Caskets & CoffinsFuneralsCasket Terminology Guide

May 15, 2020Obitia

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The world of funerals and funeral homes may be distant and mysterious to many people until they are required to plan a funeral for a friend or a loved one. This usually leads to having to quickly learn concepts and terms that are not used in common day speech, such as internment and Alkaline hydrolysis. This is why we created this guide to terms regarding coffins and caskets, the difference of which is generally the shape, even though the two terms are generally interchangeable today.


Coffin vs. Casket

Coffins were historically square boxes that an individual would be buried in. While a casket would have a tapered top, and more closely resemble the outline of a body. Today in North America the distinction has been lost and both terms tend to be interchangeable. There also tends to be a much wider selection of coffins and caskets available, so stylistically both terms blend together and it may be difficult to tell what term should technically be used in any given situation. Needless to say, you can feel safe using either term when discussing a burial with the funeral director.


Casket Material Types

Wooden Caskets – A casket made predominantly of wood or entirely of wood (see below for “AWC” coffins)

Metal Caskets – A casket or coffin that uses metal sheet of a specific gauge for the structure of the coffin.

Green Caskets – A casket that will have a small or negligible impact upon the environment (eco-friendly), this can be a casket made entirely of wood, seagrass, or some other material that will decompose. This type of casket is becoming more common as green burials and green funerals become more popular.


Technical Terms

AWC – “all wood casket” or “all-wood construction” refers to coffins that are built entirely of wood. In construction, they have been doweled, pegged, and glued together with no nails, metal, or unnatural materials used at all. This type of coffin construction is sometimes referred to as a Jewish coffin as These caskets are considered “Kosher for Burial”.

Casket Key or End crank – a handle that is placed into a metal or wooden casket that mechanically pressurized the lid down to tighten the seal on a gasketed casket.

Gasket – the rubber lining between the lid and casket base of a casket

Guage – The term gauge refers to the thickness of the metal plate. For a metal coffin, the metal will be described as being a specific gauge. The lower the number the thinner the metal sheet being used. The most common guages are 16-guage, 18-guage, and 20-gauge. The term may be used for steel, copper, bronze, or any other metal that may be used to construct the coffin.

Hearse – A hearse is a custom-designed vehicle used to transport a coffin or casket between the funeral home, church, and burial site, depending on the planned ceremonies.

Non-gasketed – referred to metal caskets that are spot-welded and do not have a rubber gasket that sits between the lid and base of the casket. Non-gasked caskets do not use casket keys.

Pallbearer – these individuals are chosen by family members to carry the coffin from the church or temple to the hearse and from the hearse to the burial site. There are typically six to eight pallbearers depending on the weight of the casket. Traditionally pallbearers were men, however, today they can be either sex.

Welded – a process that happens during the manufacturing of a gasketed metal casket where all the metal edges and seams are continuously welded together

Spot Welded – when the edges of a metal casket are welded together, but the metal is not continuously welded along the side and the bottom

Sealed – an old term used to refer to gasketed [metal] casket.



There are many terms having to do with caskets and coffin, many of which are common to other things. However, you should read any explanation of a casket carefully as it will likely be the most expensive single cost in a funeral. Make sure to view options online beforehand to get an idea of what options and styles are available and most importantly how much different caskets and coffins cost so that you are not surprised when the time comes to actually choose and purchase one.


If you are looking to purchase a casket please look through our online store, which has caskets shipped sold and shipped via Amazon.




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