For many obvious reasons, and some not so obvious, the cremation business is getting hotter by the year.  Great for hand-engravers!

Current Google stats show in 1960, 3.56% of the dearly departed chose cremation over burial.  In 2010, the it had become 40.62%.  Currently, it is almost exactly 50%….one out of every two people choose cremation. Cremations yield ashes.  Some folks want their ashes sprinkled over the ocean.  Some prefer mountains and others want to be scattered somewhere special along their life’s way that seemed meaningful at the time of the request.

Couldn’t find stats on what percentage of the ashes are kept on the mantle after scattering some according to wishes made by the owner.  Nevertheless, most families keep some in a permanently-sealed container. Containers made for that purpose are known as urns.  They come in all sizes and descriptions.  Once the ashes are secured in the container, it’s nice to have the name and stats of the remains locked inside.  That’s where we engravers come in.

Recently, a young woman from Missouri brought this one to be personalized for her Dad.  It hadn’t occurred to her, for almost 18 months after his death and cremation, to have the final step of the process completed.  Below is the finished product, ready for some special shelf or display.  Seems old Dad was a party animal and she wanted a few words of lyrics to one of his favorite songs etched for the ages.

I decided to put the birth and death date on the first shallow line circling the urn.  Since there was no front or back, I picked a spot to begin and got the numbers engraved.

From there, I engraved the name on a piece of flat glass, made a rubbing on a piece of clear tape, centered the tape above the dates, and engraved on a baseline drawn with an ultra-fine marker, roughly on the centerline between the first ring and the top of the first silver band. I used an ‘experienced’ #3 round carbide bur.

For the two lines of the song, I used the same bur. The little dot patterns were done with a used #2 round carbide.

Fourteen words at $17. per word is $238. The whole process took 30 minutes. That’s at a rate of $476. per hour.

The customer had no idea how long it took, nor the steps it took to get it done.  She only knew it made a priceless heirloom and worthy place for the remains of her father.

BOTTOM LINE FOR YOU AS AN ENGRAVER  These are sold every day by funeral homes all around where you are.  Yes, some companies probably offer some kind of engraving…see photos below. However, NONE will offer the type work in this photo of Russell’s. Take your work to funeral homes in your area and suggest they offer your services to their families purchasing urns. Leave your card.  Follow up.  Make the rounds.

Pick a pricing formula based on what you can do and what you feel your work is worth. Just be sure you take something respresenting the BEST work you can produce. But…be aware that your price will be marked up by the funeral home so you’ll get a smaller chunk of the pie than I did, dealing directly with the owner of the urn. I’d bet you’ll score easily with some of the funeral directors who see your work.

Be creative and buy a glass or metal vase for a more realistic sample of what you’re offering.  Fake a name and set of dates and whatever else you might add.  Fill with gold or silver if not metal.  Shine it up.  Wear your coat and tie and look your best.  Ladies….nice dress.  Look like a pro.  These people are professionals at what they do. Show them you are too.

Oh yes, in case you’re skittish about working on one that is already occupied, you might request that it be filled AFTER your engraving. Good that it didn’t matter to me. Russell didn’t spook me one bit.

Good luck!




  1. Dave May 30, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful, Ken.

  2. KenBrown May 30, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

    Thanks Dave! Is that the Bartel Dave?

  3. Keith Tuten May 31, 2017 at 11:53 am #

    Masterful as always!

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