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:
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
(c) The pie, or fishtail, is the wedge-shaped portion cap at each end of the crown.
(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.
The body is the portion of the shell containing the (a) top body molding, (b) body panel, (c) base molding, and (d) casket bottom.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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:
- Vertical – Caskets with vertical side and end panels are classified as Vertical Side Square caskets or State caskets.
- 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.
- 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.
- Octagon – This is found only in wood casket. Each end has three pieces; they can be vertical or flaring.
- 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:
- Vertical – See description of vertical end panels.
- Flaring – See description of flaring end panels.
- Urn side – See description of urn end panels.
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.