|Project by Phil Brown||posted 04-17-2007 06:05 AM||5209 views||4 times favorited||28 comments|
A year ago I went to see a mentor in the antiques business about building reproduction antiques as a fulltime venture. I had quit twenty years in the trucking industry to be the traffic and crating manager for a manufacturer in my small town. I loved being close to home and doing my woodwork, art and custom motorcycle painting without having to be six hundred miles away the next day. Four years later they were bought out and dissolved. I ran out my severance and pension money and made application to a business program.
My mentor was in the process of researching plans to build his own casket, having prostate cancer, and being eccentric was going to store it above the log rafters in his den for a converstaion piece until he needed it. At first I didn’t find it interesting when he told me that I should apply my skills to create signature caskets.
The employment agency wouldn’t hear of a casket business plan, handed me my resume and told me to go back to trucking. I did get in the program with a business plan for reproduction antiques and custom cabinetry, and hung my shingle out. It was tough going and although I liked what I was doing, something seemed to be missing. The casket idea wouldn’t go away.
After watching the football movie “Facing the Giants” where a coach was encouraged to bloom where he was planted although his success rate was dismal, I decided to build a casket before my stipend ran out and I was truly on my own. He was encouraged to believe that the door was still open for him to succeed by an old man reading a Bible verse to him about the door that God opens no man can shut. I said to my wife that I was going to build a casket before my benefit ran out in a month, just in case I had to take a fulltime job again and didn’t get the opportunity to take a step of faith that the door was still open to build signature caskets.
Just a day later, no kidding, the phone rang. 3000 miles away in Vancouver, my dear friend Christy was given 3 weeks to 3 months to live and her husband Wayne wanted me to build her casket. They took me in 14 years ago during a difficult time in my life and we have remained close ever since.
Literally, there is blood sweat and tears in this project, and I felt guided through the unknown of never having made a casket before. Interestingly when I went to get the material to upholster the interior, the store was in the process of relocating and was packing up. I purchased a roll of light purple satin with embossed flowers that I knew were Christy’s colors. There was the exact amount left on the roll to upholster the casket almost to a thread.
One of the concerns my friends had was the expression of Christy’s faith which I was able to put in paint and verse on a removeable lid which will be set on an easel behind the casket. The lid is fastenened with 6 cabinet door knobs drilled and tapped to thread into 1/4” inserts set into the casket. The panels are faux finished with a wine color mixed with white to get the mauve effect and the top rails and molding are trimmed in layers of see- through gold over the faux colors
I sweated bullets waiting for good news that the crate had arrived safely in Vancouver, which it did, thank God. During its journey Christy had to go back into the hospital, but she had the opportunity to see the pictures I had emailed and was so thankful when I called her room. She’s still here but looking forward to going home to be with Jesus.
As stressfull as it was, because of time considerations, the project was a privelege and an honour. It changed me. I also got a kick out of people hearing about me building a casket and showing up at the door to check it out. Some would hang by the door, hesitant, and some would rush right in to get a closer look.
My mentor who suggested I take up casket making was off on a missions trip to Ethiopia and didn’t get to see the finished product before it left. I plan on starting a biker casket next, and as I have done murals on Harleys am hoping to do a full length mural on such a project. Maybe I’ll do a picture of Christ’s passion like I did on a ‘74 Harley called “Old Slappy” for Larry a Christian biker friend of mine. There’s 12 coats of clear covering the tank mural and people walk up to it and rub their hands over it, but that’s another story.
I’d like to thank Mark DeCou whom I’ve had the privilege to correspond with, who is also building a casket for a loved one. Mark encouraged me to join LumberJocks and post this story.
-- Phil Brown, Ontario