Toe-Pincher Coffin

This is less a tutorial than a document of the journey.  We made lots of mistakes along the way that I had to correct for, and I would still do many things differently if I constructed this from scratch all over again.

If you're me, you just can't resist a stack of old, weathered fence sections sitting by the side of the road for the taking.

Having a hatchback = Awesome.  (Getting 50+ MPG = Ludicrously awesome!)

While disassembling the fence sections, I happened across this configuration.  To me, it looks like a sign (literally).  Like maybe an old government warning about a testing facility now occupied by zombies or something.  I don't know.  I just took this picture to make a note of it and maybe turn this into something somewhere down the line.

(That's a fly trap on the upper right, in case you're wondering.  Yeah, gross.)

Update: I eventually turned a section like this into our Area 521/2 sign the year we did the UFO crash site.

What I'm left with are loads of boards for the coffin and assorted projects... and firewood for winter.

I got the idea for using old fence boards for the sides from my friend Liz (who I've stolen so many other ideas from).

Note that in the picture there are six boards shown.  Well, four of them were 12' and two were 10'.  The extra length was for a guitar wall hanger for my office.  Check that page on the guitar site.

Assembling the pieces... of my kid.  Dani's about six months along at this point.

You can sort of mentally arrange the lengths and see where this is going, but to break it down:

15.4" x 6 = cross at top and bottom
18" x 4 = depth supports
16.5" x 2 = depth supports in the middle
19.9" x 6 = upper half lengths
55.1" x 6 = lower half length
33.2" x 2 = cross-brace

Partially assembled.  And goofing around.

If you want to minimize wastage, you can do this (at these dimensions, anyway) with five 12' 2x4s.  I played around with the numbers in Excel and they worked out almost perfectly.
15.4+18+55.1+55.1=11.967"  (<--do this one 3x)

However, note that there are two errors (vertical members join inside of the coffin and the coffin is too deep overall) that I cover a little later on this page, so some of those 19.9" lengths should be a little shorter (to your preference).

And here's the completed frame.  The lid will follow eventually, but first I need to make a correction to this design.  This is the first error.

See, when I put the sides on with it like this, they're on two different planes.  I could nail things to the vertical (in this picture) elements, but the horizontal ones are set an inch and a half inside.  So I need to change that.

I just cut them out leaving the blocks to hold the other elements together...

...and moved them flush with the other parts of the frame.

Next we can put the sides on.  Here are some scrap fence boards.  I cut the decorative tops off so everything is 90°.

All the boards have a ~1/8" space left between them (using a yardstick as a spacer).  The idea was that we could light the coffin from within and have it appear as if there was something spectral happening inside it.

Zombie Dani rises from the grave!

As you can see in this set of side paneling, I'm just attaching them first and then cutting them to the edges afterward.  Makes things both easier and a guaranteed uniform cut without getting out your tape measure.

Assembling the frame for the lid.

More spacers in the lid.

Dani's being silly again (or preg-tarded, you might say).

As you can see, we just tacked the boards onto the frame that formed the lid, then I trimmed the excess off with the saw.

The edges of the lid still need trim, but not until after I add the hinges.

Completed version, but it's too deep.  I didn't think about how much the lid and facing would add to the depth.  On its back, it's almost as high as a table.  The whole thing was heavy besides, so something had to go...

I took off the sides to cut the frame back.  This is what's nice about using sheetrock screws for every job.  You can always back them out and try something else.

Trimmed down to a shorter scale before I put the top of the frame back on.

Then I also took parts of the top off....

...and shaved away whatever I could.  Hey, every pound helped!  Even after all the weight reduction I could squeeze out of it, the coffin still weighed around 120 lbs.

Much better.  You can probably tell (or if not here, then the picture above) that there's no back on it.  That's intentional as well to keep the weight down and because the plan is to be able to run electricity to the coffin for lights and/or animatronics.


Copyright 2009 the Ale[x]orcist.