Walnut and Maple Crib

This crib is constructed of walnut for the frame and maple for the spindles.  The frame is joined with mortise and tenons and the back is taller than the front so the side of the crib is angled.  The rails are ripped from one wide board so their grain is continuous from the top rail to the bottom rail.  The legs were sawn from a single block of walnut so they are bookmatched from left to right. The spindles taper from 15/16″ in their center down to 1/2″ at their ends. There are a total of 50 spindles.  The front and back rails are pinned to the legs with brass rods allowing the crib to be disassembled for storage. The mattress platform can be lowered as the child grows.


Video Script

I’ll start the milling process by ripping the rail stock out of the boards. I labeled the end of each pair so that I could keep them together as a pair. I also remove the inch or so of waste from each board to get them closer to their final width. For the leg stock, you might remember this slab of walnut that I used to make the bassinet. I ended up with a perfectly size offcut to get the stock for both length of legs. By having the legs come out of one block like this, I was able to have bookmatched leg stock. It’s a subtle detail just like the rails but I like subtleties. I left the roughly ripped stock for a few days to destress before milling them flat and to thickness. The boards for the rails ended up being very stable. After sitting around for about a week after their initial milling they hadn’t moved. So instead of milling them down thinner, I left them at their current thickness of around 7/8″ thick. The legs needed a bit of work and they ended up at 1 3/4″ thick. I ripped all the lower rails to 5 1/2″ wide and the upper rails to 3 1/2″ wide. I also ripped the legs to 3 1/2″ wide. The front legs are cut to 36″ long and the rear legs are cut to 42″ long. I’m going to start with the side joinery, so I cut the lower side rails to length. The upper rails are angled so I’ll cut them to length as I work through the joinery.

I made the shoulder cuts for the tenons on the ends on the lower rails and then to help me set up to figure out the upper rail, I removed some of the material from the tenon area to create a rabbet. That rabbet allows me to set the lower rail between the legs which gives me the actual distance that the legs will be apart. Now I can set the upper rail exactly into position and copy the exact angle that the upper rail’s shoulder will need to be cut to. I cut that angle on one end and then I can start to lay out the angled tenon. I come over 1″ from the end and using my bevel gauge strike the shoulder line. Then I’ll carry the line across the edges with a square and switching back to the bevel gauge to complete the shoulder line on the other face. Before I start cutting the tenons, I cut the mortises in the legs. these mortises are a half inch wide. To start forming my tenons, I use an offcut from the rails to set the height of the dado stack. I shoot for something that just a little tight so I can finesse it later. With the height set, I’ll form the tenons. For the upper rails, I swing the miter gauge to roughly the correct angle and make the cuts staying a little away from the scribed shoulder line which I then chopped back to at the bench with my chisels. Now to get the perfect shoulder to shoulder length, I place the upper rail between the legs again referencing off the one completed shoulder. I’ll cut this one to length and layout and cut the tenon the same way as the other end. I finished fitting the tenons to the mortises in the side assemblies. before I moved on to the long rails, I filled a few defects with some epoxy and tint. I cut the tenons slightly oversized with the dado stack. A couple clean up passes with the shoulder plane makes them fit perfectly to mortise. Next I’ll do a little clean up work at the base of the shoulder and then I can cut the tenon to length. The last detail on the frame is to add the taper to the bottom of the legs. These don’t have to be perfectly identical, so I just followed the line with the bandsaw and cleaned up the cut with a handplane.

Now onto the spindles. I grabbed these maple boards and laid out the two different lengths that I am going to need. I rough cut them to length, jointed them flat and planed them to thickness. I ended up at a finished thickness of 15/16″. Next I’ll go through and rip all the boards into the square stock blanks for the spindles. The finished crib is going to require 50 spindles. I made about 56 spindles blanks just in case. To create constituently tapered spindles, I used my router and a jig on my lathe. The jig is really simple to make. I wanted the spindle to go from the full thickness of 15/16 in the middle to 1/2″ 11″ from the middle for these shorter spindles. So the curve would be at 0 relative to the edge in the middle and drop down by 7/32″ 11″ out from that center line. 7/32″ is half the difference from 15/16 to 1/2″. It’s half because I’m dealing with the radius of the spindle on this jig. Once I have those 3 points laid out, I can draw the curve. I just bent a piece of brass rod and had my wife trace the curve for me and we carried this curve past the end marks. I can then cut it out at the bandsaw and sand back to the line. I then made a copy which will become the back of the jig. Nothing fancy with the assembly, I just screwed some connecting pieces that were roughly the width of my lathe bed to the front and back to create a box. I then made a notch on both ends so the drive center and tail center could go into the jig. And lastly, I screwed some strips of plywood to the top to act as a platform for my router. I used a guide bearing in my router, so I spaced these strips apart accordingly. Here you can see the other jig I made out of melamine for the longer spindles. Now I can plop the jig on the lathe and clamp it to the ways. Now creating the spindles was pretty mindless – I just had to run the router back and forth. The hardest part about this was finding a good lathe speed, cut depth, and feed speed that would produce the smoothest cut without the router bit catching or tearing a chunk out of the spindle. I found running the lathe at 1400rpm, taking shallow passes while moving the router slowly towards the end worked best until on the last spindle I accidently ran the lathe in reverse which dramatically improved the cut quality. You can see I also added some screws sticking out of the top to stop the router before the bit contacted the tailstock. To set the final plunge depth, I used a 1/2″ wrench to check the spindle’s diameter at the point where it will be intersecting the crib rail. I’m aiming for it to be a little larger so when I clean up the spindle next the diameter ends up at or slightly above 1/2″. Here’s what the spindles looked like after the routing. The router leaves a textured surface and the center isn’t completely round yet. I cleaned up the surface and brought the spindle to its final diameter with 60 grit sand paper. This is the spent sandpaper from when I sanded my hardwood floors. This stuff is really heavy duty stuff. So after 1.5 minutes of sanding, here’s how the spindle looks. Now I’ll start working up through the grits but before I move on, I spend a moment sanding with the grain. Onto 80, 120, 150, and lastly 180. Now back to the rails to layout and drill the holes for the spindles. The side rails are a little more interesting than the front and backs since the upper rail is angled. I use a marking gauge to scribe a center line and use a pair of dividers to divide out the edge of the lower rail so that the space between each spindle is the same including the space between the last spindles and the legs. To transfer the hole locations to the upper rail, I butt the shoulders of both rails up against a straight edge so they are in the same orientation they would be when attached to the legs, just closer together. I can then use a square to transfer the hole location to the upper rail. And I’ll transfer the location from the face to the edge. To drill the holes in the upper rail, I use a bevel gauge set to transfer the angle to the drill press. Then I can just go down the line and drill all the holes. Next I’ll work on getting the spindles to the correct length since they get shorter as they move towards the front of the side assembly. I use a caliper to find the point on the spindle that is 1/2″ and I’ll make a mark 1/4″ down from that point. This will be where I cut the spindle. Now for the other end, I made this story stick to mark the total length of each spindle in the assembly. Now after I cut that end, the spindle diameter is going to be more than 1/2″ so Ill use my dowel plate to form a 1/2″ tenon on the end of the spindle. The front and back assemblies are far less exciting everything there is square. The most interesting part was cutting the spindles to length, which I did with this double stop block set up.

Now I can start getting ready to apply the finish. So I take the assembled crib apart. As I am removing the spindles, I number them so I can put them back in the same order. The order on the front and back really shouldn’t matter but who knows. Next I’ll lay out for the holes that will receive a brass rod pinning the tenons and allowing me to disassemble the crib for storage. And I just drill these all the way through with a 3/8″ forstner bit. Then I can do a final sanding on all the frame parts and break all the edges and corners. For the finish on the frame, I’m using salad bowl finish. Putting the tenons up on blocks allows me to easily apply finish to all sides. And then I can do the legs. I put 3 coats of finish on sanding between coats with 600 grit sandpaper. For the spindles I’m using a water based poly in a spray can. I went with a water based finish for this to keep the maple as white as possible. Unfortunately this finish ended up yellowing quite a bit despite looking alright on my sample piece. These spindles were easy to spray by using some blocks of wood with holes in them to hold the spindles. I applied 2 coats sanding between with 600 grit sandpaper.

The pins will be made from a 3/8″ brass rod. I made a simple jig to hold the rod while it’s cut at the bandsaw. I have the fence set to cut the rod just proud of the surface. I’ll clean up the saw marks and polish the pins with a buffing wheel. I’m starting with a cutting compound to remove the saw marks and I’ll also round over the edges so they will go into holes easier and it will also hide the fact that they are not flush to the surface of the legs. To further polish the surface, I switch to a polishing compound and go over the ends again.

The mattress frame is going to primarily consist of two beams that will span the insides of the legs. I made these from a piece of 6/4 walnut. I jointed and planed them and left them as thick as possible. And before moving on with these I wanted to test their strength. Looks like each beam can support my body at the center of their span so the pair of them will be plenty to hold whatever parents want to hang out in the crib with their child.

Next I’ll glue up the side assemblies. All of these were a little goofy to get together because of trying to get all the spindles and holes lined up. To get clamping pressure across the angled rail, I used a pair of angled blocks. Normally I temporarily glue these on but since I prefinished the legs that wasn’t an option so these just slid around and I applied pressure. So a clamp from top to bottom on the front leg keep that wedge from sliding up and blocks of wood against the lower clamps keeps the other wedge from sliding down. Now I can start putting the front and back assemblies together and bring them into the house for the final assembly. These could be a little tricky to get together. I found that working from one side over with the help of a clamp was the easiest way to go. Next I can install the pins. I clamped the across the rails so the shoulders would be as tight as possible and drilled the 3/8″ hole through the tenons and then I could tap the pins into place. Next I’ll install the mattress support rails. I used a spacer referencing off the bottom of the leg so the rail would be level. I transfer the hole location with a forstner bit since it has a center point and I couldn’t find my 3/8″ brad point bit. I’m going to tap these holes for a 3/8″ socket cap screw so I drill the hole with the appropriate sized hole for the tap and I use a block of wood to help me keep the bit square. Next I’ll run the tap down the hole. Tapping wood is really easy with a drill, I just go slowly. To help strengthen the threads a bit, I dropped some CA glue down the sides of the hole. Same process for the upper position. I just did two position for the mattress height for now. I figure if we need an intermediate height I can always add some more holes in the future. After I got those bolted on, I gave them another strength test. The final thing I did was cut and install some boards that span the rails to support the mattress.

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24 Responses

  1. Matt – this is a beautiful crib. I’m looking to build one too and was wondering if you had any sort of plans or dimensions for what you did? I don’t have a lathe so I’ll have to figure out something with the spindles…. Thanks and the mill is looking great. I wish I lived close by so I could get some of your stuff!

  2. Hi Matt,

    It’s a beautiful crib. I’m building one for my son right now and have been trying to figure out the finish. How long did you wait for the salad bowl finish to dry/cure before putting your kid in the crib? And what brand finish did you use?

    Thank you for all your videos

  3. I just built this crib for my granddaughter and it came out well. I used oak dowels for the spindles. That saved a lot of time. The rest of the crib is cherry. Came out well

  4. I love this crib! So clean and the attention to detail is amazing. The pins are a great touch of style and function. I am curious how well the pins stay in place. and also, How do you remove them come disassembly time since they are not very proud of the surface?

  5. Matt, I am presently in the process of building this crib (lucky for me as I do enjoy your build videos) my son (who is also a big fan of yours) and daughter-in-law both picked your crib independent of each others input out of all the other cribs on the internet.
    Quick question, Did you glue the spindles into place on the front and back panels?
    I saw in your video that you had a clamp span from the upper to the lower rail when you brought the one panel into the house.

  6. Matt, I am building this crib. My daughter and son-in-law instantly fell for this crib, as did I. Did you leave any small space between the mattress and spindles or do the mattress and spindles touch? Thanks.
    (Cradle is next.)

  7. Matt,
    The mortises for the side rails are offset towards the outside of the legs to make room for the front and rear rail tenons, correct? How far from the outside edges are the mortises for the side rails? Too close and the side becomes weak, too far and the length of the front and rear tenons are affected. This is my first project with mortise-tenon joinery of this size.
    Thank you.

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