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Back in December I posted about the crib I was making for my young’n. Just after that a time warp occurred that I am just coming out of now. However, one of the projects I did mange to work to completion is my daughter’s shiny new crib. Let me begin by saying anyone who tells you building a crib is a piece of cake is either a liar or selling something. I had lots of issues, but in the end it came out great. So, without further delay, here’s part 2 of the crib build and how it went down.

Due to other time-sucks that happened outside of the shop I wasn’t able to document this project as well as we normally would, but I’ll hit the highlights and low points.

In the last post I left off after just having built the major sections for the end pieces. Now it was time to start assembling them. I needed several things from these ends. Not only would the entire rest of the crib be built to hook to these pieces, but I would need them to look good and provide a mechanical lock as well as a hardware lock in order to feel good about youngster sleeping in it. So as I do with many problems, I solved this issue with 3/4 trim.

One strip of the decorative trim would be laid down vertically. At the bottom of the panel piece I cut and placed a “hook” that would locate the panel, and the end of that hook would be the base of the receiver for the bed rails.

To make sure I got the spacing right I laid down a scrap piece of the 3” oak strips I built the rails from and cut the remaining panel pocket piece into place.

A few counter-sunk holes in the panels later, they were glued and fastened up to the legs and I had a freestanding structure. Three screws on each side plus the mechanical lip on each corner was a secure foundation to start with.

The part that I had been dreading was the sides. The back would be one non-moving piece that covers the entire span of that side. The front side would be divided in half and would fold in the middle. In between those rails would be lots and lots of slats. To start, I cut six pieces that would make up the rails to hold the slats. With two blocks of wood, one at 2 1/4” and one the length of a finished slat, I began to mark the rails for the slots the slats would go in.

With a 1/4” straight cut router bit installed in the trim router, I made the first pass cuts into each pair of rails. I made sure I kept the rails as paired as I could, since I drew the mark lines on in set after a measuring screw-up cost me my first run. The slots lined up great on this set, so I completed the first pass on each one, set the router another 3/8” deeper for the second round, and went to town. I wound up with six good-looking rails that were more or less even.

Slat production was next. I had 13 long slats for the back and 26 short ones for the front. Though it isn’t really fair to say that this was the crappy part of the project I will say that the thing I enjoy most about working with wood is making sweet-looking, one-off pieces of furniture and moving on to something else. Making the same thing over and over is soul crushing — slats qualified as tedium for me.

However, like any other project, it’s not going to get done if I wait for someone else to do it, so I faithfully cut all the slats to length in groups to go in each side piece. The back slats were 23” and the front side panels were going to sport 11.5” slats. A quick run on the end with the miter saw got them exactly even.

Next came sanding and shaping. I rounded the edges and smooth-sanded each slat on a bench sander for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t manage to get pictures of this process, but anyone that has ever taken on a similar project can tell you that there is nothing sexy about this part — it’s just a lot of work and patience.

Each slat was fitted into its rail and I hammered them home gently with an extra slat laid underneath crosswise for positioning.

After they were dry and ready to go, I clamped the back and lower front side into place to get an idea of what I was looking at.

After a few pieces of trim, I installed about 6 screws and a few “L” brackets to hold the sides on. I began to mark and pre-drill the sections for the four hinges that would hold the folding side to the bottom.

With most of the hardware and framework built, it was time to have a little fun. I installed some decorative trim on the outside of the legs and on the inside of the panel. It was cheap and easy to do, but adds a lot of pizzazz to the overall look and feel of the project — and the Mrs. really liked it, which is a super big plus.

Staining, sealing and finish sanding took more than the entire design and build phase of the project. I used Cherry finish Danish oil, three coats of clear poly, and about a pack and a half of sandpaper. Should you ever attempt it, during this phase of the project just recite to yourself, “…my child is worth it, my child is worth it” as many times as you can. I promise the sanding will eventually end.

After completing this crib I can state several facts for the record. The first and probably most important is that there’s almost nothing that makes you feel more like an awesome parental type figure than tucking your child into a bed that you built for them. You will also most likely be the only one on your block to actually build a crib for your offspring — which earns big points within the family unit and a few bragging rights. And while that’s all well and good, there ends the happy-fun-time.

This project is different than almost any other I’ve ever undertaken because the stakes are higher almost all the way around. The tolerances must be tighter, the sanding must be flawless, and the fasteners recessed. Not to mention the whole thing has to be taken down and reassembled after it’s finished, which as I found, adds a whole other degree of difficulty.

Take your time. This is not a project that may be completed in a day or two. The sanding and shaping alone will take more than that. Test your designs and fastening techniques out on trial pieces. You don’t want a discovery that something won’t work to end up on a finished piece.

Slats suck. I’d love to have a wisened attitude of careful planning and a quick trick that makes them better, but in the end there are a lot of them (especially with my fold down design) and each one takes time to get right and fit into place.

So to sum up this projects’ down sides I will leave you with a quote I picked up from the Woodcarving show on the DIY network a few weeks ago: “Shut up and sand.”


24 Responses to How To: Build A Crib — Part 2

  1. jeff says:

    Awesome job! It looks great. It probably helps you sleep better at night knowing there won’t be a recall on this fine piece.

  2. Shopmonger says:

    Finished mine just the other day….can’t wait……Sean it looks great and we all understand about the time constraints….


  3. G says:

    That fold-down design is terrific, even if it meant overwhelming amounts of slats.

  4. Looks great Sean!

    My only concern is those sliding bolts. I used one to keep little fingers from getting smashed in our lazy Susan, but both kids figured out how to open it before they were one. They just learned not to touch it after they pinched their fingers a few times.

  5. Jim K. says:

    My hats off to you for a nicely done job. So far my work in the shop for baby stuff has consisted solely of fixing manufacturer’s crappy designs and making things work the way they “should”. 😉 Still a sense of satisfaction, but not nearly to the same degree. I am working on a ride-on toy though. I’ll be sure to post photos to the pool when I’m done.

  6. Clint says:

    I built a crib and have pictures posted on my website (non-commercial).

    I hear you on the sanding part. I decided to shape my slats which took 8 cuts to complete and a crap ton of sanding. I also made my bed able to turn into a day bed, and full size bed later on. The full size bed actually has a completely separate foot board with even more albeit shorter slats.

  7. Sean O'Hara says:

    Hey Ben,

    Actually I had that same thought so I did two things. I made the fit very tight which means it’s hard for adults to work the bolts and drilled the bolt itself and installed a pin lock so when we get there she will have to overcome both bolts, the friction of the bolt and hole, and a pin lock on the bolt itself. I figure if she can get past all that she’s about ready to come out the crib anyway.

  8. IronHerder says:

    To stain the slats (or posts or balusters) efficiently, you might try a method that was published in Family Handyman. First, the post is lowered into a PVC tube holding stain, then removed and wiped with an inside-out cloth-lined rubber glove (worn on your hand, duh). Finally, the post is hung for drying using a pre-installed cup hook on the end of the post and a horizontal string with conveniently placed knots to keep the posts from sliding together.

  9. Woody says:

    great job and sure to be a family heirloom worth fighting over.

  10. rz says:

    just what i am looking for. how hard would this be to make to fit a full sized twin mattress? would you have measurements for this project to fit a full sized twin mattress? the reason i ask is this would be used for a disabled older teen who also has ms and mentality of a 2 year old with other physical problems and need the side rails so that it could be lowered on either side the way it is shown in your picture. a bucky board would be layed on the slats then full sized twin would lay on that. any help on plans or measurements would really help out. as we are low income and can not afford to buy high priced bed. all help welcome.

  11. Alex Jung says:

    I was wondering how you used a trim router to make those slots for the slats?

  12. Tamelya says:

    Where can I get printable plans for this crib? My husband and I will be first time grandparents in July. He is great at woodworking and would like to build our new grand baby a crib.

  13. Michelle says:

    This crib is gorgeous! Good job!

  14. Carrie says:

    Where can I find plans for this crib? My step brother is expecting in a couple months and my more handy father would like plans to build it soon. Printable plans are preferred due to the timing of the project. I can’t seem to find anything like this online, and they need something like this as they’re quite a bit shorter and myself. Thanks in advance for your reply!

  15. Lori says:

    Crib looks great. I own a baby’s dream crib with a safety gate like the one you built. The crib company replaced the individual hinges with a piano hinge in its later designs to avoid little fingers from being pinched.

  16. What is the width of the slats? did you buy premade or did you have to make them?

  17. Ellen Levesque says:

    where can I get the plans for this crib?

  18. Doug says:

    Where can I get plans for that crib

  19. Pauline says:

    How do I get the pattern for this crib?

  20. Jim Hoskins says:

    Do you have plans available for this project? If so where could I go to buy a set.


  21. Linda Piluschak says:

    I am also interested in making this crib. Do you have plans available for this project – Id rely like to buy a set

  22. Stacey says:

    How can I get the plans and a link to the hardware

  23. Bruce Gokey says:

    How can I get the plans to make this

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