When it comes to caskets there are several major areas one can discuss: materials (exterior design), components, hardware, and design (interior). In an early entry, I provided information about the component parts of a casket; this post only concerns itself with the hardware of the casket.
There are two main pieces of hardware (i.e. ornamental fixtures and their fittings) that are attached to the shell of a casket: (1) the handles and (2) the corners. Production methods for hardware are dependent on the material. If the hardware is metal, the hardware can be produced in one of two ways: cast or stamped. Cast hardware is more expensive. If the hardware is plastic, a plastic extrusion molding method is utilized.
The handle is available in four different styles: (a) stationary, (b) swing, (c) bail, and (d) integrated. A stationary bar is a non-moveable casket handle. This can be a full-length bar or individual bars. A swing bar is a moveable casket handle with a hinged arm. This can be a full-length bar or individual bars. A bail handle is a single handle in which the lug, arm, and bar are combined in one unit. An integrated handle is a handle that is integrated into the side of the casket; there are no attached handles. This can usually be found on wood caskets.
There four component parts of a handle: (a) ear, (b) arm, (c) bar, and (d) tip.
(a) The ear, also known as the lug or escutcheon, is the part of the casket handle that is attached to the shell.
(b) The arm is the part of the casket handle that attaches the bar to the ear (or lug).
(c) The bar is the part of the casket handle, attached to the ear (lug) and arm, that is grasped by the casketbearer.
(d) The tip is the decorative or ornamental part of the casket handle that covers the exposed ends of the bar.
The corners are an optional part of the hardware attached to the four corners of the body panel. There are several different subcategorical distinctions concerning the corners of caskets: applied and inset, interrupted and end-around (this distinction is an archaic one and slowly vanishing), supportive and non-supportive (this is only for caskets with full length stationary bars).
Applied corners are corners that have been attached to the casket by nail, screw, or adhesive. Inset corners, on the other hand, involve partially cutting the corner of the casket and making room in which to insert the decorative corner.
Lastly, there are other features that are available on certain models of caskets. They are as follows:
- Corner designs – Changeable casket corners; these may be removed prior to the committal service and kept as keepsakes
- Commemorative panels – changeable interior casket lid design
- Memory safe drawers – a drawer in which one may place notes, special memorabilia, pictures, etc.
- Memorial record system – provides a record of identification, if needed, without opening the casket
- Cathodic protection – method of inhibiting rust on basic grade stainless steel caskets that involves the insertion of a magnesium bar in a formed channel on the bottom of a casket
All definitions and information were taken from my compendium for funeral practice class 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.