When I was in Charleston, S.C., last week one of the tour guides said something about cabinetmaker Thomas Elfe that stuck with me.
“Most of his work is buried in the ground.”
One of the primary jobs of early joiners and cabinetmakers was building coffins, and these projects have always fascinated me. Frank Klausz built plenty of coffins in his native Hungary. Chinese woodworkers make coffins out of one single log, like a dugout canoe. And they’re illegal.
And one of our former illustrators, John McCormick, tried to go into business selling inexpensive pine coffins that functioned as bookshelves up until the time you needed them for your earthly remains.
And today the New York Times published an interesting story about the rise of home funerals and featured the work of a Maine woodworker who builds coffins that double as almost Ikea-like bookshelves. (Honestly, the bookshelves built by our illustrator years ago were uber-creepy. “Yes, I decorated this room in the Early Elvira Style.”)
As I get older, however, the idea of building my own coffin appeals to me. I couldn’t imagine paying $6,000 for a commercially-made highboy while I’m alive, so why should I ask my family to shell out those big bucks for a coffin after I’m gone?
Of course, I know what my wife will say.
“You’ll never have it done in time.”
– Christopher Schwarz