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WOOD Magazine’s Veterans Urn Project

Simple plans you can use to build urns for indigent veterans
Urns with one coat of finish await their second coat.

At the 2017 Weekend With WOOD event, attendees built 100 wood urns that were donated to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. The urns will provided a dignified and respectful burial for U.S. military veterans who die without family or the funds for a proper burial. (For more information about the scale of this problem, see the “Missing In America Project” website.) The urns were made from simple plans that maximize the internal volume for the cremains, while minimizing the external dimension to allow two urns to be interred in a single columbarium at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery.

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Weekend With WOOD attendees assemble urns for indigent veterans.
Many participants requested urn plans to take back to their woodworking club or guild to execute a similar project for the national or veterans cemeteries in their states. We thought that was a great idea, so you can download a copy of that plan.

The urns we made bear the laser-engraved emblem of the branch of armed forces in which the veteran served. If you would like to do something similar, you must first secure the permission of the individual branches of the armed forces in order to use their emblems, which are protected by copyright laws. The guidelines for permission can be found here, and it may require some persistence and patience, but most if not all of it can be done with a simple email to each branch using the address provided in that document.

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Weekend With WOOD attendees nail feet on urns.
Also, before you begin, reach out to your nearby national/veterans cemetery to make sure officials there are on board with the project and process. For our build, cemetery officials estimated how many urns they could use for indigent veterans in a year and we made enough to meet that need. We know of some woodworking clubs who produce the urns on-demand: After supplying the initial batch of urns, the cemetery simply calls the club contact as their supply dwindles, and the club produces more. A club could build the urns assembly-line style as we did, or individual members could build individual urns and the club could collect and deliver them all.

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Participants proudly pose with an urn they built.

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Attendees receive final build instructions before firing up the assembly lines.

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Weekend With WOOD attendees round-over the edges of urn parts.

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