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Building a Baby Crib

When we first got news that we were going to have a baby back in 2009 I really wanted to do something special for our child. So, after much thought I decided to build a crib. Building a baby crib sounded like a fun challenge and would be something that could stay around for a while. I had very limited experience in carpentry and didn’t have any tools. After talking to several people about my idea, an awesome coworker of mine offered his hobbyist carpentry shop as a place to build it. I bought plans and hardware online which included everything but the wood.

The wood was a whole different animal. I really wanted nice materials but not anything too exotic, mainly just a hardwood. I quoted several places and found that all hardwood was pretty expensive; anywhere from $500-$1000. At that rate the crib was turning into something way more expensive than I could afford. Naturally, I turned to Craigslist. After a few days of monitoring new posts I saw one titled “free cherry wood”. Turns out it was free because a guy was cutting a tree down in his backyard. I ended up picking up the wood and bringing it to my in-laws home because I had nowhere to store it at our apartment.

For weeks afterwards I was doing serious research online about what I needed to do next to get this wood to a point where I could work with it. First thing that needed to happen was the wood needed milling or sliced into boards. I was able to find a guy on Craigslist that owned a wood miser saw mill that was willing to cut wood for people. I have to give credit to my father in law for helping me get the wood up there in his truck. Unfortunately, the wood shifted while driving and broke his rear window… Sorry.

The wood cutter was very experienced and suggested cutting the boards in 1 inch thick slabs. He charged me about $150 to cut all the wood. The next problem was getting the wood dried. For wood to be dry enough for furniture building, it needs to be at about 8% moisture content. Moisture content can be measured by a moisture meter. Getting wood to 8% moisture content takes a long time unless you have a kiln. Getting access to a kiln proved to be the most difficult part of the process. Lumber mills usually will not allow you to put in your own wood, it’s seen as a liability because disease can cause problems between wood types in a kiln.

Luckily the guy that milled my wood was able to put me in touch with a friend of his that owned a kiln. It cost me $150 to get the wood dried to 8% moisture content. Now we are at about 4 months since I got the wood.

Getting the wood to the size I needed was very time consuming. It involved planing one side of the board then using a planer to cut the other side. Once planed I had to edge one side so that I could cut the other side straight.If I tried to elaborate on everything I had to learn to do the build the crib this would be a super long post.  There are several techniques and tricks used in carpentry. Luckily my coworker was an excellent resource for all of this information.

One part of the process that was painstakingly long and repetitive was making the mortise and tenon joints for all the slats on the side of the crib.

There is a special square bit used to make the mortise and we just used the table saw to make the tenon.

Once the mortise is cut, you have to use a small chisel and clean out the hole. Doing to each hole on both sides of the slat took forever.

For doing the Tenons we just used a jig on the table saw.

Finally got to a point where it started looking like a crib!

It was almost exactly one full year before the crib was done. I recommend anyone attempting such a project, make sure you learn to measure down to 1/32 of an inch and be sure to account for the width of the blade when you are cutting. Also, if you are trying to save money by building a crib, be aware that you will only save money when you compare the costs to an identical crib made with the same materials and craftsmanship. In other words it’s much cheaper to just buy a crib.

It was a very rewarding experience and one thing that was pretty cool was that both my Dad and Janna’s Dad helped me in building the crib. Unfortunately a few months after building the crib, a new law was passed banning drop gate cribs (I think manufacturers started making them too cheap). I guess I have no choice but to keep it in the family. : ) If you are highly motivated and have access to several carpentry tools this type of project could be a fun way to spend your time. If you have any questions along the way, there are plenty of informative videos on YouTube to help you. Have you ever attempted to make a piece of furniture? Share a picture and a description of it. I’d love to see.


{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Sara August 6, 2012, 3:27 pm

    Wow! That is amazing!!! What a project! But way to go. Hand-made furniture is always, always better than store-bought. 🙂

    • Jesse August 6, 2012, 5:46 pm

      I totally agree! Thanks!

  • Kathleen and Javier August 6, 2012, 8:52 pm

    Wow! That is amazing! Good job!!

    • Jesse August 7, 2012, 12:44 am

      Thank you! I wish I had all the pics though. I used to have pictures of the wood right after it was milled. It looked so cool.

  • Mitzi Kemp August 6, 2012, 10:23 pm

    Way to go Jesse!! I’m super impressed! What an amazing project that will be a treasure for years to come! In the past few months Adam has built Eden an open toy box and a bookshelf. Janna and I are lucky to have handymen in our lives:)

    • Jesse August 7, 2012, 12:39 am

      Tell Adam that’s awesome! Building furniture is fun and rewarding. I think Adam and I are the lucky ones though. : )

  • Levi Christiansen August 6, 2012, 11:36 pm

    What a stud….as a father of two I tip my hat to you.

    • Jesse August 7, 2012, 12:41 am

      Thanks Levi, you have some impressive work yourself. Good luck with your filmmaking!

  • Erika Joanne August 8, 2012, 11:18 am

    Great article Jesse! It’s a beautiful crib with many hard working memories built into it.

    • Jesse August 8, 2012, 12:08 pm

      It’s something that will be passed on, thanks Mom!

  • trudy August 13, 2012, 6:03 am

    I’ve heard about this *little* project… how cool it is to see the final result! I can’t even begun to tell you how badly I want to come out and photograph your newborn in it!… baby #3 I’m there!

    • Jesse August 13, 2012, 10:37 am

      Sounds like a plan, you took some awesome pictures of Kinley. Thanks for those we love them!

    • Janna August 14, 2012, 1:12 pm

      Trudy I would LOVE that!

  • Mike McHenry April 7, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Wow! You guys did an awesome job! I took a much simpler route, but it was mostly because I didn’t know as much about woodworking. My plans are http://www.simplecrib.com

    • Jesse May 4, 2014, 10:10 am

      Thanks for the compliment! I like the design of the crib you made. Very impressive. Good Luck!

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