A couple of years ago my grandfather (and patriarch of the family) passed away. We had the funeral in Sudbury, Ontario where most of the family lived, but Poppy wanted to be buried in Newfoundland, where he’s from originally. The family decided that the burial would be the following summer to give as many of us as possible the chance to go. I was shocked and honored when asked if I would be willing to build his burial urn.
I decided that I would not tell the family about the design I was going to use, both so it could be a surprise to them and also because we have a BIG family and I didn’t want dozens of (well meaning) suggestions coming my way. Although it didn’t take long for my wife and I to start throwing some ideas around about how we wanted it to look.
I wanted to honour my grandfather for who he was. It took months of design work and 4 prototypes, but I finally decided that this design was the best way I could think to do that.
The box is made of black cherry, choke cherry being one of the only hardwoods native to Newfoundland (but not very good for building with). The top is birds eye maple, a popular wood for pool cues (my grandfather was a VERY good player). To symbolize his family, I put one spline in the corners for each of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The splines for his 7 children are: brass, walnut, red oak, willow, holly, apple and iron wood. Each of these representing something that makes them who they are. The splines for his grandchildren are ebony heart wood and his great-grandchildren are ebony sap wood. I chose this because I wanted to use the same type of wood for both and needed something with a striking colour difference.
I lined the inside of the box with actual pool table felt donated from his favorite pool hall in Sudbury. In the bottom I inlayed 3 nickles (Poppy was a nickle miner in Sudbury) showing the year of his birth, the year the family moved from Newfoundland to Ontario and the year of his death. I also inlayed a piece of slag from the nickle mine in Sudbury where he had worked. The last thing I inlayed in the bottom is a Veteran’s Memorial Quarter to represent his time in our Armed Forces.
I spent hours picking through the stacks at my local lumber yard to find just the right boards and my hands were almost shaking when it came time to make the first cut. The finish is a simple wipe-on varnish blend (thanks for the recipe Marc!!) and wax over that. I also put the box outside to tan a bit for a few weeks before we left for Newfoundland (I wanted the cherry to be as dark as possible).
The reactions from my family when they saw it ranged from stunned silence to great sobs and tears. Everyone thought it was a perfect way to honour the central figure of our family. This is definitely my proudest project and I thank my family for giving me the chance to make it.