Coffin Carpentry (Part 1)

I know we’re almost a month past Halloween, but between changing from in-person school to Hybrid learning, and working on the house, it just hadn’t happened yet!

We’re taking the pandemic very seriously. We are smart, we understand science, and are doing everything we can to keep ourselves and other people safe. It was months before we went into a store (and only if there is no other option), we’ve still not been to restaurants beyond Door Dash and carry-out, and we haven’t seen family (save one outdoor lunch with Doug’s mother) since Christmas. School provides challenges, but the staff and students are handling them well. I’ve made myself dozen of masks with pockets and filters, in hopes of keeping my allergy-riddled, vocal cord-issued self safe while being around lots of kids blowing instruments directly at me (their instruments are masked, too!). Doug has been working from home since March, with no plans to go back for a long time.

But – we live in a state that definitely doesn’t take this virus as seriously as we do. We were expecting – especially as numbers in our county began to rise, that Halloween would be cancelled. But, it was not. I’m not sure that this was the smartest plan, but since we live on the most famous Halloween Street in town, we had decisions to make. Do we keep our lights off? Not decorate? Participate? So many thoughts.

And while so many people have lost so many events and life-moments to this virus, I definitely selfishly cried over Halloween this year. We have been waiting for this year for ages – when Halloween would be on a Saturday, and we could have friends in from ALL OVER to celebrate and see the festivities on our street. And it is completely ridiculous to be sad over missing a trivial holiday, when people are sick and dying and hurting.

We decided that – even though we can’t have people over – that we would participate in the street’s activities and pass out candy. Doug said, “Other people have vastly different priorities than we do. We can keep ourselves safe, and trust parents to keep their children safe if they choose to come out.” And, there were a lot of people that came out, and many that didn’t seem safe. (Please everyone, we love you. Wear a mask, take care of each other, and stay home as much as you can.) BUT, I’m not going to make this a post about that – it’s a post about making your Halloween decorations even more ridiculous and building a coffin. We saw lots of cool ideas for candy chutes and the like online, but with over 1,000 kids historically, we thought that would take too long. Watching our neighbors do it, it probably would have been fine. But we decided to build a coffin that would hold a ton of candy, block people from coming on the porch, and be a cool prop in future years.

There are a lot of pictures, so I’m going to do this in two posts. Not because I think you’ll get bored if it’s a long post, but I don’t have the attention span to write a long post.

Doug did all the maths, and sketched out the coffin base on an old sheet of plywood.

And cut it out with a circular saw.

Next, he used the base, to make the pattern for the lid – just an inch wider than the base.

The lid and the sides we did out of stain-grade plywood. Because WHY NOT.

The bottom laying on the top!

Using the lid and the base as a template, we built the sides. Doug figured out all the angles to get it all right!

Nothing is screwed together yet, but we (okay, *I*) wanted to make sure that one of the 5′ skeletons could fit inside of it. And of course he could, because Doug knows how to make the math work.

Doug figured out the angles to cut the boards, and moved the table saw to the correct angle.

He used these measurements to make blocks for the inside, to give it more stability, and also to give a solid place to screw into. We wanted to build it in a way that we could store it flat in the off-season.

Angled inside blocks!

Since the sides were going to wrap the outside of the bottom piece, clamps were used to set the support blocks in place to be attached to the bottom.


I think it wants a hug.

Next, the sides could go on!

It’s starting to take shape – and looks really good. Doug did an amazing job with the measurements and angles.

Then came the fancy! First, we used inexpensive baseboard to wrap the bottom.

At this point, if it were possible to have a Doctorate in Angles, he’d be there.

Pretty much every time I came into the room to help or visit, all I could say was “THIS IS SO COOL.”

Supervisor’s gonna supervise. Safely, of course.

Next, we wrapped a moulding around the top part of the coffin. So fancy!

Done! You can see the screw holes – that allows the whole thing to be taken apart and stored flat, if we decide to do so.

We wanted to bring out the grain and have a fun finish, so I blow torched the outside of it! Here are some test pieces, to make sure I didn’t completely mess something up, or burn the neighborhood down.

Grain Before.

Grain After.

It’s really rather soothing, to be honest. Though it also makes you crave creme brûlée, so there’s that.

Done with the torching!

This guy is excited!

They all are, I’m sure.

If you want to watch 3 minutes of me burning the grain, it really is mesmerizing.

Back inside for more finish work!

Here’s the lid.

We added a gold trim to the outside of the lid – this was leftover from something we did in the kitchen. Always save all your leftover moulding, because sometime you might need to build a coffin for a holiday, and it’s really helpful!

I did a dark stain first on the outside.

Stain going on!

Don’t mind the random skeleton just chillin’ on the floor in the other room.

After the stain, the whole thing got a nice coating of marine varnish, since it’ll be outside.

This also really made the color and the grain pop so beautifully, way more than I thought it would.

It’s kind of ridiculous how pretty this is, and also ridiculous how much I want to just use it as a blanket chest year round.

But that’s probably weird, right?

More to come!


  1. You should DEFINITELY use the coffin as a blanket chest! Maybe put “bun feet”, inset on the base, so it looks like it’s hovering off the floor? A couple of hinges, or a long piano hinge & you’ve got the coolest blanket chest ever! 😉🌸

  2. This is soooooo cool Amy!!! A blanket chest is a great idea, but I was thinking that if I had a coffin it would be a good place to store other Halloween decorations.

    I think people really need Halloween and other fun stuff more than ever this year. I did not expect to get any trick or treater’s this year. We did get three though. The previous owners of our house were not friendly to the neighborhood. Our first year we got 0, then over the past four years up to our grand total of 30 last year.

  3. Fantastic! It looks great and I love that you came up with such a fun solution to the distancing dilemma.

    (Also, I adore those little side stairs off of your front porch.)

  4. Ooh. It should be a blanket chest in your guest room! I love your creativity. What a fabulous project.

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