17th Century Cradle

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Project by Owlcroft posted 09-20-2011 06:27 PM 3047 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project started when I learned from my Daughter I was about to become a 1st time Grandfather. I volunteered to build a cradle for the little guy. I left the design of the cradle up to her. Well she decided on a one based on a 17th cradle she saw in one of my British woodworking magazines.

Well I promised to make the cradle of her desire so the die was cast. I look at the article in the magazine and the basic layout and was totally overwhelmed. This would be my 1st piece of furniture, the basic layout was in MM (my brain deals with inches & feet), I had no details on the joinery used, and I had never turned fennels or done raised panel construction, and the fun began!

The first step was to figure get a general idea of how I would assemble it and what I would need to build it. I fell back on my programming background. I broke the project down into building blocks. I figured I would need 6 raised panels with tenons that would attach to the posts mortises in the posts. I would also need to draw the patterns for the rockers and the hood arch. Finally I made a basic pattern for the top fennels; I just elongated and winged it when I made the bottom fennels.

The next day I purchased the Oak I needed, stain and wood screws required. I made the decision that the only part of the cradle that was not handmade would be the wood screws.

First thing I did was complete all the styles and rails, squared the posts and stock for turning the fennels, and routed my 1st raised panel. Checkout the picture below of the end of the cradle. I can say nothing but good things about the White side router bits. Routing the end panel was a piece of cake. That afternoon I finished the panels for the right and left side and front of the cradle. Next step will be making the mortises in the posts for the front, side and back tenons. Final step will be the hood and rockers. the posts and side panel rails and styles. I have to admit, building raised panels for the 1st time was intimidating. I learned a lot, including the value of cutting all my rails and styles at one time.

Side without the panels. The small section at the top is the panel for the side of the hood. This is how I marked the location of the mortises on the posts.

Next I sized and routed the rest of the panels this morning. I did all in 2 passes. Having done it in 2 and 3 passes I have concluded 3 is best. I get smoother cuts and no burning. A couple of the panels had slight burning I think I would have avoided using 3 passes.

Biggest problem was the 2 small panels for the side of the hood. I had to use the miter to insure I did not lose control on the 4 1/2” ends. Check out the photos below.

Now I was ready to mortise the posts, while I wait for the spacer balls I need to install the panels, so I can dry fit the sides. This will allow me to determine how long each post needs to be and start on the roof of the hood.

This is the back and front of the cradle. The grain in the front panel runs in the same direction as the sides. The back panel grain runs up mainly because I did not have a piece that was wide enough to run the grain in the same direction as the sides and front. Now that it is complete I think the grain running up looked better than if I had ran it in the same direction as the sides and back. I do not think this will detract from the over look and feel of the cradle.

The spacer balls arrived so now it was time to assembled the side panels. The first lesson learned was the size of the raised panels are different when you use spacer balls. The instructions that came with the bit did not take into account using spacer balls. When I assembled it using the method for determining the size of the raised panel that came with the bits, the spacer balls made it way too tight. What I ended up having to do is take an additional 1/8” off the length and width of the panel (the 1/8” was small enough I did not have to reroute the rails). This allowed me to assemble the side with no problem. The spacer balls took care of centering the panels. I will know in a couple hours when the glue dries how it comes out. It looks great.

If all is well when this side is complete I will assemble the raised panel sides. In the mean time I am resizing the panels, sanding and preparing the other three sides for assembly.

Next I stained one of the side panels to see how the General Antic Oak stain would look. I have to say this was the step I was not looking forward to the most. In the past I was used to using Min-Wax water based stains. The biggest problem I had was getting an even stain, especially on the end grain. I was really worried the OGEE edge on the panels, rails and styles would be hard to get the same as the flat surfaces.

The first surprise was the General water based stain was a gel. The Min-Wax stains I used in the past were watery. I spread it on, let it set a couple minutes and wiped it off. It was unbelievable how evenly it stained the Oak. I am truly impressed on how great the antic Oak stain looks. It is great.

Note: I made the decision a while ago to go with water based stains and finishes for a couple reasons. Primary is I have small garage workshop. Water based stains have no smell, they clean-up easily in the sink and I do not have to worry about the fire hazard inherit in oil based stains.

Now that the staining was complete all I need to do was apply a water-based finish. I choose a Min-Wax clear satin finish. 6 coats later the project was complete and I was greatly relieved. I am seriously considering building a second cradle after the 1st of the year. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.


-- Owlcroft

9 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4216 days

#1 posted 09-20-2011 07:12 PM

Very interesting design, and quite beautiful at that.

Congratulations, Grandpa. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View TropicalWW's profile


39 posts in 2650 days

#2 posted 09-21-2011 12:45 AM

WOW! That’s awesome!!!!

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3671 days

#3 posted 09-21-2011 02:37 AM

Beautiful cradle.

View bill merritt's profile

bill merritt

203 posts in 3287 days

#4 posted 09-21-2011 07:57 AM

That is one great looking cradle.Looks like an instant heirloom to me. And I second the congratulations Grandpa.

-- Bill Merritt -Augusta Ga. woodworker

View helluvawreck's profile


31071 posts in 2864 days

#5 posted 09-21-2011 02:50 PM

This is real special. It’s beautiful and you did a very nice job on it.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3083 days

#6 posted 09-21-2011 03:36 PM

Very wonderful reproduction of an antique cradle and it does look a little intimidating from the build point, but
the way you broke it down for your project makes it seem a lot easier. All you need is patience and a lot of
craftmanship. Since the daughter selected it, I am sure she will be happy with it. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3238 posts in 3710 days

#7 posted 09-23-2011 07:14 AM


The way you tackled that project, you need to ask your daughter to find something that will challenge you! That should be a family heirloom! Thanks for sharing.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View KnotCurser's profile


2025 posts in 3066 days

#8 posted 09-23-2011 07:19 PM

Ya done good GrandPa!


-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

View Owlcroft's profile


49 posts in 3111 days

#9 posted 10-08-2011 02:53 PM

Thanks to all for the great comments and encouragement. Now that I have finally completed my first piece of serious furniture I am ready to tackle an Entertainment Center and matching set of Night Stands my wife has been asking for.

-- Owlcroft

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