Frequently Asked Questions
Returns & Guarantees?
Unused STANDARD urns (including ceramic urns) may be returned for any reason for a refund or exchange within the first 10 days. CUSTOM urns (including urns with inscriptions, custom sizes, or custom finishes) are fully guaranteed, but only returnable for correction. Obtain return authorization. Shipping costs cannot be refunded. Insure a returning urn for its full value.
How do I order?
Contact David Orth (that's me) - here’s my contact page. I will walk you through questions, final decisions, and take your order if you are ready. There are only 2 basic things to think about: your urn choice and any options that you'd like. (There is a form at the end of the catalog that might help you think through your choices and final costs.) After you've placed an order you will get an invoice and a way to pay it with a credit card via PayPal, both by email.
While some urns are available for immediate delivery, most orders will take 10 days for construction & a few more days to get to you. Let me know your time constraints - no promises, but good effort will be made to accommodate your need. Ground service within the 48 states will cost $45. Faster (and further) shipping options are available and will be quoted on request.
How can I decide, if I can't pick it up and hold it in my own two hands?
Two ideas: 1) Purchase a standard urn, no customization - they can be returned for any reason whatsoever for a full refund minus shipping cost. 2) Make an appointment and come by. Seriously. I have an interesting workshop, I'll show you how I make the urns, & you'll enjoy the country drive.
How big is the urn? Will the urn hold all the ashes? Will it fit the niche? Are other sizes available?
The dimensions and cubic inches of each standard design are indicated on their page. Most urns are 200 cubic inches (the industry standard), but there is some variation as indicated. Let me know if you need another dimension or volume. Most designs can be enlarged to any dimension - or reduced to 3/4 the size, usually no smaller. I can reconfigure a few to fit a niche - contact me to discuss.
Here are three methods for calculating the cubic inches required - starting with the easiest, but least accurate. If any of this is confusing, just call me - I’ll ask a few questions and estimate it for you.
1. The first method (which tends to estimate high) is to figure a cubic inch per pound that the deceased weighed.
2. A more accurate method is to determine the ideal weight for the deceased - given their gender, height, & age. (Here is an ideal weight calculator.) Then calculate a cubic inch per pound of ideal weight. For this method, add 10% just to be on the safe side.
3. The most straight forward and accurate method requires opening the temporary box the cremation service gives you and measuring (in inches) the inner length & width of the box, and the depth of the ashes only. Then multiply these dimensions together (inner length x inner width x depth of ashes = the urn volume required). This will give you the exact volume necessary in cubic inches.
The funeral home has its own urns. Can I use these instead?
Funeral homes are legally obligated to use whatever urn you provide for them.
How is the urn opened for use?
Unless otherwise specified, the openings are on the bottom of the urns. Turn the urn over on a protective surface. If necessary have someone help hold the urn for you. For bronze urns remove the solid brass screws that hold the cover plate. Here's a picture. For ceramic urns: twist out the circular opening cap counter-clockwise with a quarter or large screwdriver. If you do not wish to handle the ashes yourself, ask a friend or ask your funeral home to do this.
Can you personalize the urn with an inscription?
A name and dates, a phrase, or a complete paragraph can be inscribed directly into the bronze. Here are inscription details.
How should I care for the urn? Can I use the urn outdoors?
The bronze urns can be placed indoors or outdoors in a garden. Ceramic urns are for indoor use only. Any urn kept indoors requires no special care. Bronze urns placed outdoors will undergo slow changes to the patina over several years time. You can choose to let the urn age naturally or you can give it a fresh coat of lacquer every three years to help maintain it’s original appearance. Instructions will be provided with the urn. Also, consider that the Watchtower Urn and Sunset Sunrise Urn are susceptible to high winds and should be placed accordingly.
Are custom urns available?
There are several excellent ways to customize: size, patina or color, splash of gold, inscriptions - possibly an entirely new design. Urns can be enlarged to any size. They can be reduced in size to 3/4 their standard height - but not any smaller. Call for details.
If your urn will go into a crematorium niche or mausoleum space of limited size, I have several full-size designs that can be altered to fit a niche - even as small a space as 9” on a side.
And finally, if you need something you don’t see here, I don’t mind talking. Some of my best designs have been sparked by special requests. Can’t guarantee anything, but it’s worth a conversation.
How are the urns made?
Here's my process - more information than you probably wanted . . .
10-foot sheets of solid bronze are heavy & awkward. I drag one into the shop and wrestle it up onto the bench. Each of the urn designs has a set of patterns to be nestled together at one end of the plate. A few rough cuts and everything becomes more manageable. I settle down and carefully trim the various pieces to their final shape with a high-tech plasma cutter and a low-tech bench shear - each tool remarkable in its own way. A variety of anvils and odd pieces of metal are used to impress the bronze with lines, hatches, and small dents. This is an artistic, custom process - it gives the bronze surface complexity and a sense of memory. Hand worked bronze is capable of great depth & delicate nuance. I linger with this part of the creative work until it shows a satisfying emotional complexity.
The three dimensional curves require a boat builder's eye. All the curves of a sculpture must be "fair" and well-defined. It takes a while to get them just right so that the parts fit together snugly - gentle persuasion upon various anvils required here - mostly gentle. Once I'm happy with the flow & fit of the parts, I tack the corners and edges in a few places with a large MIG welder. Finally, I use the smaller more intense TIG welder to trace delicately along each corner. Its tiny arc is as hot and bright as the sun - this thought makes me happy. This is a magical moment in which the many parts surrender into something seamless, singular, & whole - a ray of sun has touched down & something new has appeared. I need this little miracle - it keeps me going during the process.
An opening is formed on each urn (usually on the bottom, sometimes on the back) and a cover plate fitted carefully and bolted down tight. Grinding, sanding, and burnishing bring a satin sheen to the urn and prepare it for the patina. The ancient patina solutions are applied over and over until the bronze glows with the warmth of time & life. The result is an urn that seems both contemporary and ancient - an object complicated by time, life, & love.
I suppose it is an artist's folly - to imagine that an urn could express a fraction of our grief & gratitude. But there is help from so many directions. The bronze helps - a gift from the depths of the earth. The tools lend their strength & intelligence - passed down from long ago. People guide me with their stories - & help with their patronage. And finally, there simply seems to be a gentle hand from above. Art is always a collaboration.