Not Your Typical Cabinet Shop
Can you guess what’s being built in this woodshop? Hint: It ain’t cabinets.
We’re All Going To Die!
No really, it’s true. We all are going to die. So with that in mind I thought it would be fun (in a morbid sort of way) to check out a woodshop that specializes in building caskets, coffins (there is a difference) and urns. This woodshop has another interesting feature—it’s owned and operated by Trappist monks. The proceeds from Trappist Caskets help sustain their life at the New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, IA. The monks were kind enough to let me snoop around the shop. Read on to learn how they build them.
The glue machine
After the rough sawn lumber is run though the planer and cut to various lengths, the boards are sent to the glue machine. There are multiple clamps on this slick contraption, which can clamp and glue short boards for the raised panels as well as the long boards for the sides. Before each clamp starts squeezing the boards together, an arm comes down from above and pushes down to make sure everything is lined up.
Match the grain
The wood grain patterns on each piece are carefully matched to the one next to it, so the finished product has a sense of continuity rather than resembling a checkerboard.
Save money on the bottom
A cleat is installed to hold the bottom boards, which are made from ash and other less expensive wood. They’re installed perpendicular to the sides so shorter, less perfect boards can be used. The monks build their caskets with quality in mind, but affordability is their true mission. Simple pine caskets sell for as little as $1500!
It’s all about the reveals
One of the most important step when building a lid is ending up with consistent reveals (the gap between the cove and the top panel is especially important). Minor imperfections are fine tuned by sanding the edge of the cove.
Dress up the inside
The padding and upholstery looks comfortable when they’re done, but I was told these final resting places don’t actually feel that great to lay in. That said, they have not had a single complaint.
Awaiting the blessing
Every casket, coffin and urn is blessed by a monk before being shipped out. This is my favorite step. I’m not even Catholic, but I’ll take all the help I can get!
Pay now, receive later
As you can imagine, folks don’t really want a casket cluttering up house until it’s ready to be used. So most of their customers buy while they are still among the living, and then their family will have one delivered when the time comes. They even offer free delivery within 50 miles of the Abbey!
My visit to Trappist Caskets was extremely interesting. I appreciate the time and hospitality of these true craftsmen. For more information check out https://trappistcaskets.com/.