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New York Mills family makes furniture to die for

Patrick and Karen Kilby in their shop in New York Mills, A Simple Pine Box LLC and Sugar Creek Woodworking. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS1 / 2
An example of one of the Kilby's casket furniture pieces. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS2 / 2

"He can make anything out of wood. Anything," Karen Kilby said of her husband Patrick.

And she means "anything." Even casket furniture.

For those who have never heard of it before, casket furniture is just what it sounds like - furniture, such as a bookcase, that converts into a casket when its owner is ready to be taken to his or her final resting place.

The Kilbys, who own A Simple Pine Box, LLC and Sugar Creek Woodworking in New York Mills, have one of these bookcases at their shop now. Leaning up against a wall, ready for spring, it looks nothing like a casket yet. Instead, it resembles a boat.

The Kilbys said casket furniture requests don't come in that often. Most of the casket requests they do get are made on pretty short notice. The Kilbys can make a simple casket in six to eight hours, though they like more time whenever possible.

Some of their caskets, like one they are currently working on, are custom-made - in this case, a late logger wanted his casket to be made of wood he cut himself.

The Kilbys offer special 3D imagery, which makes pictures pop out of wood, thanks to their computer numerical control machine.

For the most part, though, "You can't quit your day job and make caskets," Patrick said. And thus the second part of the business: Sugar Creek Woodworking.

Through Sugar Creek, the Kilbys, including their daughters Amelia and Becky, specialize in all woodworking - refurbishing or new.

"In this economy, we are finding that people want to refurbish what they have instead of buying new," Karen said.

In December 2011, the Kilbys moved out of a crowded shop in their home into a much bigger location in New York Mills (the old canvas shop). The added space allows each of the Kilbys to work on their own projects.

Currently, they have a set of kitchen chairs ready to be stained, a cabinet that was just stripped of its white paint and a variety of other small projects at various stages.

The NY Mills location offered another new thing for the Kilbys: a retail shop. Displayed in the front end of the shop are a variety of original wooden projects for sale.