Turning a Cremation Urn

After a busy summer carving for other people I was looking forward to taking a vacation and coming home to work on some of my own projects. My Mexican vacation was great. I left the cold Connecticut weather behind and bathed in the tropical sun and ocean. Unfortunately, while I was away, my father died. He had been sick in the hospital for about six months, so it wasn’t a total surprise.

I got my father interested in wood turning about 5 years ago and he fell in love with it. Soon he was doing a lot more turning than I ever did. His name was Victor Castle and I have a link to his website on the right side column of this page.

My father was also a serious bass fisherman. He used to compete in the large tournaments, and when he retired, he moved to Texas on Lake Fork, one of the top bass lakes in the country.

When he died, my father wanted his ashes in Lake Fork, but not spread in the usual way, he wanted them kept together. I thought it was only fitting that I turn him a nice cremation urn on my lathe so he can live on the bottom of the lake in style.

The ideal material for his urn would have been stainless steel. Carefully sealed, it would keep the water out indefinitely.  But, like me, my father was a wood guy, so I had to design something that would be water tight and have no edges that a fishing lure would hook onto. I chose mahogany as the wood because it holds up to water very well. In fact, when I was on vacation in Mexico, all of the docks along the water were made of mahogany.

After glueing up the wood with waterproof epoxy,  I turned the urn to shape and hollowed it out through a 1 inch hole in the top. Once hollowed, I threaded the 1 inch hole, then turned the cap with a with a tenon that I threaded to fit the hole in the main body. In other words the cap screws on. Once his ashes are inside I will epoxy the threads and screw the cap on making it water tight.

Wood by itself won’t keep the water out for long so after I carved his name on the side I covered then entire urn in 3 layers of fiberglass resin. The resin is waterproof (boats are made of it) and it dries clear so the wood shows through nicely. Once the fiberglass dried I sanded it smooth and sprayed it with tw0 coats of automotive urethane clear coat. It now shines like a bowling ball. The clear coat also adds another layer of waterproofing. To finish it off, I turned a solid brass finial out of an old chunk of hard Naval brass I had laying around. My father served in the navy. 

So now I have this beautiful, waterproof (hopefully) urn. Somehow I have to get it to sink to the bottom of Lake Fork, and stay there. Wood is buoyant. Add an air space, and sinking this urn will be a challenge. Fortunately, I have laying around a ten pound lead ball that should work great. And keeping with the theme, it happens to be a large, deep sea fishing weight. I screwed a threaded rod into the lead and installed a threaded insert into the bottom of the urn. All I have to do is screw the weight to the bottom of the urn and let it sink to the bottom of the lake.

I hope pop likes it.

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