New England modern news                           by Peter Murkett    
March 2013 
NEM Casket
Ceremonial Tradecraft

This is the New England Modern casket. We made our first casket decades ago in response to a neighborhood need, as any pre-industrial furniture shop would have done. We have built many such caskets over the years, without ever changing the original design. Its unadorned form fits our aesthetic, and this plain handmade box has an honesty that suits its ceremonial purpose.


What's more, it turns out that making caskets follows a parallel ceremonial track. We work as carefully as ever to cut snug dovetails, shape the moldings, and hand-plane surfaces that leave their maker's quiet mark. But then we leave the fresh-cut wood alone: it is what it is. This is a departure; usually we lavish attention on color and polish in the final stages. It seems odd for a wood to have such qualities, but there is a dignity in the common strength of plain, unfinished eastern white pine. We have also learned, through personal involvement, that driving the wrought nails used to fasten the lid has an indelible finality well suited to the occasion.


Most of our furniture is likely to be used by many, for generations, but our caskets are used once, then buried or burned. Making each is an act of investment and letting go, as is using one--and life itself, for that matter. We find it very satisfying, and so do our customers. Price is $1850.