Frequently Asked Questions
How do I order?
Contact David Orth (that's me) by phone or email. I will walk you through questions, final decisions, and take your order when you are ready. There are only 2 basic things to think about: your urn choice and any options that you'd like. This printable form 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 via PayPal, both by email. You can use your credit card without signing up to anything. Checks through the mail are also accepted, but will delay things by a week or two.
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. Always insure a returning urn for the full value.
While some urns are available for immediate delivery, please allow 10 days for construction & a few days for shipping on most orders. Let me know your time constraints - no promises, but good effort will be made to accommodate your need. Ground shipping within the 48 states will cost $45. Other 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 hands?
Ah, the fundamental internet problem! Two ideas: 1) Make an appointment and come by. 2) Purchase a standard urn - they can be returned for any reason for a full refund minus shipping cost.
How big is the urn? Will the urn hold all the ashes? Are other sizes available?
The dimensions and cubic inches of each standard design are indicated on their page. With some exceptions, most urns are 200 cubic inches - the industry standard. Let me know if for any reason you need another size. It is absolutely fine to use an urn that is larger than strictly necessary. Here are three methods for calculating the cubic inches required - starting with the easiest, but least accurate.
1. The first method (which estimates high for overweight persons) 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.
3. The most straight forward, accurate method requires opening the temporary box 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 yours instead?
Funeral homes are legally obligated to use whatever urn you provide for them. In fact, please tell your funeral home about my urns. Perhaps in the future they will carry them.
How is the urn opened for use?
Unless otherwise specified, the openings are hidden on the bottom of the urns. Turn the urn over on a protective surface. If necessary have someone help hold the urn for you. Remove the solid brass screws that hold the cover plate. If you do not wish to handle the ashes yourself, ask a friend or ask your funeral home to do this. Here's a picture.
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. If placed indoors, the urns require no special care. If placed outdoors, you can expect changes to the patina and protective coating 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 may be susceptible to high winds and should be placed accordingly.
Are custom urns available?
Yes. I welcome requests for different sizes or entirely new designs. Companion urn versions of any design (an urn for two or more people) are available. An urn of double the volume is about 25% greater in each dimension - for instance, a 10" high urn, if doubled in volume, will be about 12.5" high. Cost for doubling the size is usually 50% more. Custom finishes & inscriptions are available. Custom symbols for the Starfield and Far Hills Urns are often possible.
How are the urns made?
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 such a depth of feeling compared to more common metals such as brass or steel. I linger with this part of the creative work until it shows a satisfying emotional texture.
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 by hand 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 welder. Finally, I use the smaller more intense TIG welder to trace delicately along each corner and fuse the parts into a seamless whole. 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 disappear into something singular & whole - a piece of the sun has touched down & something new has appeared. I need this little miracle - it keeps me going during this long 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 - as if the object itself has become complicated by time, life, & love.
I suppose it is an artist's folly - to imagine that an object 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. 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.
A Community Urn?
I don't know where this idea should go - not really a FAQ. Of course most of my urns are purchased for a single person's ashes, but a small Mennonite community recently bought an urn to use in a unique, expansive way. I want to share their idea. This community has no cemetery. After a recent death in the group, one of my urns was purchased to use as a "community urn." The urn will, for a few years, hold the ashes of anyone recently deceased - until the family feels ready to scatter the ashes. During this time, the urn will be kept in the church or at the family's home - whatever is felt to be most supportive.
A few years down the road, when the family scatters the ashes, the urn will return to the community - available for the next time it is needed. Whether the urn is in use or not, it is a simple, ceremonial reminder of all their loved ones who have died - & of a community that gathers around grieving families. It strikes me that this poignant practice could be used within any group that shares in such losses: a spiritual community, a club, or business - even a family.