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The Mrs. and I are expecting our firstborn in a few months. Your life changes in unexpected ways with the mere mention of this event. One of side effects of this experience is that money starts disappearing for baby stuff. There are tons of items you must locate, one of which is a crib. After a day trucking through baby stores I decided that I could build one just as good as the ones I was seeing in the store. As so began my quest to do just that.

My first advice to anyone building their own crib is to not tell anyone you’re building your own crib. For some reason everyone you meet has an engineering degree all of the sudden, and on come endless streams of “How far apart are those slats?” or “Are you sure you know how to do this?” and my personal favorite “You can’t have any corners you know.” If you take all the advice you get from onlookers your child will be securely fastened in a heated, mythical orb that’s on the floor with no corners and no way out.

Folks have been building cribs for children long before Graco and Fisher Price handed down the “rules” to us mere mortals so I thought I would look and see what some of the excepted standards actually are.

To my relief, the standards for making a crib were actually pretty straightforward. The first rule I found had to do with slats. It’s pretty simple really; the gap between them should not be more than 2 3/8” wide and the slats themselves shouldn’t be less than 1/16” thick. I planned to put 2 1/4” between them and make them 1/4″ thick. So no worries.

The next bit was about hardware. It’s best if the youngsters can’t reach and can’t remove any hardware holding the crib together — both so they won’t hurt themselves and so they can’t take apart the crib they’re sitting in. Recessed hardware — check. There are a few other common sense things, but generally use your head and don’t make a death trap for your kiddo.

With that out of the way, I began work. The first step was to figure out how big this rig actually had to be. With the arrival of the mattress in its sealed plastic bag I took a few measurements. A 58” x 28” mattress meant that by the time the crib was built it would be slightly bigger than the doorway it needed to get through. So I would have to build it so it could be disassembled — not one of my strong suits, but doable.

The first order of business was to make a frame for the mattress itself. A few quick cuts and miters with some 3” solid oak trim made a box that was exactly as big and the mattress on top of it and it fit super snug so it would be harder for little fingers to get down there.

For the horizontal supports I laid a strip of 3/4″ trim with the flat side up on each side, again taking care to make the tolerances tight, and fastened it down with glue and brads.

Next I cut a few runners to hold the mattress out of some one-inch poplar I had lying around, and laid them in after a good sanding and knocking off the edges with a 3/8” round over bit.

The legs were constructed from two pieces of 3” x 3/4” oak trim to form a nice sturdy, thick leg that measured 46”, which is about the standard height for the cribs I could find.

Some of the cribs I found had a head and foot panel. I liked this look, and because I didn’t feel like joining that much trim together (and it’s loads cheaper) I used a piece of double-veneered, 3/4″ ply for this part. It’s thick and tough and won’t expand and contract with the weather near as much.

Sidenote: You might notice that the shop tape is switched to a Blade Armor tape from Stanley. I haven’t traded in the smaller Stanley tape but we’ve found that the Blade Armor has many great qualities; the one I dig the most is that it doesn’t scratch or mar the wood like other tapes can. The perfect combo would of course be a small 12’ tape with Blade Armor as far as I am concerned.

After the panels were cut I laid them out to get a grip on how big this was actually going to be. Afterwards I was very glad I decided to make this thing a piece of takedown furniture; it’s going to get very large very fast.

In the next installment of the crib project, we build out the rest of the panel ends and start work on the slats and how they’ll attach to the ends.


19 Responses to How-To: Build A Crib — Part 1

  1. David says:

    What is “double-veneered ply”? Did you buy it or make it yourself?

  2. John says:

    I made the crib for my kids. great experience. It also gave me something to do/make while the wife was growing the baby. Made the pregnancy process have a definite progression and made the due date something tangible since the crib had to be done before that time, or else. I didn’t start until week 20 when all tests and such had passed and come back clean, so it was a rush to get it done and finished in time. the finishing took the longest since we had a December boy and I finished the crib in November and only got to finish it on warm evenings and weekends when we didn’t have other stuff to do for the baby (not many during that time of year and that stage of pregnancy). all hardwood construction, based on this plan (http://www.plansnow.com/crib.html) but without the cherry details. it also took much longer since I was tuning and setting up tools I’d bought during the process, so many evenings were spent tuning hand planes, sharpening things, setting jointer blades, etc. But now I have a full shop all setup and ready for ongoing kids projects (shelves, toys, furniture, etc).

  3. Rick says:


    The wife and I are in the process of adopting a child. Thus, I’m prepping to build a crib (^_^)

  4. Bill Schuller says:

    First of all, Congratulations Sean! I wanted to build a crib for my first, but it just didn’t come together. I bought some of the materials and hoped to be cutting away on my tiny California patio, but it never happend. Now that I’m in Texas, I have all the room I could ask for and only the time which I can keep a 2.5 year old safely entertained “helping” me in the shop. Seems like I’m feeding or changing my six-week-old second the rest of the time.

  5. BrianD says:

    I built one using plans and parts from Rockler – my wife didn’t trust me to get it right on my own… It came out well and he has been sleeping in it for the past year and a half!

  6. Aaron says:

    I’m currently in the process of building a crib right now too, deadline of May. It will turn into a bed with a few additional pieces when that time comes. I’m using red oak and its of a standard slats all around design with a few curved pieces to make it a little less boxy. Tons of work in making all the slats, but its starting to take shape as I get to the assembly stage.

  7. Jame Vasile says:

    Congrats on the new addition to your family!

    I was just handed down a storkcraft drop-side crib. FWIW, if you’re building one with drop-side capability, note that many of these cribs have been recalled because of a dangerous failure mode whereby the plastic bracket connecting the drop-side to the slide can break. Since that bracket holds the drop-side against the mattress, a broken bracket leads to a crib wall that can be pushed outwards, which leaves your child vulnerable to falling into the space between the mattress and the crib wall.

    The crib I received was broken in exactly this manner (no doubt broken by a child pushing on the drop-side). I repaired it with a steel mending plate, which now makes it the strongest part of the crib.

    If you’re copying existing drop-side designs, don’t copy something that has been recalled and try to account for predictable wear-and-tear leading to unsafe conditions.

    The recall notice:

    One other design note. I don’t know how this crib was meant to be assembled, but I picked up some cross-dowel nuts, and they seem to be a winning choice for a crib that might see several rounds of assembly and disassembly over the years.

    PS: My mother feared the dangerous combination of kids and corners. To prove it, I have a scar over my left eye from slamming my face into a *round* coffee table as a child. If kids are determined to seek danger, they will find it!

  8. Jim K. says:

    Congrats! I applaud your determination. My wife and I are currently expecting and I’d planned on building a crib for our child. I’d gotten the requisite plans together, started to acquire the wood, etc. and managed to block out the questioning that you mention (or at least convince most people that I knew what the heck I was doing). It’s amazing to me the level which people believe that safe=store bought. Anyway, after all of that my job got incredibly busy and I had to resign myself to building something smaller since I lost nearly 3 months of build time.

  9. Jim German says:

    I too am shocked that people seem to think that it must be store made to be safe. I know full well that anything I build will be made with safer materials, will be significantly stronger, and will be far better engineered, than 99% of the cribs out there.

  10. Gary says:

    Hey Sean, make sure you don’t have any rusty 16 penny nails sticking point in into the the sleeping area.

    Congrats on the coming baby.

    Treasure your shop time while you have it. After the baby comes, you’ll be so tired you won’t miss it and then you’ll gradually get to ramp up your shop time again. By then it will be a happy surprise.

    I wish I’d had time to make a crib. SWMBO started nesting about 3 seconds after finding out she was pregnant, so there were too many other jobs in the way.

  11. BigEdJr says:

    Try not to use lead paint either… Congrats by the way!

  12. Congrats on the coming baby! It’s great that you’re building the crib yourself.
    I’m sure it will be safe and much more memorable than a store bought one. I look forward to the rest of the project.

  13. ShopMonger says:

    Congrats on the great news Mr Ohara….. or should we say Daddy Ohara. And great job , nothing cooler than making something fro your kids. I am in process of making a toybox for my first, who is still on the way..


  14. paganwonder says:

    Congrats on the need to build furniture for a new family member- it’s good practice for remodeling the basement to accomodate teenagers!

  15. WA says:

    How far apart are those slats?

  16. James says:

    Very nice, when do you suppose part 2 will be up?

  17. Dylan says:

    Where do I find a mattress this big? I have been looking everywhere and cannot find one.

  18. Kelly says:

    My wife saw the picture of this crib and wants it for our upcoming child. The slats are what worry me. Anyway I could get some more info on this crib plan?

  19. Chuck says:

    Where’s the rest of your plans?

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