Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

Finished Photos

Finished Photos

Project Completed 05/10/2012

Project Completed 05/10/2012

Back in February of 2012 my father passed away. I had built a cremation urn for him from a tree he played on as a child. After the funeral, my mother requested I build an urn for her as well.

Back in 2006 I built a bass guitar for Phil Zach. That bass was built from some walnut originating from the land my grandfather owned, where my mom grew up. When mom made her request for an urn my original intention was to use some of this walnut. It seemed only fitting that if dad's urn was made from walnut from his side of the family, then my mom's should be made from walnut on her side of the family.

Unfortunately, you can plan all you want but life often throws a wrench in things. My mom had been in poor health for a while prior to my father's death. Unfortunately during the months following my dad's passing, mom's health continued to decline rapidly. She died at 1:30 am on 5/7/2012, almost three months to the hour after my dad passed. Officially her cause of death was listed as heart and kidney failure. We all knew the real cause however: mom died of a broken heart.

During mom's final months, I didn't have the time to work on the urn. I came to realize how much time my father spent taking care of mom, as without him being around this responsibility fell to me and my brother. It felt like I didn't have a spare minute to even think about working in the shop.

My brother and I were at mom's side when she passed away. Later that afternoon we met at the funeral home to discuss plans for mom's memorial service. My first thought was regret that mom wouldn't have an urn made by me like dad did. My brother half asked, half challenged me to build one prior to the viewing scheduled for Friday. It was currently Monday and we had plenty of things going on that day. This meant that I would have three days to complete the urn from start to finish.

I decided I could do it, but I would have to make a few concessions. First, I wouldn't be able to use the wood from her father's land as it was still in a rough state and I just didn't have the extra time to mill it into dimensioned lumber. Second, given the time crunch I decided to do a satin finish rather than a glossier finish like dad's urn had. Satin finishes are much more forgiving.

Well, somehow I pulled it off. The urn was assembled in one day, and the finishing process took two days. Finishing usually takes weeks on many projects. However I had the benefit of not having to work this week which allowed me to be more flexible with my time.

The rough size of the urn is 13" wide by 9" deep by 8" tall.

This finish is my own custom blend of wiping varnish, done in satin.

The top is actually made up of two pieces glued together, grain matched so the seam is almost invisible. I am proud to say I did this project without using a speck of wood filler.

The ashes are placed inside by removing a panel on the bottom.

Click here to see the whole construction process.

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018