FREDERICTON -- It has been called the Ikea of the coffin world: A ready-to-assemble casket kit.
New Brunswick woodworker Jeremy Burrill has been selling simple pine caskets locally for about two years, aiming to give people an affordable and more environmentally friendly option for their send-offs.
But when the owner of Fredericton's Fiddlehead Casket Co. decided to expand his business beyond the local market, he found shipping the coffins to be expensive because of their heft and size.
So, the entrepreneur came up with an unconventional solution -- a "stripped-down," do-it-yourself casket kit that could be easily assembled and shipped anywhere a delivery truck can travel.
Hence, the comparisons to the Scandinavian chain known for its ready-to-assemble furniture.
"It is like that, but there are no Allen keys to fuss with," Burrill said with a chuckle. "The response has been generally positive, but there have been a few people who have put their eyebrows up and been like, 'What? A kit for a casket? I'd never do that.'
"It's just totally not their thing, but a lot of people say, 'Oh that's what I want -- just give me something simple and don't make a big fuss about it."'
Burrill came up with the kit idea after he started getting inquiries for his rudimentary caskets from people in the United States, B.C., and other parts of Canada. He discovered that the cost of shipping the plain boxes would be about $1,000 -- roughly the same cost of his already assembled coffins.
He fiddled with the design of his assembled casket and came up with one that could be put together on the receiver's end in about a half an hour, though he says he can do it 10 minutes or less.
He's been marketing the $700 kit for about two weeks, and has already had orders from B.C. and Ontario.
Burrill said he also wanted to expand the reach of his business, since funeral directors were constrained by contracts that didn't easily allow them to buy caskets from anyone other than two big suppliers.
"There were a lot of barriers and a lot of them just didn't get it and would say, 'Why would anyone want that, why wouldn't they want one of these fancy hardwood ones like I have?"' he said, adding that a conventional casket can start at around $2,000.
The 35-year-old woodworker says the biodegradable, all-wood kits include 10 pine panels, 38 cherry pins for joinery and a rubber mallet. They do not have any metal and are joined with wooden pegs.
His assembled caskets include cotton cushioning filled with wood shavings to minimize waste and were inspired by a relative looking for a simpler coffin than what they found at local funeral homes.
He said his family asked him to make one for his grandfather, a cattle farmer who died last year. Burrill said he added a personal touch to the casket by writing an expression on the inside that his grandfather used to say "as a bit of a farewell."
"I carried it in and out of the church so that was a bit different, I mean, the emotions around that," he said. "Looking back on it, I was proud to have been able to do that for him."
-- By Alison Auld in Halifax
While I haven’t had an official blessing by a rabbi, conversations I have had indicate that they would be appropriate. Simple design, no metal parts, back to the earth. If your community needs a certain number of holes in the bottom for direct contact to the earth that is no problem. Thanks for the question.
Has you casket been approved for Jewish internment?
My 96 year old dad is close to the end. A WWII pilot and life long aviation enthusiast, he probably would say he’s “on final approach and close to touchdown”. He was also a woodworker and pine was his favorite. I’m intrigued by what you do. How long would it take to ship to CA? And I don’t have his skills but some friends of mine do. What do you think? Thank you. Bob Huttle
I’m the head of a group of advanced amateur woodworkers — the Ark Builders of Temple Israel — who’re thinking about offering coffin kits to members of our congregation (Temple Israel of Natick) who’d purchase one in anticipation of — or immediately after — the death of a spouse, child, parent or other family member. We know from personal experience that building a loved one’s coffin is a final act of love and respect, and we want to offer our fellow congregants that opportunity for closure.
As the group’s chief designer, I created a build-it-yourself coffin kit: while it differs from yours in how the panels are joined, it too can be assembled in 15 minutes or less, requires no tools, and employs no metal fasteners. But when I went online and discovered yours – a much better design than mine -, I realized that we might better serve our fellow congregants by offering them your kit instead.
Apologies for the late replies!
Lawrence: Pricing and ordering can be found here https://casketkit.com/products/build-it-yourself-pine-casket
Grace: Shipping prices are calculated based on your address, follow the link above. Outer dimensions are 15" high, 24" wide, 80" long.