|Project by greg48||posted 10-20-2013 11:15 PM||1425 views||2 times favorited||8 comments|
I was recently commissioned by the local parish priest to help him and his brother build a coffin for their father who had very recently died. Their father was once the chief forester of a sawmill company in southern California after the war (WWII) and had hand picked some birds eye Jeffery Pine (P. jeffreyi) off the green chain of the mill. I had never seen birds eye pine before and was intrigued with the wood that was being provided by the brothers.
The boards came in 1” x 12’ X 8’ lengths and were surfaced on two sides. Over the years (60+), the boards had become slightly cupped and bowed, but otherwise were in excellent condition. The only constraints we had was that it had to fit in a prescribed dimension plastic vault, the builders had very limited knowledge of power tools, and we only had two days to complete it. No problem.
Construction started with milling the 6/4 incense cedar floorboards with a tongue and groove joint and we applied a 2” x 2” cleat screwed and glued around the bottom to attach the side boards. The top boards were tongue and grooved. The side boards were butt jointed using biscuits for alignment and a triangular brace screwed from the insides for strength.
Rope handles were considered, but thought was given to the knuckles of the pall bearers and we came up with handles using closet rod and shop made brackets which were glued and screwed from the inside. The closet rods were kept in place with 1/4” dowels tapped into the ends of the rods.
Due to the lack of curing time, we decided against staining the wood and applying several coats of oil. Instead, we just sprayed some quick drying Varathane aerosol on the outside. By morning of the third day the casket was delivered to the local mortuary for the memorial service that evening.
The project was not significant in its design, joinery, fit, or finish. My part of the project was in setting up the machinery and instructing the brothers in the safe operation of said machines. No resultant cuts or loss of appendages. My reward was in helping two men of the cloth prepare a fitting receptacle for the father they loved. As Fr. Roy said, “ It’s just what dad would want”.
-- Greg, No. Cal.