The Handmade Coffin Maker

Wayne and Bonnie Shannon pose on the deck of their home at 420 Conatser Lane outside of Livingston.


Can you remember the last time you were surprised to learn something you were not aware of? This happened to me recently when I found out about some folks who live at 420 Conatser Lane, just outside of Livingston. That address is the location of a unique home. The owners designed and built the home themselves. They refer to it as their tree house, and thatís because not only has the home been constructed completely from barn wood, it has been built on a wooded hillside. The wonderful view enjoyed from inside looking out creates the atmosphere of actually being high up in a tree house. But the surprise was not finding out about the home on Conatser Lane. The surprise was about a product thatís made in the woodworking shop of that home. The owners, Wayne and Bonnie Shannon, came to this area from Wyoming four and one-half years ago. Friends of the Shannons had moved to this area earlier, and it was through those friends, they became property owners here too. The love of woodworking has been something Wayne has been interested in since junior high, and because of that interest and the skills he perfected, he, along with his wife, Bonnie, constructed their unusual home in a very picturesque area. Wayneís woodworking shop is situated in the back portion of their home.

Wayne has been involved in many types of work throughout his adult life including telecommunications and the computer business, as well as doing odd jobs that involved his work working skills. For a while after relocating here, he served as assistant-manager of Eagles Cove Marina, but all the while he was employed for someone else, he knew that he wanted use his wood working skills as a way to make a living. But it was when his father died an idea came to him as something that might work. The total costs involved for funeral expenses for his father practically depleted what savings there were, and as a result, Wayne decided to design and built handmade coffins. The making of some really nice handmade coffins was the surprise I learned about. But the coffins he designs are not just made with the death of a person in mind. One of his goals for helping present day baby boomers and any other individuals who may someday be faced the loss of a parent or loved one is to think ahead. His plan is that a coffin can be ordered ahead of time, and long before it has to be used to bury someone in, it can, in the meantime, be used as a blanket chest, or a coffee table, or even by standing it on one end, a book shelf with removable shelves. His attention to details can be seen in his very skilled workmanship that include each individual board used being carefully glued in place, but probably most noted of all his fine work is the dovetailing, something always looked for in a well made piece of furniture. Many fine antiques are sometimes identified and appraised according to the dovetail work. Wayneís work in that department is excellent. Another plus about his handmade coffins is they are nature friendly since they are completely biodegradable.


This nice handcrafted item can be used as a coffee table or a blanket chest until it is needed to lay a person to rest.


It hasnít been that many years ago when a death occurred, it was the tradition around here for neighbors to come in to help out the grieving family. Not only was the deceased personís family looked after with food being prepared by neighbors and friends, but the body of the person who had passed away was prepared for burial, and then sat with until time for the funeral service. Another service offered was that a coffin was constructed, and this was usually made by someone in the area at no cost to the family.

While time does have a way of changing things, and in most instances it is for the better, Wayne and Bonnie believe some of our older traditions helped a grieving family deal with the loss of a loved one much better than what weíve familiar with today. Anyone who would like additional information may contact Wayne and Bonnie at 931/403-0162. For a close up inspection of some really fine handcrafted items, a drive to 420 Conatser Lane in Livingston is something I definitely recommend. The Shannon home is located on the same road as Cedar Lake Camp.