Building my first crib

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Forum topic by RenB posted 01-03-2018 10:36 PM 1031 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 918 days

01-03-2018 10:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: crib paint choice wood choice baby furniture baby safe paint design help

Hey everyone, this is my first post so please forgive me if I am either in the wrong spot or I break any rules that I am unaware of. I am here to learn, so feel free to point out my blunders. I have been reading the forum for a long time but have only recent joined.

My Wife and I are having our first child and I am in the planning stages of building a crib. I only have about 4 months left to get it done. This will be my largest/ most complex progect that I have attempted so far. I am definitely out of my comfort zone on this one, which is good because it forces me to learn, adapt and overcome obstacles, making me a better woodworker in the process (if the frustration doesn’t kill me first). So far I have done most of the design in sketchup and I feel somewhat comfortable with what I have come up with.

My wife would like this to be painted white and would like the grain to show through like the photo below.

So this is where the wealth of knowledge alll of you have come in. I was thinking maybe oak or ash for the wood but I am really trying to put some feelers out there to see what others might have used in the past or might suggest for this project. Price is always a consideration but it will probably come down to which wood works best. Tie goes to the cheaper or more workable wood.

For the paint I was thinking something along the lines of sherwin-williams harmony paint or something else that is crib safe. Overall I don’t really have any allegence to one paint over another as long as it will come out the way we want and not be bad for the baby. Also, we are in Southern California so we are a little limited on what we are able to use.

So please shoot me your suggestions. Whether it is a paint, a wood or a design suggestion, it will all be helpful.
After I am settled on the wood and paint I will be posting for help on some of the features for the crib that I am unsure of how to complete.

Thank you for your time,

-- Darren, La Habra CA

8 replies so far

View Kazooman's profile


1489 posts in 2724 days

#1 posted 01-03-2018 11:12 PM

Congratulations on the impending new addition to the family.

I can understand why you are out of your comfort zone based on the drawings. That looks like quite a challenge given the short time frame. I have a few questions for you, things you have probably considered, but perhaps not.

The front panel looks like it is removable. How do you intend to fasten the two sections together? Needs to be secure to keep the baby in, but easy enough to open up for making the bed.

What is your plan for the side panels? There are several ways to accomplish what you have drawn, some easier than others, and most of them pretty tedious to execute.

What is the plan for the curved back panel? It looks to be topped with some sort of crown molding. Milling a profile for the straight pieces at the top of the front and side panels should be fairly easy. Matching that shape on the curve would be a challenge. With just four months to go, you had best get at it!

The grain showing through the paint in the panel of your last photo does look like oak or ash. It is interesting that the rails and styles do not show as much if any of the grain. Must be the way the pieces were sawn. At any rate, while that look is fine for a large flat piece, I would consider how well it will work on the smaller pieces such as the vertical slats. Where the open, porous grain hits a sharp edge you can get a spot that is rough to the touch. Not very crib friendly. This can be remedied by a simple round over or chamfer profile, but that has an impact on the methods you use to create the slatted panels.

Lots of challenges here! It will be interesting to see the comments from others and to follow your progress.

View Rich's profile


5609 posts in 1361 days

#2 posted 01-03-2018 11:29 PM

First off, congratulations.

Well, here we go again. I get a lot of pushback on this from other members, but — if you’re not an accomplished woodworker, and willing to study and follow the federal safety guidelines for cribs, skip it and buy one. Spend your time doing other less safety-critical projects like a changing table and dresser. Babies spend too much time unattended in cribs to risk any possible mishap, whether it’s a design issue or a malfunction.

Based on previous posts like this, I know that no one will agree with me, and you won’t be swayed in your decision to build it, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my concern. I’m an expert woodworker with over 50 years of experience, and I’d never consider building a crib. I’ve raised three great kids and have three grandkids and the thought of one of them being harmed by a mistake of mine would be more than I’m willing to risk.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2429 posts in 935 days

#3 posted 01-04-2018 12:10 AM

x2: Congratulations on the impending new addition to the family !!

not on the woodworking side of things, but, I would suggest you research
the safety codes first. then, purchase the springs and mattress before you start cutting wood…...
I have seen cribs (and beds) designed and built then the mattress either did not fit
or had unsafe areas where the baby could get wedged between the crib and mattress.
I have never had a reason to research homemade crib regulations, so I do not know the rules
or if any even exist for homemade cribs. I do know that the commercial industry definitely has
rules and regulations that must be strictly adhered to. and that is for the baby’s safety.
so, to err on the side of safety, purchase the springs and mattress – then design your crib around it
AFTER you know all the safety issues put before you.

there is no way in the world to even guess at the lifetime of pain a person would suffer
if a newborn child was hurt (or worse) in a piece of furniture that they built themselves.
so please, do your homework before you take on such a project, as beautiful as it is.

oh – get it built first – then come back with questions on the primer and paint.
you are sort of putting the cart before the horse a little bit.

-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View RenB's profile


17 posts in 918 days

#4 posted 01-04-2018 01:36 AM

First off thanks for the quick replies.

The wife and I are very excited/terrified at the new addition.

I have looked at the safety standards for cribs and the ones that I’m most concerned with are with the slat spacing(no greater than 2-3/8) and mattress height (26” to the bottom on the lowest setting). There are also some important ones like no post over 1/16” above the top(to prevent clothes getting caught and strangling the baby). I have already looked into the mattresses and springs. Almost all the mattresses are with in a 1/4” or so of each other and I have decided to go with slats for the mattresses support, so I am not concerned about the spring size. My sketchup is easily edited for the small discrepancies in the mattress size, which like John Smith suggested I will be buying first and doing the final tweaks before I get too far along and find out I have mis-sized the whole thing.(that would be devastating.

I have also decided to make it bomb proof to prevent what John Smith said. It would be absolutely terrible if something was to happen to the baby, especially if it was because of something I did. Fortunately I have recently helped my friend put together a store bought crib(one that cost $600), and I was not impressed with the build quality at all. It felt flimsy.

The plan is to have the front removable so that when she gets old enough we can convert it into a youth bed. It is not something that we plan on removing on a daily basis. The plan is to attach it from the side rails with a few connector bolts into threaded inserts so that they will not be visible from the front. If the time comes at this feels like there is any chance that it will not be bomb proof it will be glued and screwed in place permanently.

Kazooman I like your thoughts on the grain for the smaller pieces, it might not be a good idea. Maybe a different wood for the smaller pieces and oak or ash for the teething rail and back slats. As for the side slats, I have just picked up a mortiser so the plan is to wear out the chisel making a ton of mortises for them to sit into. The edges of all the slats and everything else for that matter will be softened with sanding.

The moulding in the curved back is the thing I am most apprehensive about. As of right now I am planing on it just being a 45 degree Chamfer however, I have considered doing it as a cove. I am definitely open to suggestions on this. This was the part I was planning on bringing up later because short of roughing it with a bandsaw and sanding to the line I’m really not sure how to accomplish this. As for getting the curve my plan was to make a positive and negative template for the thicker pieces and to do some bent lam for the thinner pieces.

Rich I appreciate your concerns but you are right. I plan on charging ahead. However, if at any point including paint, it looks like it won’t work I am willing to scrap the whole thing and pretend it never happened.

And John the only reason I brought paint up now is because I figured it goes hand and hand with picking the wood.

Thanks again for all your help,

-- Darren, La Habra CA

View Firewood's profile


1219 posts in 2406 days

#5 posted 01-04-2018 03:51 AM

Congratulations Darren!

Your design doesn’t look too much different then the 3-in-1 plan from Wood Magazine. It is the plan I used for my grandson’s crib (now my granddaughter’s). If you look at my projects, you’ll see I made some changes from the original plan.

Given your aggressive timeline, it may help if you have a proven step by step plan to follow.

Best of luck and work safe.

-- Mike - Waukesha, WI

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1692 days

#6 posted 01-04-2018 04:24 AM


There sure is a lot of woodworking packed into what I will call the headboard, but it looks nice. Concerning the headboard design, there appears to be a gap between the outside posts and panel assembly. That gap looks like it could eat a pacifier or two, which if your luck is like mine, crawling under the bed to fetch a runaway pacifier would be a frequent occurrence.

As you finalize your design, ensuring you have a plan for the headboard joinery could save some time, material, and frustration. As drawn, the joinery looks challenging. Some full sized drawings and layout templates could possibly make headboard layout, joinery, and assembly go a little easier.

My first thought was to construct the headboard cap rail as a bent lamination as you suggested. A bent lamination using PVA wood glue will likely spring back some when taken out of the bending form. Therefore constructing the cap rail before cutting the curves in the lower panel assembly would make assembly easier. A stiffer glue that reduces slippage of the laminations against one another is an alternative to PVA glue. Resorcinol glue is one such glue and I have seen it recommended for bent laminations but I think it is messy. While it may reduce spring back I am not sure that spring back would be completely eliminated. I have not used Resorcinol glue.

The cove or chamfered moulding below the cap rail could be milled from straight lumber. Then a series of closely spaced diagonal kerf cuts on the back side of the moulding would allow the moulding to form to the curve. If straight-grain lumber is used to mill this moulding, it would be more likely to bend without cracking.

And congratulations! Your life is about to change in ways you cannot image; but for the better!

View RenB's profile


17 posts in 918 days

#7 posted 01-04-2018 05:37 AM

I was thinking of making the curved chamfered piece out of two boards. Using a positive and negative template for the curve and cutting it out with a router. Then laminating them together to create the 3”. After that I was thinking of taking it over to the band saw to cut the 45 leaving just a little that I can take off with a rasp, spoke shave, or sander.
Or just hoping that someone had a better idea.

After I have that I was thinking of making the top out of a few layers. Laminating them directly to the chamfered section. I figured that if the chamfered section was cut out in that shape it would be able to hold the thinner laminated board in shape.

Also this is al going to be painted so I can always use screws and then cover them with dowels

But I’m getting ahead of my self. I would really like to figure out what kind of wood to use first. I am thinking either oak or ash for most of the boards but as kazooman pointed out it might be good to do a tighter grained wood for the slats. Alder might be too soft, and soft maple isn’t much harder. Any thoughts?

-- Darren, La Habra CA

View RenB's profile


17 posts in 918 days

#8 posted 01-04-2018 07:07 AM

This is pretty much what I was thinking for the curved chamfered board.

-- Darren, La Habra CA

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