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Crafters Anonymous: Farr West man builds wood caskets as ‘calling’

By Loretta Park, Standard-Examiner Staff - | Jan 6, 2017

FARR WEST — When my Grandpa Dunn died, our family gathered with his friends at his home, played cards and visited for hours with Grandpa watching from his casket in the living room. 

I honestly thought it was going to be weird, because I grew up with the idea all funerals and viewings should be held at churches and funeral homes.

I also thought consumers could only use caskets sold by funeral homes. Robert Alexander of Farr West destroyed that myth.

“I look at it as more of a calling than a vocation,” Alexander said. 

RELATED: Crafters Anonymous: Utah man transforms unwanted trees into art with chainsaw

He hand crafts wood caskets in his shop behind his home and sells them at lower prices than funeral homes. Utah law allows consumers to make or buy caskets from other sources than funeral homes, and for funeral homes to allow the consumer to use it.

Of course, the 58-year-old man didn’t picture himself as a casket maker back in 2003. 

It all started that year when his mother-in-law was dying from colon cancer, he said. He gave her a book on how to make caskets.

She turned the joke on him and asked the former sheet metal worker to make her casket. Alexander said he took on the challenge, but it got to him one August morning when the sun came through the window of his shop and shone on his project.

He sat down with her to tell her he was struggling and she told him, “You build a cradle for someone coming into the world, why don’t you build one for someone who’s leaving?”

Alexander said most people avoid any topics that concern death because they want to believe they will not die.

“But the No. 1 cause of fatality is mortality,” Alexander said with a laugh as he attached a wood handle to a casket in progress.

In 2008, when the recession hit, Alexander said he was laid off from his job as a sheet metal worker and he has been building caskets almost full-time since.

“I found my niche,” Alexander said. 

From that day, he has built more than 200 caskets, most of which he has sold from his blog, Something Creative. 

Alexander said he likes working with the “ugliest wood you can find,” and buys from local businesses. Most the wood he uses is a blue pine, which has a gray or blue tinge to it. He lines them with white cotton fabric and a white pillow. All the trim is made from wood, including the hinges.

Alexander rarely throws any wood scraps away because he finds ways to incorporate into his caskets.

A favorite casket among people who like the outdoors or western themes is one that resembles the historical 1880’s casket known at the Lancashire, or Toe Pincher.

Cutting the wood is only about 10 percent of the work, he said. The remaining work involves sanding, fitting and lining the casket. It takes him anywhere from three days to a week and a half. 

Alexander said he makes the caskets as an alternative for those who cannot afford caskets sold at funeral homes and who do not want their loved ones cremated. 

One woman bought a casket from him, then had her grandchildren leave their painted handprints with goodbye notes on it for her husband, he said. Another woman allowed friends and family members to write notes with a brown marker on her husband’s casket. 

Alexander said he has not made a casket for himself, but has told his children if he should suddenly die, they are to use one of the caskets he has already built.

“I do not plan on retirement form building caskets,” Alexander said.

For more information about Alexander’s casket, visit his site somethingcreative-alexanders.blogspot.com, or call him at 801-388-9158.

You can reach reporter Loretta Park lpark@standard.net or at 801-625-4252. Follow her on Twitter@LorettaPark SE or like her on Facebook.


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