Well, it has been a long journey on this project and it is finally complete and just in time for Isabella’s arrival in really any day now. This last blog entry will show the fitment, final assembly, finishing, and a summary.
When I last left off, I glued the bottom panel together and the cradle was ready for glue up and assembly. I changed my mind when taking a look at the rocker pieces and trashed them in favor of some made from butternut to keep the piece pure butternut.
Carcass glue-up pics:
The carcass sat in the clamps for about a week because I just couldn’t get back to it. So needless to say, they were good to go when the clamps were removed! After I took them out, I set to work on fairing the joinery as I made all the joints to be just a hair proud. I find the joints look so much nicer when done in this method as the whole surface is planed down to the same level and any glue squeeze out is cleaned up and there will be nothing left but clean wood. Here are a couple of pics of that process:
I then took the bottom panel out of the clamps and got to work sizing the ends. I placed the carcass upside down on top of the saw benches and clamped a board to the end of the head side so that it stuck above the bottom edge of the head board. This allowed me to set the bottom piece flush on that end and accurately mark the length. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of that. That step worked excellent and after I marked the length, I used the bench modified shooting board to get the bottom to its final length. After that step, I positioned the bottom board in place and clamped it in place so I could nail it down. I first drilled pilot holes with my Miller’s Falls #2 drill with a bit that was about half size of the thickest portion of the shank of the nail. I drilled all the holes and nailed the bottom in place.
I didn’t worry about cutting the sides of the bottom to exact fit, knowing I would simply plane it to fit once it was nailed in place. The board was about an inch wider on each side and I used my scrub plane to knock the width down to a more manageable width which could then be planed to exact fit. Here are some pics of that:
To attach the rockers to the bottom, I used some small pieces to attach them to. I contemplated gluing the rockers on, but decided against it in case the parents ever desire to remove them and have the cradle serve in a non-rocking manner. So here are some pics of putting all that together.
With the assembly of the rockers to the bottom, the cradle had two final details to be completed before finishing. The sides have a small carved detail following the curved upper portion. I used a french curve to get the shape, used a pencil to lay it on the wood and then followed it very carefully with an Exact-Knife. This left a very small cut to follow with the carving gouge. I didn’t get a good picture of the process, but will point out the detail in the finishing pictures. The next was locating the handles for the head and foot sides. I struggled with adding handles or not. I decided it would be nice for the parents to be able to lift the cradle with some level of ease and the only way to do that was handles. So short inner struggle with wether or not to install them. The real struggle was with what material to use. I originally thought about using handles made of the same butternut. However, I have made handles for other things in the past and don’t feel I have a very good knack of making a decent looking handle. So I thought about buying some handles. But I wasn’t sure what would look good. Anyway, I went to the local Woodcraft store to purchase a gouge to cut the detail in the sides and low and behold, they had a pretty nice set of handles laying in the bargain bin, three for five dollars! I didn’t know if they would be the ones at the time, but figured at worst, I could always find a use for them if they didn’t work for the cradle. Well, when I put them up to the cradle to see how they would be, they looked pretty darn good. So I drilled holes and put them on. They are a cast brass type with some carving detail of their own.
The cradle was now ready for finishing. I used a simple finish: Boiled Linseed Oil. That’s it. It is safe for the baby, easy, and didn’t alter the color of the butternut. I tested BLO and Tung Oil on a piece when I started the project and was very happy with the BLO results. I put a pretty heavy coat on, and then brushed on another after that. I let it dry for about an hour or so and then wiped it down. The results are fantastic, it really looks nice. I let the cradle sit for about a week and then put some paste wax on the outside only. I gave it a good rubdown, signed the bottom and it is ready for use.
Here is how it looks with a coat of wax on it.
Closing: This was a project that was both fun to make and it was purpose made. I titled the blog as a cradle made with hand tools. I did use some power however. The boards were milled with machines. I also used a band saw to cut the rockers and the curved detail on the head and foot boards. I would have used a bowsaw if I had one, or my coping saw, but it is a lousy one. So I opted for the bandsaw to make the work neater and more accurate. Everything else was by hand. Sawing the boards, planing them, drilling them, chiseling, etc. The use of primarily hand tools shows in the cradle as there are some minor imperfections. In my opinion, this adds character to the cradle and shows it was not made in some factory somewhere. Indeed, this was a true labor of love; it is the first of many gifts to my very first grandchild, Isabella Czarina.
I hope this blog inspires someone to build a cradle. I also hope it helps promote hand tool use. Thank you for reading, Mike.