Coffin Plans

Quick Coffin plans.  Scroll down for Plywood Coffin plans.  Email crlakin@colby.edu for a 13mb file of a coffin-making  technique requiring  more woodworking experience.  (See pictures of coffins made with this technique on the Workshop page.)

How to Make the Quick Coffin

Materials:
6    1x10x8′
4    1x8x10′
2    1x3x8′ or 1 1x6x8′ ripped in half
1    1x4x6′
1    2x2x8′
1 lb.  2″ screws (I like the 1 ¾” GRK screws. They are brass-colored and the head is decorative.)
18  1 ¼” screws (or 1 3/8″ GRKs)
The dimensions in these instructions will make a coffin with inside measurements of 78″ long, 22 ½” wide and 14 ½” deep.  The width and depth measurements work for most people, and the length should be about four inches longer than the person is tall.Cut the 2×2 into four 14 ½ inch long pieces and four 9 inch pieces.  It’s a nice touch to cut a miter on the ends of the nine inch pieces.  Leave the 14 ½” pieces square.Cut all four 1x8s into two pieces, one 78″ long and one 27″ long.  Take two 78″ pieces, put them side-by-side with the good side down and slide a 14 1/2″ 2×2 under the ends.  Align the ends of the 1x8s with the edge of the 2×2 and drive two or three screws through the 1×8 into the 2×2.  Then screw two of the nine inch 2x2s spanning the joint between the two 1x8s and about 27″ in from each end.quick coffin image
Here’s one assembled side standing upright and the other in process.Now screw a  27″ 1×8 to the bottom end of the 2×2 on each end of one of the assembled sides (the 2x2s go on the outside of the coffin).  Put the second side in place and screw through the end pieces into the 2×2.  Set the other two 27″ 1x8s on top of the ones you just installed and screw them into place.

quick coffin image
The first end piece attached to a side.

quick coffin image
One more end piece to attach.

If there is an up side and a down side to the coffin at this point, turn the assembly bottom side up.  Cut three of the 1x10s into nine 27 1/2″ long pieces.  Screw these pieces to the bottom of the coffin running perpendicular to the length of the coffin.  Let the first piece hang over the edge of the end by 1 1/2″, and then put the piece on the other end in place, also with 1 ½” overhang.  Put the other pieces in place and screw them in.  You may need to play with it a little.

quick coffin image
Attaching the bottom pieces.

Cut the 1×4 into three 22 ¼” pieces.  Cut the remaining three 1x10s to 82 ½” long.  Butt the 1x10s to one another, bottom side up.  The three 1x10s will give a top that will measure a little more than 27 ¾” wide.  You may cut one of the boards to a narrower width so the top is just 27 ½” wide when assembled. The 1x4s are cleats that will hold the top together.  Place one cleat 2 ½” in from each end of the top, centered between the sides of the outside boards, and screw them into place using the short screws.  Screw the third cleat in the middle of the top.

quick coffin image
The top, bottom side up, being assembled.

Cut the 1x3s to 79 ½” long.  These are the handles, so round the edges to make lifting the coffin comfortable.  Screw the 1x3s to the 2x2s on the outside of each side of the coffin.  The coffin is now ready to be sanded and decorated.  Before it is used, you may want to put a piece of plastic on the inside bottom and run it a few inches up the sides and ends and spread a few inches of sawdust or wood shaving in the bottom of the coffin.

quick coffin image
The finished product.

 

 

How to Make a Plywood Coffin

Tools:

  • A saw to cut 2x2s to length.
  • A drill to drill screw holes and rope holes, and to drive screws.
  • 1/8″ drill bit (for pilot holes for the screws)
  • 1/2″ drill bit (for the rope handle holes)
  • Screw driver bit

With these instructions and materials, you can make a coffin up to about (inside measurements) 79″ (6’7″) x 31″ x 16″. In my experience, a coffin should be 4″ to 6″ longer than the person is tall. Interior width and depth are usually 22″ wide and 12″ deep, but you’ll have the material to make it the size you want. Measure the width and depth of the person while they are lying down. If the person will be buried in a conventional cemetery, the coffin should be a maximum of 29″ wide outside, because the cemetery usually requires a grave liner or a vault, which will be only 30″ wide. (Green cemeteries do not allow vaults.) Call to check their regulations.

If you don’t have a table saw, or a friend who owns one, you can still make this coffin easily. About half the lumberyards in my area plus Home Depot and Lowe’s will cut the plywood for you, for a reasonable fee. Call and ask.

IL = Interior length
IW = Interior width
IH = Interior height



The top of the coffin will be attached by driving screws through the ends into the cleat on the underside of the top.

When cutting the rope, wrap masking tape around the rope at the point of the cut, then cut through the middle of the tape. This keeps the rope from unraveling and makes it easy to pass the rope through the holes. Tie an overhand knot in one end of the rope, pass it out through one hole and in through the other, then tie another overhand knot on the inside.

Sand anything that looks to you like it should be sanded, and finish it in any way you choose. I like to put a coat of shellac on my coffins. It gives the wood a richer look, and it prepares the surface for staining or painting. Consider encouraging the family and friends to decorate the coffin. Jerri Lyons, a home funerals pioneer, calls decorating the coffin “a healing act of art therapy.”

If you want your coffin to look a little classier, add one inch to the length and width of the top and bottom pieces. This will allow the top and bottom to overhang the sides and ends by 1/2″, which means you don’t have to get every edge