Building a crib, part 1

My wife and I have a daughter on the way, our first child. At some point she’s going to need a place to sleep, and my wife and I have been looking at cribs. Like most furniture, they seem to be very expensive for the quality of wood and construction, so I’ve decided to build the crib myself.

I had a look at the design requirements set forth by the National Safety Council. Reading though this, there don’t seem to be too many requirements, and nothing that is very difficult to deal with.

I wanted to start with an existing design, as that will making finding some of the hardware items easier. I finally found this set of crib plans, which has a supporting set of hardware available here. I’m not absolutely crazy about the design, but when I asked our unborn daughter if she would hold off for an extra month or so while I came up with a design I really liked, my wife assured me she wouldn’t. Definitely not!

While looking for plans, I happened across a few threads of messages here and there where some hapless well-meaning soul left a message asking where good plans might be found. Sometimes it was a father, sometimes a grandfather. Either way, a really disturbing thing happened: People blasted them for even considering the idea of building a crib. The reasons they cited ranged from the complicated to the bizarre:

  1. There are all sorts of complicated specifications you have to meet for the crib to be safe. The National Safety Council does offer advice on the subject, and most of it is common sense. Some of it isn’t so common, but none of it is mysterious or complicated. Even so, there is at least one strong advantage to a home-built crib: Less metal fasteners. Since my crib won’t have to be shipped in a box the size of a Pringles can, I don’t need to use as many fasteners to put it together. On the downside, it will be a bit less portable. We’re not gypsies.
    Also consider that manufacturers have costs to worry about. If I get done with my crib and it’s a little weak here, or a little wimpy there, I’m going to add whatever I need to fix it. I don’t have to worry about unit costs.
  2. Manufacturers conduct all kinds of tests to make sure their crib is safe. Folks, I don’t see how any manufacturer is going to simulate a live baby for testing, without using a live baby. I doubt they do any more testing than the law requires – a crib is not a complicated device and the accidents are documented. The designs are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Even so, take a look at the number of crib recalls out there.
  3. Wouldn’t you feel just terrible if something happened to the baby in a crib you built? Yep. I’d feel terrible alright. I’d also feel terrible if it happened in a crib built by someone else. That I might have someone to sue isn’t much consolation. Should we choose the product based on who we can sue if something goes wrong?

I found the reactions disturbing because they reflected no understanding of real risk, just the tabloid-TV kind of pseudo-risk. These people weren’t “experts” or educated in the matter, they were just well meaning people thinking of what might possibly happen and recommending against it. C’mon people, we raised babies in God-knows-what for centuries before the National Safety Council was even a glimmer in someone’s eye. Now, I’m not for tossing safety aside, but let’s not start assuming that we have no abilities ourselves and that only the “they” of manufacturers and governments can figure anything out. I know it’s easier to pass the responsiblity onto others, but have we become that helpless?

Anyway, back to the fun part. I started with the obvious: A large pile of wood. That would be rough-sawn maple, 8/4 and 4/4. I’ve got the 8/4 pieces milled down to near-final dimensions, and soon wiill begin milling the rest of the pieces and working on the joinery. Pictures to follow.

[Ed. Note: you can find more on my crib and other woodworking projects here.]

10 thoughts on “Building a crib, part 1

  1. It’s good for you to enjoy your hobbies, particularly since the little carpet monster will steal them from you, upon his/her arrival.

    (kidding)

    But seriously, the only advice I have for you – safety notwithstanding – is do everything within your power to build a crib that doesn’t squeak when it’s jiggled, jostled or otherwise leaden with a baby.

    Nothing is more disheartening to a new parent than to lay down a (finally) sleeping baby into the crib, only to have one quirky squeak of wood upon wood. Their eyes fly open like brand new window shades, and you’ve got another hour of baby walking-talking-humming-singing.

    Point being, if your wife is the one doing the walking-talking-humming-singing, and you’re the one who built the squeaky crib…. well, you can guess where the blame shall be laid.

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  2. I’m on your side. I think a home made crib can be stronger and will fit the matress better than the ones I’ve seen in stores. Plus it won’t have lead paint from China.

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  3. You guys are absolutely hilarious! My wife and i are about to have our second child,and i am also considering building as well. bad thing is, is that i want more from the crib than i have time to put into it. just curious, how much did you spend on the lumber roughly, and did you buy from a lumber yard or from someplace like home depot or lowe’s?

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  4. I just brought the crib upstairs last night as I finally finished Shellacing it. I purchased my red oak, used ~$150 worth, from a lumber yard (make sure what you buy is kiln dried). Look into low VOC stain/varnishes if you go that route.

    I did mine all mortise/tenon, I think I could park a car on it. What I need to figure out is how to support the matress keeping in mind I want to keep it “convertible” to bed without too many mods.

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  5. First, sorry for my english :-).
    I´m also on your side.
    Here in Spain, all my friends say me i´m crazy doing the crib myself…what´s happen if something failed?.
    I´m sure i´ll do a stronger crib than i can buy in a babyshop. I have seen them, and i see bad materials and high prices (like almost all baby´s things).
    I suppose safety requirements are different here and US, but i promised i will send you plans of my child´s future crib. So, you can call me crazy with fundable reasons….xd.
    Greetings from Seville. Spain.

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  6. I am very impressed with both of you. My husband doesn’t want to purchase a crib. Everytime we go to the store he picks the poorly made (overly priced) cribs apart. He is set on making his own. I just don’t want to add to his stress. Any suggestions I could pass on to him as he begins his own project, would be greatly appreciated.

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  7. I am interested in how your project turned out. My oldest child is expecting their first baby and he called tonight asking if my husband (his step-father) would make them a crib. He wants a family heirloom and I am touched by the thought. I want to encourage my husband, as he is a very taented carpenter but has build houses, not furniture. He’s retired and I have no doubt he can do it. Where did you get the plans? How did it turn out? I am happy to have run across your block.

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  8. I am interested in how your project turned out. My oldest child is expecting their first baby and he called tonight asking if my husband (his step-father) would make them a crib. He wants a family heirloom and I am touched by the thought. I want to encourage my husband, as he is a very taented carpenter but has build houses, not furniture. He’s retired and I have no doubt he can do it. Where did you get the plans? How did it turn out? I am happy to have run across your blog.

    Like

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