How Can I Keep Cremation Urns from Leaking?
Issue: Issue 322
Posted Date: 3/19/2013
A morbid question, but I am trying to find out: is there something inside a wooden urn to seal it? I want to turn urns, but I don't want to have any family member come sue me for having leakage. Thanks in advance. - Roger Beausoleil
Rob Johnstone: I have searched the Internet and have found more than a few sites that make the claim that, unlike the strict rules that apply to coffins, urns made to hold the cremated ashes of a human are not regulated. (I would check with my local state authorities to be certain, but this is consistent with information I have been told in the past.) And as far as "leakage" goes, a good quality paint or a couple of coats of polyurethane will seal the insides of the urn without any problems.
With that said, there are a few common sense points that should be made. First of all, urns need to be large enough to hold all the ashes of the cremated person. Some people are bigger than others, and their ashes will occupy a larger volume of space than a very small person. Urns need lids, and those lids must seal tightly. You don't want your loved one's ashes flowing freely if the urn is accidentally knocked over. Some folks want to bury an urn, and want it to be "permanent." Wood may not be the best for that purpose -- although a painted or well sealed and then buried urn would likely survive for a few generations. Some people want to bury an urn and have it "return to nature." A wooden urn would be fine for that task … but it will likely take a long time. (See the generations comment made earlier.) I would encourage you to contact a local funeral home or a cremation society and ask them for their advice.
Chris Marshall: Unless you turn the urns from a wood through which you can see light (wormy or other obvious holes in it), I would be very surprised if any turning would leak ashes through its walls. Of course wood is porous, but those open pores are extremely small. Still, as Rob suggests, a film-forming topcoat like polyurethane, shellac or lacquer applied to the interior should prevent any chance of a leak happening. If the cremated remains are to stay inside the urn for good, how about just gluing the lid to the vessel once the ashes are inside? If the intention is not to spread them at a later time, this should provide a permanent solution to accidental spills. I would leave the rim of the lid and the contact surface of the vessel bare so the glue can reach full adhesive strength.