Casket Nomenclature: Component Parts of the Casket

After having finished the post on funeral terminology, the difference between caskets and coffins, I began thinking about the actual casket itself.  When it comes to caskets there are several major areas one can discuss: materials (exterior design), components, hardware and interior design.  This post only concerns itself with the component parts of the casket.  I am going to forewarn you: this is not going to be the most riveting post, BUT this is interesting in some respects, so please do continue reading.

So, I bet you’re picturing something like this:

Image Credit: Choice Caskets

While the above picture is not incorrect, in reality it’s something a little more like this:


The shell of a casket is composed of two parts: (1) the cap or lid and (2) the body of the casket.

(1) CAP

Cap or Lid

The cap, or lid, is the top most part of the casket shell; it includes the (a) ogee, (b) crown, (c) pie, and (d) header.

Ogee or Rim

(a) The ogee, or rim, is typically an “S” shaped molding and is part of the cap.  There are many rim shape variations, but the most common is the Roman style or “S” shaped molding.  Other common shapes are: flat, rising flat, oval, square, and concave.  The turned under edge or horizontal portion of the rim, which comes in contact with both the gasket (if the casket is a sealing casket) and body ledge flange (top body molding flange), is called the ogee flange.

Ogee Flange

Crown or swell

(b) The crown, or swell, is the upper most part of the cap, extending from rim to rim; everything above the ogee.  Crowns come in three variations: flat, semi-oval, and full oval.

Pie or fishtail

(c) The pie, or fishtail, is the wedge-shaped portion cap at each end of the crown.

Bridge, header or cap filler

(d) The bridge or header, sometimes also called the cap filler, is part of the cap that is seen in caskets that display a cut top.  It provides strength and rigidity at the point of the transverse cut.  The turned under edge or horizontal portion of the header is called the header flange.

Before moving on to the components of the body of the casket, you will find, highlighted in the picture below, the inside lid flange, which encompasses both the ogee flange and the header flange that were mentioned previously.

Inside lid flange: ogee flange + header flange

(2) BODY


 The body is the portion of the shell containing the (a) top body molding, (b) body panel, (c) base molding, and (d) casket bottom.

Top body molding, body ledge, top molding or top rail

(a) The top body molding, also referred to as the body ledge, top molding or top rail, is a molding along the uppermost edge of the body panels.  The red arrow points to the top body molding.  The top molding has four basic variations: quarter round, half round, square or oblong.  The horizontal portion or turned inward portion of the top body molding is the body ledge flange or top body molding flange. The red arrow is directed along the outer most portion of the body ledge flange.

Top body molding flange or body ledge flange

Body Panels: side panels + end panels

(b) The body panels compose the sides and ends of the casket shell.  The end panels* have five variations: vertical, flaring, urn, octagon, and elliptical. The side panels* have three variations: vertical, flaring, and urn.

Base molding or bottom rail

(c) The base molding, or bottom rail, is the molding long the lowermost edge of the body panels.  The variations available in  base molding are quarter round, semi-oval, log, plank, paneled plank,  and roman.

(d) The bottom on casket is self explanatory.  On metal caskets the bottoms are metal whereas bottoms on wood caskets can be made of ship-lapped planks or a sheet of plywood.


Corner shape refers to the way the end and side body panels meet.  There are two variations in corner shape: square and rounded.  Rounded corners are generally more expensive.  Below is a close-up of a casket with rounded corners followed by a close-up of a casket with square corners.

Rounded Corners; Image Credit: Casket Connection Co.

Square Corners; Image Credit: Geneva Manufacturing

Please ignore the corner piece, the customizable piece of decorative hardware, you see on each end.  Rather, focus on the manner in which the side and end panels are meeting–that is the “L” shaped manner definitive of square corners.


*A detailed description of end panel variations:

  1. Vertical – Caskets with vertical side and end panels are classified as Vertical Side Square caskets or State caskets.
  2. Flaring – Flaring is best described as an end that flares outward from bottom to top.  This is mostly seen in hard wood or cloth covered caskets.  
  3. Urn end – It is best described as a gentle “S” shape.  This is found in both metal and wood caskets that also have the urn side panels.  
  4. Octagon – This is found only in wood casket.  Each end has three pieces; they can be vertical or flaring.
  5. Elliptical – The end panels are rounded.  Do NOT confuse this with rounded corners.  Elliptical ends may be vertical or have a slight flare. 

*Side panel variations:

  1. Vertical – See description of vertical end panels.
  2. Flaring – See description of flaring end panels.
  3. Urn side – See description of urn end panels.


IMAGE CREDIT: All images used in this post with exception of those specified otherwise were found on Quizlet or StudyDroid.

All definitions and information were taken from my compendium for Funeral Practice I taught by Professor Michael Mathews at the University of Minnesota:

Mathews, M. (2003). Funeral Service Practice Part I: Services and ceremonies, casket construction and design, survivor benefits. University of Minnesota: Minneapolis.



Filed under Casket, Funeral Industry, Funeral Terminology

6 responses to “Casket Nomenclature: Component Parts of the Casket

  1. M

    Differences between casket and coffin nomenclature?

    • Coffin – a case or receptacle for a dead human remains which is anthropoidal in shape. narrow head wide at the shoulders and narrow again at the feet.
      Casket – a rigid container which is designed for the encasement of human remains and lined with fabric(FTC): a case or receptacle in which human remains are placed for protection, practical utility, and suitable memory picture: any box or container of one or more parts in which a dead human body is placed prior to interment, entombment, or cremation which may pr may not be permanently interred, entombed, or cremated with the dead human remains.

      Hope it helps but basically its the shape

  2. The biggest problem I have found with these caskets is that since it has a split lid liquid or earth can get into the casket when sealed through the split in the lid. If you are sitting level with the casket and light is projected from behind you can through the split in the lid.

  3. Pingback: Casket Nomenclature: Hardware | A Different Undertaking

  4. Pingback: Casket Nomenclature: Component Parts of the Casket | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

  5. Very interesting!

    I’m so ancient — like the way the Vikings did it. Place the body on a ship, and set it on fire.

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