Sleigh Cradle

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Project by wuddoc posted 03-25-2008 04:59 AM 3196 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The Journey Begins:

The future grandchild, I have been informed, must have for all of five months a sleigh cradle to reside in. Since I have a long lead time of nine months the process begins with locating a sleigh cradle picture, and I found one. I start all my projects with the least expensive wood based materials I am able to locate since I will build a prototype first.

I used a scaling method on the picture since the overall height, width, and length are displayed in most catalogs. A little investigation on mattress sizes and federal regulations concerning children’s furniture allowed me to conclude the research process.

I did a full scale drawing on white butcher paper, cut it out and fastened it to the wall to get a sense of size and proportion. Do not be fooled with a drawing on a flat sheet of paper that looks pleasing to the eye. When it becomes three dimensional the whole look will change. I just try for what I call, “the balance”.

The first picture of the legs tells only a small portion of the story. I have to date created 10 different legs with a variety of curves, thickness, and height between curves. I am a great believer that each person knows what is inherently pleasing to the eye. The change of 1/4” in a curve may achieve not only a monumental look but imprint the look for decades to come. When you see the red curving ribbon on the side of a truck you may immediately think of a famous beverage. That’s imprinting which leads to branding, to me that is another word for remembering. I do want the cradle to be remembered and past on for generations to come.

With the legs I wanted the top sweeping curve to resemble a swans neck. Once I had the legs shaped I began the cradle sides. This does not necessarily mean the entire cradle part sizes are built around the selected leg(s). Once I get the sides, ends, and rockers in place the entire cradle may look out of balance, out of proportion, and just not pleasing to the eye.

Then it will be back to the drawing board, so to speak, to add here and take away there until the overall cradle looks pleasing to the eye. The prototype cradle then will be built in it’s entirety and finished. During this stage patterns and fixtures will be created and use to produce the African cherry wood parts with the minimum of mistakes.

While all this was going on I started looking for a species of wood based on size, color, and grain (character). I found some nice 8/4 African Cherry. Since I know I have to do a infants rocker based on an elephant and a high chair I guesstimated all the part sizes and laid them out on a sheet of butcher paper. Now I had an idea concerning the amount of wood I needed to order from the importer.

Soon I will resaw a piece from the African Cherry and use it to create a finish step panel. This allows me to see each finish step I used. My step panels are normally 6” wide by 36” long since I use a variety of finish steps from the raw (white) wood to final wax polishing. If I was combining different species and/or veneers in a project I would glue long edge to long edge all the types of wood material. This would allow me to adjust each step, if the outcome is to be a final uniform color among all the species and veneers in the project.

-- Wuddoc

8 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35293 posts in 5731 days

#1 posted 03-25-2008 05:05 AM

I was caught up on the slats that you showed. They are too far apart. The requirements simply states mean that the baby’s body cannot slip between the slats, where as the head can’t. make them so close that it is imposable to have an accident.

Great start.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View wuddoc's profile


359 posts in 5049 days

#2 posted 03-25-2008 05:24 AM


I agree the slates are too far apart. Sorry I did not explain I grooved the rail so I can slide the prototype slats back and forth. The final project will use tenon-mortise joinery for the slats. I have found the infants mattress I have been looking at has cushioned sides attached to the mattress. This eliminates the infants extremities from slipping between the mattress and the cradle slats, wall, and ends. I also found out it is no longer recommended to roll up towels and place them on either side of the infant.

Thanks for your timely note. I should have mentioned all this in the original post.

-- Wuddoc

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5153 days

#3 posted 03-25-2008 12:07 PM

Hi Wuddoc,

This is a good start on your project and an excellent primer on design and initial construction of a project. It is a common mistake to get into such a hurry to simply dive in and start making sawdust that we “forget” to explore the original design and construct prototypes, since this just creates delays in completing the project. Thanks for the woodworking lesson.

By the way congratulations on the grandbaby as well. This will truly be a wonderful addition to your family. In fact I have often said that my wife and I should have had our grandchildren first. :)

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View joey's profile


396 posts in 5235 days

#4 posted 03-25-2008 04:45 PM

My grandson got his arm caught in the slates of his bed I guess his little arm fit thought it then he fell side ways and got stuck and twisted his arm it didn’t no real damage except pull the tendons in his elbow and he had to wear a little brace for a week but it scared us all, I think he was 5 months old at the time. I guess it would be hard to space the slates closing enough to prevent this, just wanted to share though in case you can come up with another design solution to it. Mine grandson is 11/2yr and now climes like a monkey, loves my tools more than his toys, and needs a full face helmet cause the boys has had more self induced black eyes than a heavy weight boxer. good luck on your bed, building for my grand childing best projects I do, I just can’t wait till they can join me in the shop.


-- Joey~~Sabina, Ohio

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5319 days

#5 posted 03-25-2008 05:36 PM

Those are some nice slabs of wood in that last picture.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View wuddoc's profile


359 posts in 5049 days

#6 posted 03-25-2008 08:41 PM

Scott, Joey, Gary

Scott Bryan:
Thank you for the comment. Over the years I consistently drummed into students heads if you spend 85% of you time on preparation you would spend only 15% of the time on the product, because you would get it right the first time.
“Maximize your profit by minimizing wasted product and time”
“Measure twice, cut once”

Joey glad your grandson is alright.
My research indicated many problems with slats and turnings on the “cradles” long sides. I think the reason for some cradles being solid wood sides now is due to our litigious society. Originally the design appears to protect the infant from chilly air drafts found in those old European castles.

I hope I have done this correctly but I loaded a picture of a cradle mattress with sides on flickr. If I have not attached the picture correctly just search for “cradle mattress” not a “crib mattress”.[email protected]/?saved=1

GaryK, the slabs came from the They are located near Scottsboro, Al.

-- Wuddoc

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 5255 days

#7 posted 04-18-2008 09:08 PM

I can’t wait to see it. Good luck I will be looking at your progress.

View DaveConry's profile


66 posts in 5028 days

#8 posted 05-03-2008 08:03 PM

Congrats on the impending grandchild! With all the planning and preparation you are putting into this I am sure it will be a beautiful heirloom. One day your grandchild will be telling his children that their great grandad built that cradle. You can’t buy a legacy like that at Babies “R” Us.

-- Evil can only thrive when good men do nothing.......E. Burke

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