learn how to build a Casket.
I think for this upcoming Casket Building Class that having some basic woodworking skills are recommended, but we’ll get something built with whomever signs up for the class. The school has a large woodshop that we’ll use, and also an open-air pavillon that we can work in if we need some more room.
The date of the class will be in mid-June 2011, I believe it will run June 12-18, but the date needs to be confirmed.
The School’s 2011 catalog is a few months from being published, but if you would like to have your name put on the waiting list you can either contact me, or the school, and then further information will be sent to you as it is ready.
This class is intended to be small (8 people), so if you are really interested in the class, I’d recommend letting the school know your intentions soon.
The Folk School, and myself, are hopeful that this first class will be the start of a long relationship where I can offer teaching in various skills over the coming years. Over the past three years with my involvement with lumberjocks, I’ve received many questions about whether I could “teach a woodworking class”. I’m hoping that this relationship with the J. Campbell Folk School will be a start to that journey.
That’s it, back to work on some Cherry Bookcases…...
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com