Baby's Cradle #3: A New Beginning

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Blog entry by paratrooper34 posted 02-27-2012 02:55 AM 1786 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Day Two: Shaping the Carcass and Dovetails! Part 3 of Baby's Cradle series Part 4: Dovetails and Fitting (And just a little bit of swearing!) »

Well, this project has been on the back burner for a few weeks. Why? Because it was faulty and it got broken. This double whammy killed it and I had to go back to the drawing board and start over. First off, the cradle was built too narrow. I am not sure how the one I got from the plans worked out, but mine was only off on measurements by the width of the boards which I didn’t factor in with the dovetail joinery. But still, the cradle should have been good enough as that was the only shortcoming with the plans. I did cut off about two inches from the bottom with the hopes that would open it up some, but it did not do much at all. Additionally, I broke one of the sides when working the glue up. It was the thinest part of the side and I guess the board had a slight defect right there. It snapped when I put a little pressure on it when “persuading” the dovetails together. I tried gluing it back together, but the break was very visible. I even tried filling it in with wood filler, but that was going to require painting the cradle, which I really didn’t want to do. So the break and the poor dimensions closed the door on this. I called it my “prototype” and promised the wife it would be a good item to paint and put some plants or flowers in. So it is partially finished and I will get to when I have some spare time (a very rare commodity!)

So I decided to do some things differently this time. One: I am using butternut for the wood. I got a great deal on about 80 board feet for low money. Butternut is a very nice looking wood; warm and inviting. Perfect for a baby to sleep in. I figured one dimensional error in the plans was the angle of the head and foot boards. I think it was too narrow because that angle was not pronounced enough. I opened it up by about 10 – 15 degrees which will make a marked difference in width of the cradle. I am also going to omit the roof structure on this cradle. I think it is a nice detail, but after some thinking, it seems to me that some head bumps on the child could occur. So no roof on this one. I am also going to switch up tails and pins. I did the prototype with the tails on the sides. I think it will look better with the tails on the ends, so that will be done. I am also making a fundamental switch: I have always been a “Tails First” guy. Well, during the hiatus from the cradle project, I took some time to practice cutting some dovetails. I found it is easier and more accurate (for me) to cut the pins first. So I am going to make a performance change along with the project changes.

On to the new cradle:

The butternut stock I got was all rough cut. I got enrolled in an Open Shop class at a cabinet making school and used their machinery to get everything 4S4. I did do some final work with the jointer and smooth planes to ensure square and to get machine marks out before glue ups. Here is a pic of that.

This is the first time I have worked with butternut. It is a close relative to walnut. The grain patterns seem to be about the same. Butternut is much lighter and is much softer, similar to pine. It works with hand tools very nicely. It takes to glue very well and the glue ups produced solid joints. I did learn a lesson here: my shop is located in my basement. It is pretty cool down there. Now, once I get to work moving hand tools on the wood, I warm up pretty nicely. But it is still cool. I glued up the first two panels and after they sat for a couple of hours, which is normally good for Tightbond, the joints failed after I took them out of the clamps. I guessed (right) that the cold had something to do with that. The next ones I did, I glued them up in my shop and then took them upstairs to cure in the warmth. That did the trick. I thought it was warm enough in the shop, but it wasn’t. Lesson learned.

I used the new panel marking gauge that I made to get the panels dimensioned. I really like the tools that I made. You can really see the warm grain of the butternut in this pic.

Here are some pics of dimensioning the panels. I used the saw benches in tandem when ripping boards to provide more stability. The bench hooks are invaluable here.

The sides get a little curve detail. Here is the preliminary shaping of those.

I used rasps and files to work the curve detail. That’s it for today. My cats provided me morale support, they love to hang out in the shop with me. Raiden, the big one and Stella, the baby.

Next week: side panel curve detail finishing and dovetail time.

-- Mike

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