Wheelchair Furniture #2: The First Problem

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Blog entry by Russel posted 09-13-2007 05:44 PM 1498 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: My Pet Project Part 2 of Wheelchair Furniture series no next part

When I was first asked to make a wheelchair compatible crib it seemed simiple enough; simply lengthen the legs so that the wheelchair could roll underneath. That worked fine as long as you didn’t want to put the baby in or take the baby out of the crib. It was quickly brought to my attention that the issue with standard cribs was access to the infant inside.

This problem had been addressed my wheeled parents in a variety of ways. One was cutting the legs so that the parent could roll up beside the crib and reach down into it. As an initial solution this kinda worked, at least until the child grew to a point where two hands were required to lift it. That type of stretch put quite a strain on the side and back muscles of the parent and eventually became less than optimal.

Other solutions suggested that the side could slide open toward one side of the crib. Again, it could work, but if the entire side moved, then the crib would require nearly double the floor space due the the extended side when open. And, if only a part of the side opened, then that made part of the inside of the crib inaccessible to parent.

Some folks have modified cribs so that one side would swing open like a door. However, like a partial sliding side left part of the crib out of reach. Additionally, swinging the side open requires that the parent back away from the crib which unfortunately exposes the infant to falling out while unprotected.

As a result, I settled on a bi-fold side and am confident that it is the safest and most functional design. It allows the parent to remain at the side of the crib at all times to protect the child while allowing full access to the inside of the crib.

The problem here is the mechanics, and I’m looking for confirmation that what I’m doing is good, or that there is a better way. I’ve build a half dozen of these and each has had a slight improvement in functionality and safety over the last. I’m pretty sure I’m not perfect (I could be wrong here), so I’m constantly looking for better ways to do things.

Currently I’m using “3/8 pivot hinges with one inserted in a hole and another riding in a groove routed into the rail. This works fine for the most part. My problem is that the hinges are wood and the slot is wood and sometimes there’s a bit of binding.

The other problem is strength. I could make the rails thicker, but one of the things that folks are attracted to is the fact that the crib looks like a regular crib proportionately and too much thicker and the furniture could start to look a bit clunky.

What I’m looking for is a better sliding mechanism, if there is one that does not require custom ordering. The biggest weakness at this point is making sure that the bi-fold side is secure and free moving. Anyone got some ideas?

-- Working at Woodworking

20 comments so far

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3988 days

#1 posted 09-13-2007 06:10 PM

Would a metal channel in the groove help?

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3988 days

#2 posted 09-13-2007 06:13 PM

Also could you not just use soss hinges in the doors and forgo the groove altogether?

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View ThreeJs's profile


84 posts in 3936 days

#3 posted 09-13-2007 06:15 PM

I think the bi-fold doors will work well. I think the only other solution might have been a side that slides up and over the crib. And set in such a way, that you know it will not fall down and hit anyone.

-- David, Charlotte NC

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3988 days

#4 posted 09-13-2007 06:26 PM

Looking at the pic I see soss wouldn’t work because your rails are thin. Would putting ball bearings in the groove help?

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4157 days

#5 posted 09-13-2007 08:23 PM

I can’t help you on the technical stuff, but I had the same ideas as David—lift it up.. you could make a “6 poster bed” and have two in the middle that housed the sliding door mechanism.

but with anything remember that the baby will be standing and climbing before he/she gets to a toddler bed – those little fingers will find every nook, every sharp piece, every hole, every place to get stuck/cut….

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 3909 days

#6 posted 09-13-2007 08:25 PM


This is certainly an interesting project.

I’m not sure I am exactly envisioning the application of the pivot hinges that you are using. I am assuming that they are at the top/bottom of the doors and they slide in a wooden groove. Having said that, what about this:

Maybe you could eliminate the binding by using a brass pin on the top and the bottom of each door and a strip of UHMW plastic in the grooves of the rails on the crib. The UHMW would have a narrow groove in it wide and deep enough for the brass pin to ride in. the UHMW is slippery and the brass pin should not wear or bind like wood may.

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3987 days

#7 posted 09-13-2007 11:14 PM

Like Mark, I also want to suggest using UHMW. I also think that making the crib rail slide sideways, like a pocket door, would give mom better access.

In the hospital I work at, we use a “slider board” which is nothing more than a heavy sheet of plastic. (Looks like a kids snow tobaggon). When we’re needing to move a patient say from one bed to a stretcher (in this case moving a heavy baby into mom’s lap) we take the slider board and “slide” it as far under the patient as possible. Then take the sheet the patient is lying on and “slide” him to where-ever you want. No lifting, no back injuries.

I hope this can help. And if you need “confirmation” that what you are doing is good…You got it bud! 100%.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3935 days

#8 posted 09-14-2007 12:51 AM

Thanks for the input, I appreciate the additional eyes. Concerning some of the suggestions, I did consider some of them. Dadoo, the problem I ran into with the sliding/pocket door design is that it increases the required footprint of the crib requiring almost double the space. Some of the folks I talked with found this to be a problem. MsDebbieP, I also considered having the side go up over the top, but my lack of engineering skills left me with a fear of the side coming down on the baby. It’s somewhat amusing that I’m more afraid of babies getting hurt now that I have grandchildren than I ever was with my own kids. (Maybe I just know more things that could go wrong.)

I have found that the people who need this type of furniture typically have the least resources available. It’s remarkable how many disability organizations there are that spend all their time lobbying the legislature rather than actually helping people, but that’s a different rant. It’s an interesting requirement which is why I’ve asked for your insights . . . There are good people and good minds here.

Now, I have no idea what UHMW is, but I’m assuming it’s some type of plastic. I have thought about putting something in the rail, but have been unable to find anything small enough to fit and still allow the bi-fold mechanism to function. If someone can point me in the right direction I’d be quite grateful.

As I said, this is the first problem, and while what I’m currently doing is functional, I am convinced that there is better. And if I can’t get it here I cannot imagine where it might be found.

Thanks for all your input. It confirms my thought processes and gives me other options to consider.

Man I love this group.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3959 days

#9 posted 09-14-2007 02:29 PM


How about a side sliding tambour door? I built one for a kitchen garage not long ago and now see that Amana has a special set of router bits which eliminate using canvas on the under side of the tambour. By using this the foot print of the crib would not be much bigger and the child could not get it open. The drawback woudl be that you couldn’t see through it. Just a thought. It would split in the middle and slide into the end panels.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3935 days

#10 posted 09-14-2007 03:15 PM

A tambour door? I really didn’t give that much thought because the only place I’ve seen that used is with roll-top desks and, I’m not quite sure my skill level is up to that. I’ve seen the bit sets and they look tempting, just couldn’t justify them to myself, let alone the wife.

Thinking about that though, could the tambour technique be used on the rails and still maintain the see through slats? And, if so, would there be sufficient strength to keep the little one from pushing or pulling it apart?

Thank you sir, something to experiment with.

-- Working at Woodworking

View che's profile


123 posts in 4022 days

#11 posted 09-14-2007 04:13 PM

That is a good looking crib.

A brass pin riding in a brass slot would eliminate most of the friction and would look quite nice.
Chanel – part number 2582T21
Rod – part number 2582T21

UHMWPE is ultra high molecular weight polyethylene For this application you could go with most of the polyethylene varieties. They have stock at McMaster but I don’t think you’ll be able to fine prefab chanels and its can be a challenge to machine.

How are you latching the bi-fold doors. I have a 8.5 month at home and she can open a lot of different latches.

One last note if your doing this for profit or have a woodworking business be sure to check out the regulations it the CFR for cribs. The have reauirements on slat spacing, distance from matress to top rail etc. The one I found most interesting is that you can not use wood screws to assemble the parts that can be taken apart. I’m guessing that if the screws are perminant and covered with plugs they would be OK. The crib I got had a lot of threaded inserts to connect the various pieces.

-- Che.

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4158 days

#12 posted 09-14-2007 07:27 PM

Looks like Thos already suggested my idea of a roller type side. It could roll over the top and then rest on the other side of the crib. Or, it could roll underneath I guess too. I am not sure what the requirements are for cribs, since I have not built one. But, it would be good to check the requirements.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3935 days

#13 posted 09-14-2007 10:50 PM

Che, thanks for those part numbers. Sometimes finding the right parts is simply knowing where to look, I’ll check out McMaster and see what’s there.

Bill, the requirements for cribs are pretty specific, I’ve got copies of specs from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Americans with Disabilties and ASTM. There is much to be aware of when building cribs. My fear of a little one getting hurt because I missed something made me almost obsessive.

The latching of the side is actually the next problem. So far I’ve used three different methods, the latest being the most secure in my mind. My second crib was used for over a year by my grandson (affectionately known as bull-dozer) and held up quite well.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4397 days

#14 posted 09-15-2007 04:52 AM

Here's a possibility Put a track on the mattress base and get a sliding piece that fits in the track. a UHMW plastic would be great but the one that they show on this web page is just a bar that fits in a saw slot. But if you look at the first picture you see the piece locked into the track. You could also have a knob to lock it or a plunger that does into a hole to keep it from moving.

You could buy a sheet of UHMW plastic and mill a sliding piece. They also sell that product on the web site.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3935 days

#15 posted 09-15-2007 04:30 PM

Thanks for the link Karson. That’s kinda what I’m looking for. I’d like to get something a bit narrower.

-- Working at Woodworking

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