View Full Version : Slightly morbid question here ...

Doug Shepard
01-18-2008, 9:11 PM
but Mom has dropped a hint a couple of times that she'd like me to make a box for her ashes so that's probably the first project I'm going to tackle once I get my workbench done. I've got a rough design idea but figure I'll make two, one for her and one for my Dad. I'll make the same size/shape on both but cant make up my mind on the wood. What do you think? Should I make these match or is it OK for one to be from one type of woods and different woods on the second? Is there a protocol for this kind of stuff? I don't really want to ask them as I'd like them to be somewhat of a surprise.

Stephen Beckham
01-18-2008, 9:24 PM

I don't think it's morbid, but would be an honor.

My grandparents asked my father to make them a promise. To make a box for them as well, but that wasn't the promise. The deal was that who ever passed first would be kept on the Mantle or safe place in the house waiting for the other to re-join them. Then both would be placed in their final place together once they were back in the same place....

Their ashes are both now resting together in the box dad made for them at the family plot.

One side note - be sure to mark the box or boxes. I witnessed a guy open an unknown 'pretty' box to spill unknown substance on the ground at a flea market. No confirmation - but I'd lay odds the nice box use to be someone's resting place.

Doug Shepard
01-18-2008, 9:30 PM
Their ashes are both now resting together in the box dad made for them at the family plot.

Hmmm. Hadn't thought about making a single box for both. That's another option.

Jim Becker
01-18-2008, 9:53 PM
Hmmm. Hadn't thought about making a single box for both. That's another option.

That's how we handled Professor Dr. SWMBO's parents once her mom passed away...they are both cohabitating in the same urn at Arlington.

I think it's a wonderful idea for you to tackle this project as it's a nice way to honor your parents with personal attention and craftsmanship.

Doug Shepard
01-19-2008, 7:52 AM
OK. This brings up some other questions though. How are the ashes provided by the crematorium? Ziploc bag? Loose inside a cardboard box? Something else? And if they're inside something like a Ziploc, do you leave them inside that bag when you put them in an urn or box? Or just pour them in loose? So if they're loose and you're using a common box for both parents, you just have them all mixed together? Or would you put a compartment divider inside a box?
I've been contemplating a vertical box with a lid that attaches with sliding dovetails. It's not like this is something that needs to be opened and closed a lot with hinges. I had wondered about how big of an opening I would need to get bagged ashes into the box, but loose ones would go through a smaller opening. Obviously a compartment divider on a vertical box is a bit trickier though if that's how they're normally done for shared boxes.
It's amazing how complicated I can make a simple box project.

Jim Becker
01-19-2008, 9:14 AM
In my (limited) experience, they provide the ashes to you in a plastic bag in a cardboard container if you didn't spend money on anything else...

To lighten this up a bit, but also help you decide how to design things...my aforementioned in-laws (now, but not at the time of their deaths) ensconced in their niche at Arlington are living in...an ice bucket. :D Really. Now, this is no ordinary thing...it's a carved Teak "ice bucket" from Thailand that was in the family since they lived there back in the 1960s ("government work" in Viet Nam...) and is simply beautiful. When Professor Dr. SWMBO's mom died a number of years ago, a simple, inexpensive cremation service was used at her request. The family (6 siblings plus spouses/significant others) decided that re-uniting the couple was a nice way to complete this journey, so an urn-for-two was necessary. We were all sitting around discussing this and for some reason, at nearly the same moment, several peoples' eyes fell on this beautiful carved piece sitting on the Chinese buffet. It really was the perfect choice and it was a rare moment that these folks could 1) come to a consensus and 2) do it quickly. It also broke a lot of tension and that was a good thing at the time. Prior to the internment service, the "kids" mixed the ashes into the container and then we epoxied the top on.

Now, many of the urns I've seen folks make have the entry (presumably there is no need for an exit...:) ) on the bottom rather than the top. This is both practical and also allows for a lot more flexibility on how you can design the top-of-the-box. I've seen this done on both flat work and turned urns. Unless there is objection from you and/or other family members, it will be far easier to allow both sets of ashes to be mingled when it comes to designing a small entry solution. One of the easiest to do would be a round hole on the bottom that a slightly tapered round plug could be inserted into. You could get fancy and thread it or use other ways to hold it temporarily, but secure with one occupant and then permanently glue it in place later.

I think you're going to find this to be a very interesting project because there are so many interesting aspects to think about. I also hope you'll share the project with us, too.

Josh Youngman
01-19-2008, 9:15 AM
The ashes ive seen come loose in a sheet metal box.

Josh Youngman
01-19-2008, 9:16 AM
The ashes ive seen come in a sheet metal box. I like the sliding dovetail top idea. No reason for hinges.

Chris Damm
01-19-2008, 9:59 AM
I made 2 matching boxes for my parents.After they died the ashes were put in the boxes and put in a columbarium where no one will ever see them. I wish I knew that was their plan before hand.

Cliff Rohrabacher
01-19-2008, 10:09 AM
Make it heavy. Ashes are not really just ashes. The bones don't burn 'cause they don't use enough heat to do so. Instead they grind 'em. The result is heavy.

mike holden
01-19-2008, 10:46 AM
FWIW, my parents came back in plastic boxes, brown in color with a "pebble" finish.
Brother-in-law is a glass blower and made two urns for them, and both now reside together in the family plot. (yes they are buried)

Jim King
01-19-2008, 12:40 PM
The one on the left is a double. The only question is who gets on top.


Greg Tatum
01-19-2008, 2:03 PM
I think it is a good idea and shows respect. When I make one for my mom, I'll be using quilted maple with jatoba accents...I like the contrast. If I were making 2, I would simply reverse the way I use the wood....jatoba with quilted maple accents. I made one for another family member and decided on a box instead of an urn. The first reason was because I don't know how to turn. The second reason was because....well, I guess that the first reason was enough......anyway, I like the idea of a box because I'm just a bit paranoid that an urn could be more easily knocked over and no one likes that.

hope this helps.


Mike Armstrong
01-19-2008, 3:00 PM
Hmmm, one or two? I don't know about that part. I'd try and select some special wood, maybe something that has a unique meaning to you, or more especially, to them.

I don't mean to trivialize your plan or equate the two situations with this comparison, but a co-worker of 25 yrs. asked me to make a reliquary for the ashes of their Lab that they had for about 16 yrs. This is a couple that had no children. He gave me some walnut from the family farm in Kansas that was about 60 yrs. old and had been floating around various garages and attics in the family over the years. I struggled for quite a while with the exact design, but he and his wife and I are pleased with the results. Maybe you come with a wood selection or design that would have a personal and special meaning.



Bruce Page
01-19-2008, 3:30 PM
Doug, Iím in the process of making two boxes for my in-laws. Iím making the box body from some cherry that was milled on their property. I did not have enough of the cherry for the top & bottom so Iím making them from lacewood.

Russ Cass
01-19-2008, 4:20 PM
Doug, I just made an urn for my FIL that passed this last November. I asked the funeral home if there were any legalities that I needed to worry about in Illinois and there were none.
They did ask that I make the bottom removable and not have a hinged lid like a cigar or jewelry box because it was easier for them to apply some silicone sealant in the bottom rabbet and screw down the bottom tight sealing the ashes inside.
The remains are in a plastic bag when they come from the crematorium, so this was just placed in the urn and sealed up tight.

Here's what it looked like made out of Jatoba with a wiped on poly finish.