The carrying mechanism of a casket is made up of many components. Each component has a unique and specific purpose.
The obvious component of the carrying mechanism is the bar. The bar is the portion of the casket that the pallbearers will grab onto in order to lift and carry the casket from one point to another. Caskets consist of two different bar systems.
The first system is a stationary bar. A stationary bar is fixed and does not move. A stationary bar system is not the most comfortable system for carrying a casket. There is, however, an argument to be made for sturdiness. The stationary bar is very strong and sturdy. In a stationary bar system, the wrists hold most of the weight of the casket and the grip may be painfully stressed. The bar presents a flat shape, failing to provide the pallbearers a substantial gripping surface. I have never seen a stationary bar fail during a service.
The second system is a swing bar. A swing bar moves away from the casket for carrying purposes and tucks back tightly to the casket for esthetics. A swing bar system is more comfortable for the pallbearers. It allows for more room between the casket and the pallbearer's arm and grip. This extra room provides greater leverage, so the pallbearers do not have to lean outwardly from the casket. Standing straight keeps the weight of the casket evenly distributed throughout the pallbearer’s body. In so doing, a pallbearer’s back is not overly strained, and his wrists are not overly stressed. Of equal importance is the extra room for gripping provided through the outward movement. These precious inches between the casket and swing bar provide skin saving space for the pallbearers hands.
The swing bar also has a fuller shape. This fuller shape gives the pallbearer a more substantial gripping surface. The swing bar is attached to an arm. The arm is the portion that allows for the movement of the bar outwardly from the casket. The arm is quite possibly the most important part of the entire bar system. If the arm is weak, the weight of the casket when carrying a decedent may be cause for alarm. I have only seen one swing bar system too weak to support the weight of the casket during a service. The casket was made by a custom cabinetmaker, and he had purchased the bar system on the internet. The casket carvings and staining were beautiful. All of that paled, however, when the arms failed, and the casket began to awkwardly tilt.
The arm of the casket is attached to the ear of the casket. The ear is not only decorative; it serves to strengthen the area where the entire carrying system attaches to the casket. Without the ear, the ability of the system to carry the weight of the casket and the weight of the decedent would be greatly reduced.
Caskets and casket components have size and weight restrictions. Some of us are fortunate enough to have light loved ones. A light loved one can utilize the least expensive caskets in the funeral home's selection room, internet shopping mall or the casket store's sales floor. If your loved one was a bit portly or extra tall; however, you might consider the advice of your funeral director as invaluable. Unlike a salesperson, a funeral director has had extensive education in funeral traditions, equipment, merchandise and law. His or her knowledge and hands on experience with funeral issues will probably save you tons of anguish and possibly money in the long run. At any rate, advise your funeral director of any issues or concerns you might have about caskets or other funeral merchandise, and he or she will be able to answer or research the answers for you. At least armed with their knowledge and advice, you will be better able to make an informed decision when choosing a casket.