A brief history of the crib project
The crib project came about because I wanted to build something for
Katharine. Having done some work with wood before, it seemed like
it would be possible, though a lot of work.
I started on the project in June, hoping to have it done by
October 1st. But Katharine came a a bit early, so I didn't have
so much time to work on it after her birth September 14th. I
finished the crib on December 24th, and assembled it by the
Christmas tree that evening.
I started with a plan I bought on the Internet - a fairly standard
plan, with some good ideas for construction. However, it assumed
using large stock to start with and ripping down to size. Since I
don't yet own a table saw or a functional bandsaw, this would have
However, I did have the luck to receive about 250 board-feet of
glued-up cherry panels from a cabinet shop. These panels were
rejected for surface defects, being too thin, etc. Most of the
panels are between 1/2" and 5/8", with a few being a full 3/4".
Most of the panels are around 30x30 inches, though some are
smaller or larger.
The crib plan I purchased suggested cutting the slats to about
3/8" thickness, which seemed a bit flimsy to me, especially in
cherry (the plan suggested maple or oak). So I decided that the
slats should be 5/8", meaning that the rails would have to be
around an inch thickness, minimum, to accept the slats. So the
side rails and ends are each glued up from two pieces of 5/8"
stock. Because my rails were thicker than the suggested 3/4", I
then enlarged the dimensions of the legs slightly, from 2 inches
to about 2 1/4.
The legs are constructed from three layers of 3/4" plywood,
which I glued up, cut to size, and applied cherry veneer to.
Certainly less expensive than buying such large pieces of solid
wood. It also gave me an advantage, as I was able to cut
mortises for the end rails before I assembled the legs (I
just cut the mortises out from the center piece of plywood in
the three-layer sandwich).
As a decorative touch, the ends and side rails have a 3/4"
walnut inlay. I felt the crib would be a bit boring without
some sort of contrast. As a side benefit the inlay hides the
glue joints on the rails.
Since most of the wood is second-hand, there were some
inevitable glue joints (most of the glued-up strips were no more
than about 2 1/2" wide). But on the whole, I don't think they
detract from the finished piece. I cut almost all of the slats
to avoid glue joints where possible.
I added leveling gliders to the feet, which also protect the
veneer on the legs if the crib is pulled across the floor. Each
of the four side rails has a threaded brass insert, so the side
gates are attached with two bolts through the legs and into the
inserts. This means that neither side gate can be "lowered" - a
drawback when the baby is small or when trying to change the
linens. The advantage is that the crib is quite sturdy - I am a
bit nervous about many cribs, which feel as if they might fall
apart with very little abuse.
The mattress is supported by a sheet of 3/4" plywood and four
angle brackets. The height is adjustable to either high
(mattress top 9" from top of rails), or low (mattress support
26" from top of rails), by moving the brackets. I expect to be
able to convert the crib into a youth bed by replacing one side
gate with a matching lower rail (yet to be built!)
The crib is finished with a light coat of oil-based stain, and
three coats of satin polyurethane. There are a lot of different
suggestions on the appropriate finish for a crib, but no
consensus. I finally decided that since polyurethane was used
on commercial cribs, it was probably fine for mine as well.