Here’s a project that I built back in Oct 2007 in preparation of my first child. I thought I’d like to make something useful that could one day be passed down to her. So, I decided to make a simple cradle out of wood. Usually, I make things out of Pine because Amy is a big fan of Pine and it’s cheap. This time though, I decided to use a Hardwood. Hardwoods tend to take machining and working a lot better than softwoods. They’re also much more dent and chip resistant than softwoods. For this project I choose to use Soft Maple which is also known as Red Maple. Soft is a relative term though because it is still quite hard but less so than Hard Maple. Hard Maple is also called Rock or Sugar Maple and is the tree used for making syrup.
The first thing to do is pick out wood. There is a domestic hardwood dealer to the west of Pensacola. He seems to have good prices and is the only dealer I’ve found in the area. As a side note, your home improvement stores may carry some hardwoods. Unfortunately, you’ll probably pay out the nose for them and the wood usually doesn’t look so good. Here are the four pieces of Maple I picked out for my project. They were seven to eight feet long and six to eight inches wide.
Once I had a rough design laid out in my head, I drew up some templates in a CAD program. Next, I printed them out and glued them to some poster board.
I taped the rocker template on to a piece of wood, traced it, and roughed the shape out on my band saw. The ends were larger than any single piece of wood I had so I cut three pieces out and glue them together. I also did the same thing for the sides and bottom. I used my #5 Stanley Jack Plane to smooth the sides of all the pieces to insure a seamless fit. Here are all the pieces cut out.
Once the glue had dried I was able to cut the sides and end pieces to shape. The end pieces were cut to shape with my bandsaw like the rocker pieces. The sides and bottom attach to the end pieces via mortise and tenon joints. After a little chiseling to perfect the fit, I was able to dry fit it all together.
The next step involved rounding all the edges and corners. Sharp corners can be dangerous around small kids and your shins. Besides, rounded edges look better anyways So, after a lot of routing, rasping, chiseling, sanding, and planing I dry fit it again to make sure everything still looked OK.
From there it was on to the finishing stage. I chose to use shellac because it is a non toxic finish and I’m sure someone would probably try to eat the cradle. (I was right) FYI you’ve probably eaten shellac too because it is used as a coating on pills. I won’t tell you where it comes from but feel free to look it up. Other finishes are rated as non-toxic after they have dried as well so don’t think that shellac is the only way to go. Shellac dries very quickly, builds well, and can be serviced by just adding more to a damaged spot. It comes in two basic colors, amber and clear but can be tinted with dyes.
Here is the finished cradle after several coats of amber shellac.
My wife made a very nice padded insert for it.
I must have done something right because it still survives to this day even though Jessica still hops into it from time to time to pretend to nap.