Okay, so before you ask, "Why would anyone want to make a grill out of a casket?", let me just say that there are all sorts of car clubs out there. Mustang clubs, Corvette clubs, Model T clubs, and yes, even hearse clubs. So when the Nightmare Cruisers Hearse Club gets together for car shows and cruises, we like to tailgate. And what better way to do it than with a real casket?
Besides that, they make the most awesome addition to your Halloween or Day of the Dead parties!
If you agree, please vote for it in the Halloween contests!
And now onto the project....
Considering how many different variants and options available to you when you make your own casket grill, this instructable will highlight the key features that should be incorporated, and not necessarily a step-by-step guide. Your results will vary!
Step 1: Portablility
Even empty, a casket is pretty heavy. Add a grill and a cooler, and it quickly becomes non-portable, even in a hearse. So the best thing to do is mount it to a small utility trailer.
If you want to go with a new trailer, it is hard to beat the deals at Harbor Freight. The only thing is that you will need to lengthen their small trailer by adding extra lengths of angle iron or c-channels. It would probably be better to go with their 4' x 8' trailer. The only drawback here is that you will have a lot of extra space all the way around the casket. If you feel this is okay, then great. If not, it is pretty easy to cut down the lengths of the pieces, drill new mounting holes and create whatever size you want.
The advantage with going with the Harbor Freight trailer is that it will be brand new, with all new hardware, wires, lights, etc., and will also come with registration papers so you can get a license plate for it easily.
In my case, I found a 40 year old tilt trailer on Craigslist. It was originally built to carry a Ditch Witch, and the deck was only 3' wide by 7 1/2' feet long. Considering the size of an average casket, this was perfect, as it gave me a nice beverage ledge all the way around. This is something to consider when deciding on the size of your trailer, as there is always a shortage of horizontal surfaces at tailgating events!
If you are going to re-use an old trailer, be careful. Depending on how old and worn it is, the nuts and bolts may not be safe to use. In my case, I replaced the tongue (had been damaged and poorly repaired in the past), the ball coupler, safety chains, wires, lights, wheels and tires, and all nuts and bolts with Grade 8 fasteners. I even took the opportunity to lengthen the tongue, so that the back door of the tow vehicle (hearse) could be opened without hitting the propane tank mounted to the tongue.
Other improvements included welding on a tongue jack, and adding a piece of tire to the bottom, so that the whole thing stays put on the pavement, without the need for wheel chocks.
When adding a plywood deck to the trailer, it is important to weather proof it. In my case, I painted the underside and edges with two coats of a durable oil-based primer, and two coats of oil-based black paint. The top side was stained, then sealed with four coats of Spar Urethane.
When you are ready to fasten down the casket, be sure to bolt all the way through the casket's bottom, plywood deck and the trailer's cross members, with Grade 8 bolts and locking nuts.
A note about towability....
Again, your casket grill set up will be different, but it is important to remember to keep the center of gravity (mass) between the hitch and the axle. If you measure the distance from the hitch to the axle, the sweet spot is 80%. So if it measures 100 inches, the optimal location of the center of mass is 80" from the hitch. It will probably be impossible to hit this number exactly, but the closer you get, the better the trailer will tow. It won't bounce around, wobble or sway. The absolutely worst place for the center of gravity is directly over the axle, and you should never have the axle all the way in the back.
Step 2: The Casket
I am continually asked where I got my casket. I was lucky enough to find a showroom sample on Craigslist, but it is amazing to me that not everyone knows that you can just buy one from Walmart. You can also find them reasonably priced at Best Priced Caskets. It should go without saying, but you definitely need a metal casket, and one with handles that won't interfere with the workings of your grill.
Go ahead and rip out all of the linings, pads, bed frame and height adjusters. Cut out all the stiffening bars, and clips that are in your way. You don't need them.
After mounting the casket to the trailer (described in the previous step), cut and drill holes in the side of the casket for your grill knobs, radio, electrical and propane lines. Don't worry, only the first hole hurts. After that it gets easier, trust me.
You'll also want to drill large holes in the bottom to drain out any water that may find its way in, and also to let in fresh air for combustion for the grill. The heat from the burners will actually draw air in from the bottom. If you are worried about critters crawling in, you can always use vent covers.
Step 3: The Grill
It is important to find a donor grill that will not only fit within the volume of the casket, but also has control knobs flat on the front. (Most grill have control knobs on an angled surface.)
In my case, I used a Brinkman Tailgate grill. After removing the fold-out covers and cutting down the height of the base, it fit perfectly! After welding (I could have used mending plates and screws) the shortened base to the grill box and adding foot plates, the grill was attached through the casket and into the plywood deck with screws.
Before doing that however, I installed a deep baking sheet with a kitchen drain installed. The drain pipe passes through a hole in the casket and plywood deck. The lid of a peanut butter jar (with a large hole in the center) is screwed to the underside of the deck. This allows any grease that would normally be caught in the grill's grease cup to collect in the disposable jar. (Once the grill is installed, you can't get to the stock grease cup.)
A propane extension hose runs from the grill to a bulk head fitting at the end of the casket. The short propane tank regulator hose attaches to the bulkhead fitting from the outside.
Step 4: The Cooler
20 gauge steel, sitting in the summer sun is not going to keep your beer very cold. So be sure to line the lid with insulation. I used scrap pieces of 2" thick panel insulation (with construction adhesive) as well as fiberglass insulation.
You will also see in the photo that a perimeter of 2x4's was added. This provides a surface to attach a trim plate, and also gives the lid some added weight, to help is keep its seal when people are opening and closing the lid during use all day.
The cooler is created from a 27 gallon plastic tote. The lid from the tote (designed to be able to stack totes on top of each other) was screwed down to the bottom of the casket and plywood deck. A plywood divider (between hot and cold sides) was added, and more rigid foam insulation around the sides. Expanding foam sealant was used to glue the tote in place (it was weighed down with bricks while the sealant expanded and cured) and more fiberglass insulation was used to fill the gaps.
Before the tote was installed a hole was drilled in the bottom and a bulkhead fitting was added. This allowed for the installation of short length of PVC pipe and a valve to drain the cooler (as shown in the photo).
Aluminum trim panels were glued to the top of the tote and at the edges with silicone caulk, and were also screwed to the lids.
Step 5: The Tunes
A marine grade radio (with Bluetooth, .mp3, CD and auxiliary port) is mounted with a weather proof mount and cover, and 4 weather proof speakers are mounted to the underside of the plywood deck. It also has a hidden antenna.
To power the stereo, a 12v car battery was bolted down to the bottom of the casket. Wires were run from the battery to a 12v port. The battery can be charged through the port, and it also provides power for your guest's cell phones, ipods, etc.. A fully charged battery will power the radio all day.
Step 6: Finishing touches
A powder coated cast iron skull bottle opener is screwed to the side of the trailer frame.
A removable maple cutting board provides a cover for the radio area between the grill and the cold side and creates a hidden compartment to store tools and supplies.
The cutting board, BBQ tools and other items were personalized by laser etching a custom logo.