Plans Laid for the Next Project: A Mission Style Casket

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 04-10-2007 04:30 AM 2562 reads 0 times favorited 8 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 thread of folks wanting to assist in their funeral planning by building their own casket, or building 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. There isn’t much help in book form, or the internet, for making your own casket, so 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


Back to the Original Posting:
I’ve been pretty BLOG quiet lately. I have used about all of the computer time I could get responding to personal emails the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t had the chance to Blog lately. I am thrilled to see such growth in the site over the past couple of weeks. Martin has his hands full, and he tells me that there are new exciting things coming. Thanks for this vision of yours Martin, we are all enjoying your hard work.

I thought I would break the BLOG silence by telling you about a phone call that I received tonight laying out the plans for my next project. It will be a Mission Casket for my Uncle John. He is fighting liver cancer, and his time is coming to an end without a miracle. I offered to build his casket late last week, a project I have tackled one time before (, and he responded that he would appreciate having me do it for him. He gave his life to Christ many years ago, so he is encouraged that his promotion is coming soon, although he is sad, as we all are, to see him be so sick and with such a dire diagnosis.

My Uncle John has been a fan of Mission style furniture since his mother (my grandma) bought some old pieces at a garage sale in the 1950’s and restored them for the family home. I have her Dining Room Buffet now, and Uncle John has the round eating table. The Dining Chairs have been split up and are cherished by others in the family.

I was laying in bed thinking about his situation last week, and it dawned on me that I ought to offer to build him a Mission Style Casket. Something special that you won’t see in a funeral home selection room. I hope it turns out as nice as I picture it in my mind. Sort of a cross between Stickley and the Greene Brother’s work. Who said that the Thorsen Table Challenge was only good for tables?

Building a casket is real ministry-type work for me, as I am involved in the process of the funeral and the family, other than just showing up for the family reunion and eating the pot luck dinner. I like it that way, and “working” in the midst of emotion can actually help me focus on the right things. I am a “worker”, and I deal with stress best by working, and drinking diet soda pops, and some M&M’s (that’s another blog). I restored a Corvette over a girlfriend break up one time, and then restored a ‘74 Harley during a marriage crisis (different girl), and I have done many other projects over the years that have helped me deal with the emotions of whatever the situation brought.

My Uncle John has been a good friend and encourager over the years, and it is an honor to build his casket. I will post photos and the story when the I have it finished, so I hope you will stay tuned.

I am nearing the end of the church project I have worked on since the first of the year. It has grown some during the course of the job as I have picked up some more work to do for the church. I want to tell more about that project, but I need to do that another time, I need to get back out to the shop tonight and put in some more hours. I am in the process of putting on the finish, and doing the gold-leaf painting of all of the “Tracry” trim panels (a new word I learned from Roger, the master carver). I have blogged about this project before, in the context of making Crown Molding for the project. I have learned so many things in this project that I can hardly wait to write up the many new challenges I have had to overcome. When the Priest, Father Nick, came to see my progress a few weeks ago, he said, “I have been to Rome, and this work is as good.” Then He reached into his black jacket and pulled out the progress payment check, bowed his head, and handed me the check with both hands, saying, “It is an honor to give you this next progress payment.” I could have floated into the house after that comment, except my big head got caught in the doorway! Try to find something to feel bad about after a compliment like that, despite our “March”.

Until next time,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

8 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3821 days

#1 posted 04-10-2007 04:45 AM

Mark are prayers are with you, Rachael and all of your family.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 3747 days

#2 posted 04-10-2007 05:46 AM

Good to see you blogging again. Our best, from my family to yours.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3734 days

#3 posted 04-10-2007 05:51 AM

It’s really really good to hear from you again. It touches my heart to see our skills used to touch others hearts…and maybe their souls to. You have our prayers.

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

656 posts in 3554 days

#4 posted 04-10-2007 11:22 AM

I’m with Scott, it’s good to see you blogging again! You and your family will still be getting in on my prayer list.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 3581 days

#5 posted 04-10-2007 11:53 AM

same from me. And I’m glad that you had that little bit of “swelled head moment’ in your life to help keep things in balance for you.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 3505 days

#6 posted 04-10-2007 03:41 PM

Marc, I will keep you and your family in my prayer. I understand the emotions invovled with have a child with a serious illness. In 2001, my son was found to have a brain tumor. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View oscorner's profile


4564 posts in 3731 days

#7 posted 04-14-2007 08:04 AM

I will continue to pray for you and all your family!

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Davids42240's profile


1 post in 1697 days

#8 posted 03-02-2012 06:25 AM

I would like to talk to you personally about the Mission Casket you built for your Uncle John. I have a dear Friend that is desiring this same design for his Casket. He was moved by your passion to build this as your Uncles Final resting place. I am wanting to attempt to build this Casket for him with the same passion that is pressing on my heart to Honor him in way you honored your Uncle John. Would you please call me so we can discuss the costing on the plans and some of the details you had involved with project. I am familiar with wood working as that I am a carpenter by trade. My number is 270-484-1291. I would really appreciate talking to you. This Man I am talking about helped Lead me to Lord. Thank you

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