I have made two caskets, both for personal friends. It doesn't feel
right to have a 'casket in waiting' to me, even though both deaths were
expected. So both were built in the couple day time frame between death
and funeral. Hence, they had to be built quickly, and were nothing
extravagant, though of course they couldn't be crude or hasty. Both
people were cremated, and this necessitates there being no metal in the
casket's construction (because it doesn't burn in the furnace).
I feel my design is successful for a nice but simple, moderately easy
and fast to build do-it-yourself casket in plywood.
It's mostly made from 2 sheets of 3/4" nice veneer plywood (if the
person is over 6' tall, it might require 3 sheets).
Cut 2 rips @ ~17", one off each sheet. These each become one end and
one side. Edge band (using your favorite method) both long edges of
each rip. Cut a 1/2" wide, 1/4" deep dado on one side of each rip, 2"
from an edge.
Then from each rip:
crosscut two ends, one off each rip, @ ~24"
crosscut the remainder for two sides, @ the person's height plus ~5"
The remainder of the original sheets become the top and bottom:
The bottom dimensions are: (end width + 1/2") x (side length + 1/2").
Cut a 1/4" x 1/4" rabbet into the bottom all the way around. Adjust the
router base or tablesaw blade height so the 1/4" thickness-wise cut
leaves the plywood a precise 1/2" thick. The bottom piece needs no
The top dimensions are: (end width + ~3 3/4") x (side length + ~3
3/4"). The top wants to be edgebanded all around.
At the four corners are solid wood legs, ~ 1 3/4" x 1 3/4" x 19"
Biscuit join the legs to the ends of the side pieces. The legs should
each have one face flush to the side's inside face, and an end flush to
the side's edge.
Same procedure with the ends, on adjacent leg faces, so when
everything's glued up the inside faces of the ends and sides end up
touching right at the inside corner of the legs (hopefully makes
The bottom's rabbeted edge glues into the dado in the ends/sides.
I did two glue ups. First is legs to sides. You'll need some long pipe
or bar clamps.
The secong glue up is of course the ends between the side/leg
assemblies, capturing the rabbeted edge of the bottom in the dado. The
glue in the perimeter dado/rabbet joint gives the casket a lot of
The top piece simply covers the whole top of the box, over hanging the
legs by about 1/8". Two judiciously sized and positioned wood cleats
glued to the inside of the top register it and make a snug fit.
The finished casket has around 2" of sides sticking down past the
bottom panel. Past this it sits on its legs around 2" off the ground.
This creates an easy to grasp, continuous handhold around the casket,
without any hardware at all.
That's about it. If there's much interest, I can post up some drawings
to clarify this.