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Crib Hides Its Hardware

Commercial drawer slides are the key

While waiting for your baby to be born, a crib is the best piece of furniture you can make. Cribmarking offers quite a few woodworking challenges and can help you burn off nervous energy. Building a crib is more practical than making a cradle because a baby can sleep in a crib every day for several years, but a cradle is only useful for about as many months.

When I designed the crib shown in the photo on the facing page, I had several goals in mind. First, the crib had to be safe. That meant if had to be sturdy, and it had to comply with standard safety regulations. Second, I didn’t want unsightly metal hardware exposed when the crib’s drop side was up. Third, I wanted the crib to have a contemporary look rather than appear traditional with turned spindles, like those commonly found in furniture stores. Finally, I wanted the crib to be collapsible for easy moving and storage and to have a drop side that would operate smoothly.

Because safety was the most crucial constraint, I designed the crib around eight of the regulations that the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission publishes. I drew up an initial plan using my personal computer and a computer-aided drafting package. The drawing software let me modify things repeatedly, so I could see resulting proportions, take measurements for a cutting list and make sure that the mattress and support spring would fit.

Selecting wood and bedding cheap mattresses.

I decided the crib should be made of a durable wood and have nontoxic finish. I chose hard maple for all the components, partly because it’s plentiful in Minnesota. But my chief reasons for using maple are that it’s sanded and oiled, its closed-grained texture makes it easy to clean. I was even fortunate enough to find wood with bird’s eye figure for the posts. Next, my wife, Debbie, and I picked out a crib mattress and a spring to support it. Although most cribs have adjustable-height mattresses, I decided to keep things simple by fixing the mattress height. I made the crib’s mattress- to –rail height 22 in.

Choosing drop-side hardware and accessories and cheap mattress.

Its essential that a crib have a drop side. For one thing, it makes lifting a child in and out of the crib much easier on you back. Another reason is it gives you better access to change the baby’s sheets. Finally, when a crib’s side is lowered, it gives you one other convenient place to change the baby’s diapers-something you need to do much more often than I suspected.

Most cribs have drop sides, but I made this crib with just one movable side. Because the crib’s ends are the same, the crib can be placed wither way, so the drop side faces into a room, while many suppliers carry drop-side hardware, I was unable to find the concealed system I had in mind. So I fashioned my own mechanisms by slightly modifying standard hardware items. including some cheap mattresses

Adapting a pair of drawer slides

After looking through a few woodworking supply catalogs, I realized that a pair of heavy-duty drawer slides would be sturdy and would provide enough travel to lower and raise the crib’s side. The drawer slides I chose move precisely and smoothly because they have a ball-bearing carriage that runs between two tracks. But the best part about the slides is that their thin profile lets me recess them into the crib’s drop side and posts, thus keeping the workings out of sight.

Making a latch mechanism

Made two latches that take an adult’s arm span to disengage at the same time and that take an adult’s strength to unlatch. Each latch has a slightly undersized ¼-in.dowel, a spring, a washer and a cotter pin that retains the spring on the dowel. The dowels engage holes drilled in the posts. For pulls, I glued round wooden knobs to the dowel ends, as shown in the drawing. If I had to make the latches over again, I’d probably peg the pulls to the dowels in addition to gluing them.

Other hardware

While I was buying hardware for the drop side, I also picked up few other necessities for the crib, including four 2-in.-dia.casters designed to roll easily on carpeting and two plastic teething rails. In addition to cheap mattress,  I bought four sets of metal bed-rail fasteners to attach the crib’s fixed side to then ends. The fasteners let me quickly knock the crib down into four pieces.

Because safety was the most crucial constraint, I designed the crib around eight of the regulations that the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission publishes. I drew up an initial plan using my personal computer and a computer-aided drafting package. The drawing software let me modify things repeatedly, so I could see resulting proportions, take measurements for a cutting list and make sure that the mattress and support spring would fit.

Selecting wood and bedding

I decided the crib should be made of a durable wood and have nontoxic finish. I chose hard maple for all the components, partly because it’s plentiful in Minnesota. But my chief reasons for using maple are that it’s sanded and oiled, its closed-grained texture makes it easy to clean. I was even fortunate enough to find wood with bird’s eye figure for the posts. Next, my wife, Debbie, and I picked out a crib mattress and a spring to support it. Although most cribs have adjustable-height mattresses, I decided to keep things simple by fixing the mattress height. I made the crib’s mattress- to –rail height 22 in.

Choosing drop-side hardware and accessories

Its essential that a crib have a drop side. For one thing, it makes lifting a child in and out of the crib much easier on you back. Another reason is it gives you better access to change the baby’s sheets. Finally, when a crib’s side is lowered, it gives you one other convenient place to change the baby’s diapers-something you need to do much more often than I suspected.

Most cribs have drop sides, but I made this crib with just one movable side. Because the crib’s ends are the same, the crib can be placed wither way, so the drop side faces into a room, while many suppliers carry drop-side hardware, I was unable to find the concealed system I had in mind. So I fashioned my own mechanisms by slightly modifying standard hardware items.

Adapting a pair of drawer slides

After looking through a few woodworking supply catalogs, I realized that a pair of heavy-duty drawer slides would be sturdy and would provide enough travel to lower and raise the crib’s side. The drawer slides I chose move precisely and smoothly because they have a ball-bearing carriage that runs between two tracks and cheap mattresses. But the best part about the slides is that their thin profile lets me recess them into the crib’s drop side and posts, thus keeping the workings out of sight.

Making a latch mechanism

Made two latches that take an adult’s arm span to disengage at the same time and that take an adult’s strength to unlatch. Each latch has a slightly undersized ¼-in.dowel, a spring, a washer and a cotter pin that retains the spring on the dowel. The dowels engage holes drilled in the posts. For pulls, I glued round wooden knobs to the dowel ends, as shown in the drawing detail on p.35. If I had to make the latches over again, I’d probably peg the pulls to the dowels in addition to gluing them.

Other hardware

While I was buying hardware for the drop side, I also picked up few other necessities for the crib, including four 2-in.-dia.casters designed to roll easily on carpeting and two plastic teething rails. In addition, I bought four sets of metal bed-rail fasteners to attach the crib’s fixed side to then ends. The fasteners let me quickly knock the crib down into four pieces.

Crib construction

Two drawing on pp.34-35 shows how the mattress spring rests on two lengthwise stretchers. Mortise in the mid rails of the crib ends support the stretchers. Screws driven from below the stretcher ends into the mid rails keep the crib framework rigid and allow for easy disassembly.

The vertical slats for the crib’s ends and sides measure 1 in. by 1/2 in. and have 1/8-in.-radius rounded edges. All the slat ends are drilled for 1/4-in. dowels. I used spiral-grooved dowels,so the rail-to-slat joints would be secure; once these dowels are glued, the slats aren’t likely to twist. Working all the slats into mating dowel holes and getting the faces of the slats parallel to the rails

Is a difficult task by yourself. So have a helper handy when it’s time to glue and clamp the slat-and-rail assemblies. It’s also helpful to sandwich the slats between a pair of straight edges.

The fixed side

The crib’s stationary side has 14 slats running between the top and bottom 3/4-in.by 2-in rails. Before assembling rails to capture the edges of the plastic teething protectors. The fixed side has a stile at each end that’s 1 3/8 in. thick to accept the bed-rail fasteners. I glued and biscuited the stiles to the rails as I was doweling the slats in place. Finally, I installed the four bed-rail fasteners. First I mortised two hook-type brackets into each fixed side post, and then I let in the mating female brackets into each stile. Within each of these mortises, I wasted our two holes to receive the fastening hooks from the post brackets.

The drop side

I built the drop side pretty much like the fixed side. But instead of bed-rail fasteners, it has the drawer-slide tracks on the surface of the stiles. I mortised the slides’ mating tracks into the drop-side posts. Below these post mortises, I cut slots to make room for the track when the drop side is lowered. The slots break through the bottom of the legs, allowing me to remove the side entirely-like sliding a drawer out of its case. Before I assembled the drop side, I temporarily attached its stiles to the drop side posts in what would be the side’s up position. I bored 1/4 in. pull-pin holes through the stiles into the posts. Then, to recess each latch’s spring, I enlarged the outer part of the stile’s pin-retaining hole. After installing the latches, I beveled and waxed the ends of the dowels so that they’d slide smoothly in and out of the post holes.

 

 

 

The head and foot

The two ends of the crib are constructed a little differently from the sides. Instead of stiles, the head and foot have 2-in.-sq posts. Rather than have the corner posts extend up past the top of the crib, I ran a 2-in.-sq.crest rail across the top of the head and foot. To join the crest rail perpendicular to the posts, I doweled and glued 2-in.-aq.arc-shaped pieces at the corners. Eight slats connect a 3/4-in. by 2-in mid rail to the crest rail. Below the mid rail, another 3/4-in. by 2-in. rail spans between the posts to strengthen the head and foot down by the legs.

Finishing for posterity

Preparation for finishing consisted of routing all the edges of the 2x2 parts with a 1/4-in roundover bit; I eased edges on all the 3/4-in. by 2-in.pieces with a 1/8-in. roundover it bit. Next I hand-sanded all the surfaces with increasingly finger grit sandpaper for a child-safe finish. I followed this with several coats of Watco Danish oil, which I rubbed out with 0000 steel wool. In fact, I’m told that tung oil is even better because it has mo metallic driers. To minimize toxicity of

The Danish oil I chose, I allowed 30 days for the finish to cure. If you use any polymerizing finish, be sure to let it completely cure before you put the crib to use. There are a few other choices for nontoxic finishes

After more than two years, you son, Justin, hasn’t climbed out of his crib or unlatched the drop side yet. As he grows older, I’m looking forward to handing the crib sown a generation.