How to Build a Coffin From Scratch or From Plans

Julie Kirk
Contributor: Mary Beth Adomaitis
wooden coffin

Finding instructions on how to build a coffin isn't that difficult if you know what you want and where to look. Nowadays, with the cost of burials at an all-time high, some are turning to do-it-yourself caskets as a cost-cutting measure. Others, however, are constructing their own coffins so they know their final resting place will be exactly what they envisioned.

Basic Instructions on How to Build a Coffin

The internet is full of images and diagrams on building coffins, albeit most of them are for props or Halloween gags. To construct a sturdy casket that will withstand the weight of a deceased person's body and the wear and tear of being placed into the ground, one should follow some basic directions:

Materials to Build a Coffin

You can buy standard materials or you can look into purchasing biodegradable materials if you plan to have a natural burial. Basic materials and tools needed include:

  • Pine, mahogany or other hardwood (enough for the casket as well as the lid)
  • Hinges and latches
  • Screws and/or nails
  • Wood glue
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Sealant
  • Fabric of your choice to line the coffin

Steps to Build a Coffin

When building a coffin you should follow these basic step-by-step instructions:

  • Measure the person for whom the casket is being constructed. One size does not fit all. Include length, shoulder width, and feet size (for casket height).
  • Write out your blueprints to include these measurements.
  • For a rectangular casket, cut the lid and base of the burial container the same size. The length and width of the walls should equal those of the lid and base.
  • Use 1 5/8-inch screws to attach the walls to the base.
  • Hinges can be used to attach the lid to the bottom half of the container.
  • Seal the seams and screw holes with wood glue and sealant.
  • Attach any extras you may want including handles, designs or trim.

Tips to Build a Casket

A few additional odds and ends to consider:

  • Make sure when measuring for the coffin, you leave enough additional space so the person rests comfortably inside. There should also be additional room for the lining and personal belongings that may be buried with the deceased individual.
  • Hire an experienced seamstress to sew a soft casket liner from the fabric that you choose, which can include silk, cotton or satin.
  • Make sure you decide between a casket or a coffin, there is a difference. While it's not unusual for the terms to be used interchangeably, technically a casket is four-sided and a coffin is six-sided.
  • You can add your own personal touches to your casket. You may want to hire a skilled woodworker to add a flourish or a unique design to your casket. You may want to paint your casket a special color or a certain motif. The options are endless and anything is possible.

Where to Find Casket Plans and Kits

Using plans or kits can be a simple approach to building your own casket. Try some of these options:

  • Northwoods Casket Company offers detailed instructions on their website on how to build your own casket. They also have a build your own pine casket kit that includes all materials needed.
  • Casket Plans has an array of options on their website which includes blueprints and casket plans for building your own, DIY casket kits, casket furniture plans and accessories and hardware.
  • Rockler Company has a wood casket plan that includes detailed drawings and step-by-step instructions on how to build the casket.
  • Ark Wood Caskets has a pine casket kit for natural green burials. It is easy and quick to assemble by joining the six panels simply by tapping in their self-gluing dowels. This is a simpler option for those who are not so handy.

If You Aren't Ready to Use Your Casket

Chances are, if you built your casket, you are planning for your inevitable demise. But that doesn't mean you can't use your homemade burial container for other uses until your time comes. Although it sounds creepy, some individuals actually use their pre-made casket as a piece of furniture in their homes. Coffins have been known to be used as:

  • Bookshelves
  • Coffee tables
  • Props for Halloween (when used with a skeleton inside)
  • Chest to store extra blankets or linens
  • With the addition of glass shelves, you could display your collectibles
  • A "fake" guest bed (if you and your guest have a sense of humor); just add a pillow and a blanket
  • Storage for pretty much anything else. To hide your casket from guests, just cover it with a tablecloth or similar linen. No one will know the difference.

A Practical Send Off

Building a casket is not as morbid as one may think. If you are an experienced carpenter and want to save some money when you die and are buried, then this may be the way to go.

How to Build a Coffin From Scratch or From Plans