How to Build Cremation Urns

Updated February 21, 2017

Building a cremation urn is no more difficult than any other woodworking project. Urns are meant to be simple, elegant and well-sealed. Using a few basic tools, sandpaper and a satin finish topcoat, create a professional-looking urn from quality oak or another wood of your choice. This simple wood urn will be suitable for keeping the ashes in a special place.

Draw out the dimensions of your urn on grid paper. Typically, urns are made as rectangles with a long top and base of equal length, two long sides of equal length and two shorter sides of equal length.

Purchase solid oak pieces to fit your dimensions or cut the wood yourself. Measure the cut lines and draw them with your black marker. Cut along the lines with your tablesaw in long strokes. Sand the edges of the cuts.

Cut 1-inch-by-1 inch posts. Cut the posts to an equal height of the side panels. Attach the side panels to the posts with wood glue. Let them dry overnight.

Attach the base to the side panels with wood screws. Drill in four screws where the posts meet the base.

Place the ashes inside the box before sealing it. Glue the top panel over the side panels with wood glue. Let it dry overnight.

Fill any holes with filler. Sand the surface of the urn until it is smooth to the touch. Apply three coats of satin finish polyurethane. Let dry.


Sand individual pieces until smooth before attaching for an extra finished look. For urn sizing, call the crematorium. The standard guideline is one cubic inch for every pound of healthy weight. Depending on musculature, bone and processing, you may need more or less space for your loved one's ashes. Storage requirements vary state by state. Most states require you to keep the ashes in a durable container and to prevent the ashes from being exposed to the elements. This may require lining the urn with a non-porous material, especially if you are building it yourself. Check the laws in your state before taking your urn to the crematorium.

Things You'll Need

  • Grid paper
  • Solid oak
  • Tape measure
  • Black marker
  • Wood glue
  • Wood screws, 4
  • Sandpaper
  • Filler
  • Satin Finish Polyurethane
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About the Author

Michael Monet has been writing professionally since 2006. At the San Francisco School of the Arts, he studied under writers Octavio Solis and Michelle Tea, performed his work in Bay Area theaters and was published in literary journals such as "Paradox," "Umlaut" and "Transfer." Monet also studied creative writing at Eugene Lang College in New York and Mills College in Oakland.