Wood Turned Cremation Urn

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Wooden cremation urns are an option instead of buying brass or metallic urns for a loved one's remains. While wood will not be as enduring as metal and will be subject to humidity changes and deterioration of the finish over the years, it is a nice alternative. I have had several people generate interest in having one made. While there are many methods by different wood turners this page outlines the basic steps I have used. Several things must be taken into consideration such as type of wood and whether solid or built up construction. Solid can be expensive depending on the wood used and may require long reach boring/hollowing tools. Built up sections can be solid or laminate. Glued up sections still requires hollowing style tools to reach depth of longer sections. The size must accommodate the person's remains which 1 lb. equals about 1 cubic in of volume as general rule. The type of finish applied must be enduring as well and would probably provide protection on the inside as well from possible reactions with the ash remains, humidity and wood. Below are the steps I used for this wooden cremation urn and questions, pointers and constructive advice are always welcome.


    

First step :

This is a glued up block of walnut for the main body of an urn. A solid piece could have been used, but trying to find one on a moments notice isn't always easy. 2 sources had their trees cut, slabbed, and hauled off before I could salvage anything.

Everything was squared up and glued using Tite-Bond II. The overall length is 7". The screws on the faceplate reach in about 1/2" into the stock. This body will be about 6" in length when turned down. There will be a glued on base and crown with a cap.  A squarish hole runs down the center so that makes it for easy alignment on the faceplate. This will have a stave type appearance instead of a segmented style.

 

 

   

Step Two :

The assemblage is rough turned round to just above the desired diameter. Glue joints are checked and top edge is squared and sanded to the right diameter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Third Step :

Now I turned down to the contour in the plans. I stay as close as possible while making maximum use of the dimensions to make sure I have the most volume for the remains. This is a good time to smooth up the outside and fix/fill any voids or gaps. Once it is hollowed I will sand off the  whiskers from the body and probably apply several layers of Tung Oil finish to fill the pores and get some build up for polishing later.

 

 

 

 

 

Step Four :

I begin hollowing with the Sorby swan neck tool and boring bar tool. Maximum depth that can be hollowed is about 7" to 8"  from literature I read online. The practical limit for me is pushing around 6". The tool rest reaches into the cavity to allow for deeper hollowing. Here it is almost 5 1/2" , about complete with the interior to be smoothed down and sealed before parting from the lathe.

Got to watch my step here as there is lots of chatter and the walls are thin as I near TD - Total Depth . Also, I will want to sand and fill the pores to the outside before I remove it from the lathe. I can hand polish later when the other pieces are added.

 

 

The main body has now been parted off. Defects and voids have been filled and smoothed. The outside was de-whiskered. Several layers of Tung Oil have been rubbed in to the outside and 2 layers to the inside. I rub with #0000 steel wool to smooth out the dried finish before rubbing in the next. The glue block is attached to the faceplates so I can turn the crown and the base.  I  will eventually switch to a NOVA Midi chuck for the crown. and will leave a tenon on it for that purpose.

Steps 4,5, & 6

           

         Base on a glue block chuck.                         Crown on glue block, shaped and sanded.           Crown on a Midi for fitting and hollowing.

The crown has been hollowed and fitted to the body. I use a witness mark to keep the same alignment with each fitting before final gluing. Then the crown is reversed and mounted in Cole jaws to hollow out the entire piece. It is then sanded and readied for finishing. The body is then perforated in it's base and the bottom removed. Complete cleanup and removal is done with a Dremel tool with drum sander or a Foredom  tool with similar abrasive head. I wouldn't try to remove the rough edge while on the lathe; too much lateral torque as it extends about 6" from the rubber grips of the Cole Jaws. However, a line could be etched with a soft pencil to guide the perforations and subsequent clean up with the Dremel. Now, the base is turned to size, beveled the upper edge, and snug fitted to the body of the urn. Then that is hollowed out to depth and the outside turned down to final size and contour. When done it can be reversed in the Cole jaws and the base undercut and finished.

Step 7:   The main body is now glued to the crown and base. Dyed Acra-Glas gel was used in this case. Everything sanded flush and finished. Tung oil is being applied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Step 8:   The  knob type cap is actually glued to a wooden  faceplate and a tenon is turned on the stock before mounting in a Midi-chuck to turn the desired  shape. Here a small stippled band was put near the bottom edge. Other thoughts could be a silver inlay wire, gold leafing , or other highlighted design utilized for the designers tastes. I would make sure there was something matching on the base of the urn as well. Another idea is to somewhat hollow the cap if desired. The cap could also be threaded or as in my next project  be drilled for tiny brass nails or screws to secure it in place with a decorative carved band. Finials could be adapted or even carvings of  your choice could be applied. The tenon will be sanded off before this portion of the cap will be finished.

 

 

 

This is the urn completed, but the finish has not yet been fully applied. That is an ongoing   hand rubbing sequence. I think on future urns similar to this I will incorporate contrasting wood in some places or inlaid silver wire or gold leafing in the stippled band on the cap. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Thanks for looking. I am always looking to improve so please feel free to drop a email about designs, finishes, constructive ideas or techniques. You can find me on a wood turner's forum  or with the  Dallas Area Woodturner's.

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Home               October 11, 2009               email