The mother of all DIY projects has arrived. And this one involves making something you, and only you will ever use. Your coffin.
A class that teaches people to build their own caskets is indeed available in Grand Marais, northern Minnesota. It is run by a forty-five year-old professional wood worker, Randy Schnobrich. The three-day course costs around $750, $470 of which is spent on materials alone. Participants are taught and supervised while they construct a coffin from cabinet grade pine, an inch in thickness.
The USP of this class, apart from building coffins of course, is the fact that very few power tools are used. Most of the construction work is done using hand tools such as planes and saws, as opposed to heavy machinery. Schnobrich feels that the use of hand tools is, in some ways, the very essence of the school.
The casket course is a part of the North House Folk School where people from various parts of the Midwest learn to work on traditional crafts – boatbuilding, basketry, toolmaking, woodworking, and many others.
It is rather hard and also weird to picture a bunch of people sweating it out, day in and day out, building something they will never use as long as they are alive. To some, such an activity may seem morbid. But for the people who actually go through with the class, it is a way to maintain an intimate connection with the end of their life, according to Schnobrich.
One of Schnobrich’s most memorable students was Carla, a retired teacher who died of cancer shortly after making her own coffin. In fact, she was undergoing chemotherapy just before she signed up for the class. This woman, in her mid-sixties was so fatigued, recounts Schnobrich, that she had to nap several times during the course of the three days. In the end, she was quite pleased with what she had accomplished.
Of course, a coffin can’t just be kept on display around the house until the time comes for its use. So people end up using it as a bookshelf or coffee table. Some DIY kits can be used to build caskets that are makeshift billiards tables, sofas or entertainment centers.
The coffin-making course and its popularity serves as a reminder to us that there are still people out there who value a real connection over expensive and plush options.