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How to Build a Coffin

It's time to up the ante in the neighborhood competition for Halloween decorations. Put the finishing touch on your lawn by adding this spooky casket.


  • Step 1: Make a template Lay out the shelf paper and draw a line lengthwise down the center, 75 1/2 inches long. Using a T-square, draw another line, perpendicular to the first, 34 inches long. Cross the first line 17 inches from one end.
  • Step 2: Draw the outline Draw a 24-inch line at the top of the cross, extending 12 inches on either side from the center of the cross. Then draw a 17-inch line at the bottom of the cross, extending 8 1/2 inches on either side from the center.
  • Step 3: Finish the outline Draw lines connecting each end of the line at the top of the cross to the corresponding ends of the 34-inch cross line, and then draw lines to connect the line at the bottom of the cross to the 34-inch cross line to complete the outline of the coffin.
  • Step 4: Construct side pieces Using the dimensions and angle specs from the template, measure and cut the 6 side pieces from one of the 4-by-8 plywood panels.
  • Step 5: Make a template for the bottom base Draw another template on shelf paper to use for constructing the bottom base. Make the long line of the cross 74 inches. 16 1/4 inches from the top, draw a 32 1/2-inch cross line. Make the line at the top 22 1/2 inches, and make the line at the bottom 15 1/2 inches. Then connect the lines as you did in the first template.
  • Step 6: Cut out the bottom panel Copy the dimensions from the template onto the second 4-by-8 plywood panel, and cut it with the saw.
  • TIP: You can also tape the template to the panel and cut around the outline.
  • Step 7: Assemble the base pieces Dry-fit the side pieces to the base and secure the connecting points with glue or biscuits. When the glue is dry, drill pilot holes and counter sink screws through all the side panels into the bottom panel to provide strength and rigidity to the coffin walls.
  • Step 8: Cut out the coffin cover Use the finished coffin base as a template and scribe its outline on the remaining 4-by-8 panel. Cut out the cover panel.
  • Step 9: Finish the coffin Fill any holes with wood filler, sand the coffin, and apply stain and polyurethane or paint the coffin. Attach the piano hinge and set the coffin up on your lawn to scare the kids on Halloween.
  • FACT: People in the U.S. spend more money on Halloween than on any other holiday except Christmas.

You Will Need

  • Shelf paper
  • Pencil
  • T-square
  • Measuring tape
  • 3 3/4-in. x 4-ft. x 8-ft. hardwood plywood panels
  • Table saw
  • Wood glue or biscuits
  • Drill
  • 1/2 lb. 1 5/8-in. wood screws
  • Wood filler
  • Stain and polyurethane or paint
  • 48-in. piano hinge
  • Tape (optional)

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