In the United States, the words “casket” and “coffin” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Each term refers to a wooden or metal box, with handles or bars along the side for carrying, that is specifically designed and built to contain a deceased body for a funeral service and usually for burial thereafter. There are plenty of types of caskets, which we will cover in the following sections.
Caskets and Coffins
The difference between the two terms refers to shape. A coffin has a distinctive, irregular, six-sided shape that is wider at the top to accommodate the shoulders of the deceased and narrower at the bottom. If you’ve seen a movie, such as a Western, set in the 1800s, you’ve likely seen a coffin because coffins were more commonly in use in the 19th century than caskets. The shape of a coffin is a cost-saving feature; initially, the bottom of the coffin was tapered in order to use less wood.
“Casket” was originally a euphemistic term adopted by funeral directors to speak more gently to the grieving family members of the deceased. Outside the United States, “casket” is a term used to describe a box used to store valuables, such as important papers or jewelry. Today, we in the United States use the term “casket” to describe a box similar to a coffin but with a regular rectangular shape. Because a casket requires more material to make than a coffin, it comes with a higher price.
Different Types of Caskets
While all caskets have the same basic rectangular shape, they vary in the materials used to construct them. The exterior of the casket is typically made from either wood or metal. Woods used to construct caskets include the following
Most metal caskets have a gasket inserted in the lid to create a tight seal and prevent outside elements from entering. Metal caskets are typically made from the following materials:
- Carbon steel (also called standard steel)
- Stainless steel
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