How Big of an Urn do I need? 4 important thoughts

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How big of an urn do I need

Cremation urns definitely were not on my mind when I started woodworking.  However, once I learned the skills needed to make sealed hollow vessels the seeds were planted.  When considering the idea, I noticed many of the commercial cremation urns are not that attractive.  At least, I didn’t think so and I wanted to challenge that notion with some nicer looking vessels. 
I thought other people felt the same way too.  Fast forward a couple years now it turns out that is true.  All that said, I wanted to expand more into the typical questions I get about cremation urns.  “How big of an urn do I need” is the most common question and will be the focus of this post.
Unsurprisingly, urn size is the most common cremation related question I am asked.  As with everything else cremation, most people don’t need to know anything about it until they do.  That being said, the question is pretty understandable.

Here are some common questions related to cremation urn size…

How big of an urn do I need?

How much ashes do you get from cremation?

What is the standard size urn?

What are the urn sizes/types?

Let’s start with how big does an urn need to be.  Every urn sellers website has the typical answer for calculating cremation urn capacity.  That is, one cubic inch of ash is produced for every pound (healthy weight) of the cremated subject.  Subject being people, animals, etc.  For example, a 100 pound person at healthy weight produces about 100 cubic inches of remains.
This is a approximation, the actual remains are based on bone density.  Taller and larger structure people have larger bones, thus they produce more remains.  Men generally produce more remains than women, their bones are usually denser.  Likewise, younger people having greater bone density than the elderly.  This is due to bone density loss from aging.  Animals behave in a similar manner. 
It has been my practice to suggest a slight overage from what the calculation determines.  Usually, this is around 5-20 cubic inches extra.  Some sites suggest that actual remains are a touch less than what the calculation gives.  Universally, I prefer to be more conservative as slightly larger is not the problem that just too small is.

Standard sized urn is…?

How big of an urn do I need 2 - walnut

The industry standard for an individual Cremation urn is 200 cubic inches according to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).  I personally let the wood determine the look and shape for my cremation urns.  Therefore, my urns are more tailored to specific sizes.  However, this does lead to a series of follow up questions.

Ok, so… how much ashes do you get from cremation?

In this case, the “how much” is referring to the weight.  Some sites suggest the weight of adults vary from three to ten pounds with an average, in practice, around 5 pounds.  I have filled an urn for a customer in the “standard” range and its surprising how much the weight is.  That case may have even been greater than ten pounds.

Besides and Individual urn, what are the urn sizes for other types of urns?

Excluding things like acorns and Keepsake Jewelry which hold only a very small amount, the other sizes are Keepsake, Pet and Double/Companion urns.  Keepsake urns are small cremation urns, sized around 10-40 cubic inches.  Pet urns have some cross over with keepsake urns, ranging from 10-100 pounds.  Companion urns have capacities of 200+ cubic inches, enough for more than one peron.

How Big of an Urn do I need?  Here is the most important consideration…

The most important factor in sizing, from my experience, is determining what you or your family’s plans are for the remains.  I’ve noticed four main situations people find themselves in.

1 – a customer is looking for a vessel that is large enough to contain all the remains.  This is were using the sizing rule of thumb comes into play the most. 

2 – there are plans to split or scatter the remains and the size of the urn is not critical.  Often the urns looked at are keepsake urns or smaller urns, and there is a lot of flexibility in selection.

How big of an urn do I need 3 - Maple Burl

3 – what the urn looks like is most important, and having a vessel that holds all of the remains is not a sticking point.  With this view I have had people select urns that were very small or very large.  Having so much extra room in the vessel was not an issue.

4 – long term urn placement is restricted by a specific space.  This usually means the urn needs to fit in a niche or urn vault.  In some cases the defined space is something like a curio cabinet.  Either way the overall dimensions of the urn are the most important consideration.

Depending on the situation the urn size may not even be an issue at all.  Unless a customer knows exactly what they are looking for, I like to start the conversation with identifying which situation they find themselves in.  From there the question of “how big of an urn do I need” gets a lot easier.
Do you need a cremation urn and you want something that looks nicer than most of the options available?  See all of my current inventory listed hereLooking for other answer, refer to my urn FAQ or feel free to contact me should you have other questions.