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How To Build A Mid-Century Modern Walnut and Maple Baby Crib

How To Build A Mid-Century Modern Walnut and Maple Baby Crib

I built a mid-century modern baby crib for my first kid, arriving in a few weeks. This was a really special project for me and I absolutely love the way the crib turned out. Here's the crib SketchUp file, if you're interested. 

Materials Used On The Mid-Century Modern Baby Crib (affiliate):

Tools Used On The Mid-Century Modern Baby Crib:

Voiceover Script: 

After doing a ton of research on crib designs and the requirements that go along with cribs, I decided to model my crib after a commercially available design from ducduc, a furniture company based in Connecticut. By modeling my design after a crib that was already on the market, I knew that the design would meet the crib standards laid out by the CPSC. I’ll have a link to the exact crib I used for inspiration in the description below, in case you’re interested. 

I used a combination of rough Hard Maple and Walnut for this build, so my first step was to break down the lumber into rough pieces. I started with the spindles, since I knew they’d be one of the most time consuming parts of the builds because there were so many of them, 54 in total. 

After cutting the boards to rough length at the miter saw and squaring up one edge at the jointer, I started ripping the boards at the table saw. The final spindle size is ¾” by ¾”, so I first ripped my 8/4 boards into strips, and then turned them on their side and ripped them again to get the rough spindles. 

Once all of the spindles were ripped, I let them rest for a few days to allow any movement to occur, and planed them down to their final size at the planer. 

After milling the spindles down to their final size, I got my router table set up with a half round router bit to turn these spindles into ¾” dowels. Or at least I tried to do that….

Before cutting the tenons onto the ends of the spindles, I needed to cut them to their final lengths, which I did at the miter saw. There are two different lengths of spindles, one for the sides of the crib and one for the ends. Having a stop block set up here is absolutely critical, since the spindles all need to match perfectly for everything to come together correctly.

With the spindles at their final length, I moved over to the table saw and got my dado stack set up to cut the tenons. This is a pretty simple process, I just needed to dial in the height of the dado stack to 3/16” to create the ⅜” tenon I wanted. 

I set up a stop block on my miter gauge so that I’d end up with a one inch long tenon and cut away the extra material on all four sides of the spindle until I was left with my finished tenon. I rinsed and repeated at each end of all 54 spindles, and you can imagine that I got pretty tired of cutting these tenons by the time I was done.

With all of the tenons cut, I set up an ⅛” radius roundover bit on my router table and added a roundover to all four edges on the spindles. I used a few featherboards to keep consistent pressure on the bit as I fed the spindles through and they turned out just about perfect. One tip: turn your router speed down when working with Maple to help prevent burning. I got basically no burning on this project, and I think this helped a lot.

With the spindles finished, I could move on to the rails, which were also made of rough Hard Maple, which meant more milling. I got one face and one edge flat at the jointer and then ripped the boards into strips at the table saw. 

I made sure to leave plenty of extra material on the rails so that I could go back and re-flatten the pieces after letting them settle out for a few days, which I did off camera. This leaves you with dead flat pieces that are much easier to deal with when it comes time for cutting joinery.

Speaking of which, the next step was to get the mortises cut into the rails to accept the tenons on the spindles. Before doing that, I cut the rails to their final length at the miter saw.

Next, I clamped the four side rails together and started laying out the mortise locations. This is pretty simple, since the mortises are centered on the rails and are spaced evenly along the length of the rails, with two inches between each spindle. 

Once the mortise locations were laid out, I could move over to the hollow chisel mortiser to cut the mortises. In case you aren’t familiar with a hollow chisel mortiser, imagine a drill press with a specialized bit that cuts square holes. 

These bits consist of two pieces: the hollow chisel, which cuts the square walls of the mortise, and the drill bit, which clears away the majority of the waste from the mortise. 

These machines can be picked up on Craigslist for pretty cheap, depending on the model, and they are indispensable on a project like this. 

To cut the mortises, I first aligned the fence on the hollow chisel mortiser so that the bit was centered on the rail, and then just lined up the bit with the mortise location I had laid out before. I clamped the rail in place before cutting each mortise, and used my dust extractor to collect the chips created during the cutting process.

This process goes surprisingly fast once the machine is dialed in, and I was able to cut all of the mortises on the rails in less than two hours. That’s 108 mortises! I can’t imagine doing that nearly as quickly with any other method, and you can see how clean of a hole you’re left with after mortising. 

After cutting the mortises into the rails, I went ahead and rounded over the four long edges with the same ⅛” radius roundover bit.

Before gluing the spindles into the rails, I went ahead and sanded all four sides of the spindles and rails up to 120 grit, since it would be a lot easier to do this prior to the glue up. 

The glue ups went pretty uneventfully, I just made sure to not use too much glue so that I could avoid as much squeeze out as possible. 

While I’m gluing up the panels, let’s talk about the sponsor of this week’s video, Blue Apron. With our new kid on the way, getting fresh and healthy meals on the table every day is going to be a challenge, and I plan to use Blue Apron to help my family create delicious recipes at home. Blue Apron has a wide variety of recipes, with 8 different recipes to choose from every week, so there’s always something to fit any picky eaters’ taste buds. All of the ingredients are delivered in a refrigerated box, fresh from the farm, individually packaged in the right proportions. Each box comes with a recipe card that walks you through the cooking process step-by-step, and all of Blue Apron’s meals can be prepared in 40 minutes or less. The first 50 people to sign up using the link in the video description below will get $40 off their first two weeks of Blue Apron, and big thanks to Blue Apron for sponsoring this week’s video! 

Once the glue dried on the rails and spindles, I could go ahead and get the joinery cut to attach the side rails to the top and bottom rails. 

First, I cut the side rails to final length at the miter saw.

Next, I created reference lines for the Domino, which I’ll be using for the joinery on this step. That said, if you don’t have a Domino, you could use a hollow chisel mortiser to create the mortises, or you could use something like dowel joinery instead. 

I used 10x50mm Dominos for this build and just made sure to follow my layout lines, and I’m always surprised at how quick this process goes. After cutting the mortises, I did a test fit and the side rails fit perfectly. 

Before gluing the side rails onto the top and bottom rails, I needed to drill the holes for the bolts which will hold the crib together. Most cribs are too large to fit through standard doorways, so it’s important to make cribs easy to take apart and put back together.

Let’s take a second to look at the 3D model to see how the crib sides come together, to give you a better idea of what I’m doing here. The sides of the crib are attached to the head and footboard sections, and then those sections are attached to the legs. I’m using ¼-20 stainless steel bolts and am tapping the wood itself to accept the bolts.

First, I needed to drill a recessed hole for the bolt head to sit below the surface of the wood, and I used a ¾” Forstner bit for this. How far the hole is recessed will really depend on your bolt length, but these holes were ½” deep. 

After creating the recess, I swapped to a drill bit sized so that the bolt would drop through snugly and drilled a through hole. The nice thing about using the Forstner bit first is it leaves a center mark from the point of the bit, so it’s easy to center your through hole within the recess.

Next, I needed to create some locating pins so that the sides would come together precisely when reassembled. I used Dominos for this, but dowels would be another great option. These locating pins also takes some of the load off of the bolts and makes this joint much stronger. 

After adding the Dominos, I temporarily assembled the pieces and marked the location of the through holes onto the mating piece. This is where the tapped holes needed to be created. 

Using the locations I marked, I pre-drilled the holes for the tapped holes at the drill press, which I’ll tap a little later.

With the last of the holes drilled, I could finally move on to assembly. I added glue to each of the mortises and then added a Domino to each. I made sure to wipe away any squeeze out before putting everything together, and then added clamps. 

After the glue dried, I went ahead and sanded off any squeeze out and then rounded over the rest of the edges to match the other edges, again using the ⅛” radius roundover bit.

With the sides basically done, I could move onto the leg structures. They’re an open rectangular design that wraps around the ends of the sides. I decided to make the legs out of Walnut to get a nice contrast from the Maple. 

First, I broke down the rough Walnut into pieces and then flattened them on the jointer and planer. After flattening, I ripped the pieces to final width at the table saw, and then cut them to their final length at the miter saw. 

For the joinery on the legs, I again used the Domino. I used two Dominos per corner on the legs, and this provided plenty of strength. 

Before assembly, I sanded the pieces up to 120 grit, since they’d be easier to deal with while they were flat than they would be when assembled. I also rounded over the edges prior to assembly.

To assemble the legs, I added glue and Dominos, making sure to wipe away any excess since it’d be hard to clean out of the inside corners of the legs, and then clamped everything together. 

After the glue dried, I sanded off any squeeze out and then marked the locations of the tapped holes using the head and foot boards for reference. After marking the holes, I used a center punch to keep the bit from wandering and then pre-drilled the holes.

To tap the holes, I used the Wood Whisperer Thread Taps, which I’ve used in the past with a lot of success. These threads are incredibly strong and are super simple to tap. I used a piece of painter’s tape to mark the depth and just ran the tap in and out using a drill. 

While I had the tap chucked in my drill, I went ahead and tapped the other holes on the head and footboards as well.

The last pieces to create for the crib were the mattress supports, which are really simple. The mattress support rails are made up of two pieces of Hard Maple, which I cut to rough size at the table saw and then milled down to final size on the jointer and planer. 

The two support rail pieces are glued together to form a little ledge for the mattress slats to sit in, and this keeps the slats from moving around or falling off. 

Once the glue dried, I drilled a recessed hole for another stainless steel bolt, again using a Forstner bit for the recess and a twist bit for the through hole. 

Next, I decided on the height of the mattress support and marked exactly where the holes would go on the sides of the crib, and then drilled and tapped the holes. I only added hole locations for two mattress heights, but I can go back and add more later if I need to.

The last pieces to make for the crib were the mattress support slats, which I cut from some scrap pieces of Walnut. I had a few pieces of this Walnut I had picked up off of Craigslist awhile back that had really weird coloring and weren’t really useable for much else, but were perfect for this application since they won’t be seen in the final piece.

I ripped the boards to size at the table saw, cut them to rough length at the miter saw, and then flattened them at the jointer and planer before resawing them at the bandsaw. The final thickness was ⅜”, which should be plenty strong. After resawing, I planed them all to the same thickness and then cut them to final length at the miter saw.

With all of the pieces finished, I sanded everything up to 180 grit to prep for finish. I made sure any rough edges were sanded smooth, as the last thing I wanted was my kid getting a splinter from my crib. 

For the finish on this project, I used Rubio Monocoat, which is a 0% VOC finish and is food safe after 7 days of cure time. I used the two part version with the 2C accelerator, which speeds the cure time. I’ll have a link to the exact finish I used in the video description below, in case you’re interested. 

The best part about Monocoat, as the name implies, is that it only needs a single coat. I just wiped on the coat using a rag, let it sit for a few minutes to react with the wood, and then wiped off the excess. 

With the finish applied, I could finally bring the crib into the nursery and assemble it in its final home. Before assembling, I added a message to my child on one of the slats to commemorate the build. Since the gender of our kid is a surprise, I left the name area blank, which I’ll add once he or she is born in the next few weeks. 

Assembly was really simple, I just threaded in all of the bolts using an allen key, dropped in the slats, and added the mattress. With that, the crib was done.

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