Learn How to Build a Handmade Casket

Learn how to build a handmade casket for a green funeral, includes step-by-step instructions, a plywood primer and detailed diagrams in the image gallery.

| April/May 2003

Find out how to build a handmade casket using inexpensive wood for a low-cost, earth-friendly funeral.

Handmade Caskets

Make a Handmade Casket Using Air-Dried Lumber

Back in 1995, I attended the funeral of a well-loved gentleman who spent his 85-plus years living in the same modest country home where he grew up. He was a craftsman, skilled with wood, stone and soil, frugal as old-timers often are and simple in his tastes. But when I went to pay my last respects, I thought I'd somehow walked into the wrong funeral parlor. His coffin was huge, streamlined, made of shiny blue fiberglass and sporting more-than-ample fake gold hardware. It looked like something designed in a NASA wind tunnel. I learned later that this space-pod-to-eternity had cost $5,000, and that was the biggest shock of all. I couldn't have been any more surprised if my old friend had leaped out of the coffin wearing a silver jumpsuit and sequined go-go boots.

But coffins don't have to contradict the life of the person whose body they contain. You can make a wooden coffin yourself (or hire a woodworker) — it’s really very easy. Besides saving a bundle of money, making a coffin can reflect and celebrate the life of a specific person, providing a reminder of happy things at a time when sadness holds the upper hand. The best coffins are joyful epitaphs in wood. Several coffin plans exist in the image gallery to help get you started on making a homemade casket.

Advanced woodworkers may want to build a coffin from solid wood, and the drawings in the image gallery show you how to proceed. But if you don't have the tools or advanced skills to build the solid wood casket, you can use hardwood veneer plywood, following the same coffin plans. Regardless of the approach you choose, building a coffin is engaging, well within the reach of those with moderate skills, and a great way to be reminded of the need to live well now. Take it from me, there's nothing like building your own casket to be powerfully reminded of your own mortality.

I'm focusing on coffin plans with hardwood veneered plywood for two reasons. First, it makes this project easier than using solid wood, opening the handmade coffin option to more people. It also eliminates the need for equipment-intensive operations like milling and edge-gluing, while making the most frugal use of high-grade hardwood forest resources. Veneered plywood also is widely available and economical compared to many sources of solid wood.

7/19/2012 3:23:04 PM

My father had requested a homemade casket for his burial. He had a terminal disease and wanted to see it before he died. My husband and build it in our garage. the funeral told us how to measure and what materials were allowed in this area. we burnt his name on the side. Inside we placed items his mother had made in his childhood. It was stored at the funeral home until needed. He got to see pictures of it. We had a lot of comments on it. Even had requests to buid others. We build one more....for my mother. She wanted to use hers as curio/bookcase before it was needed. If you build a casket for someone, personalize it as much as possible. And let them see it. It's a true labor of love.

Dayton Fournier
12/17/2010 11:08:27 AM

How do I get the plans for these caskets? I could not fine the link to get to the plans? Thanks Dayton

sue kruskopf
11/11/2010 11:05:14 AM

More and more, people want to have their funerals personalized and this is another way to do it. On our free site,, you can let your loved ones know exactly what you want along with your homemade coffin, and ease their burden.

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