Building A Cradle with the Late James Grisham

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Project by Charles Brock posted 06-17-2011 01:24 PM 4335 views 10 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I received a call for help from a sweet lady named Linda Grisham. Her story was very interesting, the kind that tugs at your heart and keeps you from forming the word “No” as a response.
Linda explained that her husband James was a woodworker and had built several Maloof style pieces of sculptured furniture. He’d finished several rockers and was working on a cradle when a drunken driver hit and killed him during one of his early morning bike rides near Carrolton, Georgia.

Linda said she found me through Highland Woodworking in Atlanta, GA. She asked if I would finish the cradle because their first grand child was due in June. See what I mean?

Linda and her son Todd Grisham arrived at my studio one day with the cradle and its frame. The cradle as delivered to my studio is pictured with my work bench. It looked absolutely “Maloofian”. A walnut frame with double stretchers and a cradle with coopered ends and a walnut strip basket between them made up a large cradle for the new Grisham baby. I would take the challenge, but not for pay. Thanks would be enough. How do you charge for a project like this one?

I have often imagined my unfinished projects at my passing. My family will not know what to do with them, my tools or wood stash. When attending woodworkers’ estate sales, I have often felt empathy for the departed woodworker and their families. This project brought these thoughts to the forefront.

Right after taking this assignment, a lot of good happened. I was blessed with the Martha Stewart Show appearance and had two full rocker classes. at Rock’NChairman University. I scheduled the project for late May and here it is June 9th and I’m just finishing it up. Todd and his wife Alyson are awaiting the birth of a girl due on June 12th. I have been racing the stork. I finished it on the 12th and delivered it on June 13th in time for the “Baby Grisham Girl” to come home to on Monday.

I must say I have never finished another man’s project. In this situation I tried to look for clues as to what James Grisham was thinking, the lines he was seeing and the methods he was implementing in designing and building such a piece. I removed a lot of material making lines that will move the observer’s eyes.

The walnut was very brittle. It was almost too dry as if his shop had been in a basement with a running dehumidifier. I asked Todd about the location of his dad’s shop and a possible dehumidifier and it was a “Bingo” on both guesses.

Titebond III was new on the market (I believe) in 2008. Squeeze out was everywhere and it did not come off easily. It was just too gummy even after all this time. On the good side the glue line was not visible.

The coopered ends were joined perfectly and all the project needed was a lot of shaping and sanding. Yea! Sanding is great fun! Well, it’s the results that count. My Festool RAS 115 grinder and RO-90 sander were big assets along with a lot of good old hand sanding.

In the Maloof tradition, the hardware used for hanging the swinging cradle should be durable but not visable. I hung the cradle on steel pins that were epoxied into the frame arms. They mate with bronze bushings in the cradle’s extended arms.

I could feel James’ presence with me all the way. When I pass, I hope I am not assigned to a sanding station in heaven. I’m pretty sure that if there is one I have been sent to a certain theological destination of unending punishment. I also hope someone will finish an important project like this for my family.

May God bless you James Grisham. I think I know you.


-- Charles Brock

20 comments so far

View jschmitz1949's profile


56 posts in 3671 days

#1 posted 06-17-2011 02:24 PM

That’s absolutely beautiful, and such a great story.

View DadEO's profile


33 posts in 3162 days

#2 posted 06-17-2011 02:34 PM

Oh my! That very nice. Both the story and the cradle!!

View ScottnKY's profile


109 posts in 3674 days

#3 posted 06-17-2011 02:54 PM

Wow, What a great and inspiring story.
I do believe this is one of the most AMAZING pieces of work I have EVER seen.
It is one of those pieces you can’t even describe to any one and do it any justice.

Sounds like them finding you was just meant to be.

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 3678 days

#4 posted 06-17-2011 03:14 PM

Nice work,it turned out beautiful. It must be difficult to finish another persons work. Love the story, I know it had to be a blessing for the family.

-- Jack, Albuquerque

View Bluepine38's profile


3387 posts in 3696 days

#5 posted 06-17-2011 03:59 PM

Thank you for completing a wonderful project and helping a family have a wonderful memories. I am sure this
will go a long ways towards eliminating that eternal sanding job. Thank you for sharing the story and the
pictures. I can not remember seeing another cradle design like this one.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Skylark53's profile


2735 posts in 3671 days

#6 posted 06-17-2011 04:12 PM

As always, terrific work. What a wonderful story. Your response to this plea was perfect. Blessings all round. Ecclesiastes 11:1 says “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4338 days

#7 posted 06-17-2011 04:42 PM

incredible work and very kind of you to help them out!

View Willie1031's profile


141 posts in 3147 days

#8 posted 06-17-2011 04:43 PM

Amazing. That is truly special.

-- A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. -- Mark Twain

View Pdl's profile


90 posts in 3398 days

#9 posted 06-17-2011 04:46 PM

Wow… Just, Wow…

View Grant Libramento's profile

Grant Libramento

176 posts in 3590 days

#10 posted 06-17-2011 04:49 PM

Hi Chuck,
They found the right man to finish the job. What a responsibility. . . and an honor!

-- Grant, Tryon, NC

View sras's profile


5289 posts in 3740 days

#11 posted 06-17-2011 05:26 PM

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. The cradle is an exceptionally beautiful piece and it is made even more special with the story behind it.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Charles Brock's profile

Charles Brock

50 posts in 3618 days

#12 posted 06-17-2011 05:27 PM

Thanks so much for the kind words. This was a very special opportunity.

-- Charles Brock

View learnin2do's profile


891 posts in 3462 days

#13 posted 06-17-2011 05:27 PM

wow…that is a wonderful piece, a wonderful story, and…yes, i think about those things too. -My family will probably just curse my name, as nothing is finish, or discernible, and it will take many big treemen or a crane to remove all of the trunk pieces that have yet to be milled! I am glad those folks found you; you are especially generous to do the job without monetary compensation, but, i understand…

-- ~christine @ used2btrees

View PurpLev's profile


8554 posts in 4259 days

#14 posted 06-17-2011 05:32 PM

thats a beauty!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View AttainableApex's profile


347 posts in 3443 days

#15 posted 06-17-2011 06:12 PM

wow thats pretty cool.
i often think of if someone took apart something i built to fix or finish it what they would think.
it does help me put that extra little detail that no one will ever see.

-- Ben L

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