December 21, 2006

In Process: One Sweet, Sweet Dad-Made Heirloom Crib

Another Jason, Nakashima* Studio–woodworker Jason Banks, is hard at work on a crib for his son, due in a few months [congratulations!]. After putting in long hours at work, and making dinner for his pregnant wife, Jason has been tweaking the double mortises and rosewood wedges on a beautiful, cherry and walnut crib of his own design. If that weren’t enough, he’s managed to write a little something for DT.

*Yes, as in George Nakashima, master woodworker, aka The Samurai of Aquetong Road. Jason has been working at the Nakashima Studio and Compound in New Hope, PA for just over a year, where he makes chairs and tables under the direction of the late Nakashima’s daughter, Mira. More about George Nakashima, master Daddytype, and the home he built for his young family, later. Back to the crib.

Jason writes:

Having recently moved to the suburban country of central New Jersey from a small apartment in Brooklyn we found that we had more space in the home we moved in to than we had furniture to occupy that space. My stroke of genius was to build us a house full of furniture - well eventually that is. I figured it would take a while. Well it’s been a year and a half, I’ve designed a bunch of pieces I would eventually like to build but finding the time to do so has been more than challenging. When we found out we were having a child I couldn’t resist the urge to build the little one a crib. I figured I could knock out two tasks at once, give the boy a custom made crib to sleep in and prove to my wife(and in-laws) that I would eventually get around to all that furniture I’ve been promising to build. I thought if they all saw a beautiful crib that our new addition would be sleeping in they might just get off my case about the lack of furniture in the rest of the house.
I started the project by taking my wife Mika shopping. We hit all the children’s stores - inspecting cribs and baby furniture. Measuring things and looking at the standard sizes of mattresses, changing tables and the like. We actually spent about two or three weekends doing this. All the while I just watched my wife and questioned her on her likes and dislikes. You know the drill, I love this but hate this about it. In the evenings I would surf the web looking at cribs. I finally found some designs which were interesting and incorporated things that Mika liked about them into what I wanted to do. Once this was done I need to get some wood. Well I got lucky. At work they were cleaning out the pole barn and were getting rid of a bunch of old wormy wood. I dug through the piles and pulled out some cherry boards that were more than half rotten- but in every board there are always pieces that could be salvaged and that’s just what I did - I salvaged an entire cribs worth. It took about a weeks worth of milling rotting rough lumber, I probably threw away 80-90% of the pieces I milled because of rot and cracks. In the end I eventually got enough wood to build my son’s crib.

The crib is being built to fit a standard sized mattress. It’s made from cherry with end panels of walnut. The walnut was a great find. I pulled it from the burn pile at work. It was a flitch cut board that was 30” wide by six feet long, but only a half inch thick. Thin boards like that like to split and move and this one got tossed on the burn pile because it looked like a piece of ribbon candy. There was no real way to straighten it so it was refuse. I cut the panels I needed wide and long then wet the board down for several days and stacked it before I cut it in half and joined and planed it. After joining the piece and squaring it up I re-glued it. It came out very nice and the color of the Walnut, especially since there is some sap wood in it will offset the cherry nicely.


Here is a pic of the panels with tenons cut along the bottom and top. These will fit into the dados cut into the rails which will hold the panels and the end posts together.


Here is the panel being set into the dado of the bottom rail. Notice the tenon on the rail that will fit into a mortise on the end post.


Here is the panel and rails getting dry fitted to the end post before being glued up to make sure every thing fits nice and snug as well as to check for square. If the panels don’t seat properly the rails won’t fit the posts throwing everything out when it comes time to glue up. Luckily everything went smoothly but I did have a little glitch. I realized that I had given myself an extra 1/16” on the mortise spacing that I didn’t account for when I cut the panels this caused a little hiccup that I fixed.


Here is the glue up of the panel and rails. I only used glue in the center of the panel and cut the dado in the rails long to account for any expansion of the wood during the summer months. If I had glued the entire panel: when the wood moves it would have caused some grief, possibly cracking the panel. So here the clamps are in the center along the glue joint. The panel is 1/2” Thick by 271/2” wide. The tenons are just shy of 5/16” thick to fit snugly into a 5/16” dado. The ends of the tenons are cut back a 1/4” to allow for movement in the dado.


These are the end panels with top and bottom rails after glue up. Notice the rails have tenons with shoulders that are both facing upwards. This is to cover any space between the mortise and tenons after glue up.


Here are the end panels w/rails dry fitted into posts. Once everything was checked glue up began.


Here are the ends during glue up. Notice the rosewood wedges beneath the the bottom rail in this pic. This is how I fixed the problem of the missing 1/16” in the panels. I narrowed the tenon on the bottom rail by 1/16” then I wedged the rails up from the bottom for a snug fit. I had those rosewood pieces lying around as scrape. They look so nice I’m thinking of leaving them as-is.


Here is an end after I took the clamps off. The very top rail will have through mortises to fit over the double tenons. These will get pinned with rosewood wedges across the tenons that will be seen from above. A nice accent I think.


So that’s where the crib project stands for now. I will be starting it up again after the holidays. Next I need to fit the side rails with the slats. Cut out the mortises on the rails, cut out the slats and add tenons then glue it up square before fitting the ends.


Previously: For Sale: One Sweet, Sweet Dad-Made Heirloom Crib, Daddy Types: The Crib Blog.
Coming soon: Nakashima: One Sweet, Sweet Dad-Made Heirloom Bed.


Wow, just wow...
Can't wait to see what you did with the sides.

And what an interesting place that must be to work!

Great work - your walnut find was spectacular since I don't think they make walnut trees that large these days. Kudos on taking the time and effort to salvage the lumber - it makes for an even greater story.

I was going to go the crib route myself as we were expecting our son, but ended up settling for a rocking chair instead (it may be somewhere in the daddytypes furniture archive)...maybe next time if we get around to having another tyke....hmmm, ''? Already taken as a domain name?

Welcome to pappahood.

holy moley, jason, that is gorgeous; somewhere between inspiration and awe-inducing intimidation.

congratulations/good luck, and thanks for sharing the process.

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