Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Cradle ...

As many of you know, I have recently taken up woodworking. While on hiatus from my economic degree (while we await the arrival of the newest member of our family) I decided to take up woodworking. I figured there is never a time when we shouldn't be learning something new. So, I took a class, and made a box. The class was great, I learned a lot. Needless to say I was somewhat motivated to make a clock. The clock bit is another story: I canned the clock idea and set my talents (or lack there of) on the production of a cradle for the soon to be little one.

Rather than do a contemporary mini-crib, I set my eyes on a Norm Abrams special from the PBS TV Show "New Yankee Workshop." I got the plans for the cradle from the library, and started building up my workshop. We picked cherry wood, which is beautiful and gets better with age, and started acquiring tools. As I explain to my wife, all men like tools: This is not a stereotype, since its 100% true. And so, the journey began.

While many of you who talk to me on a regular basis know, the last few months have been quite an oddesy. While I have not been side tracked by the sirens of other projects, I have faced quite a steep learning curve. Its so steep, with so many challenges I have decided to blog about it. The end goal can be seen above. Thank you to to Patick Fitzgerald ( who did a much better job than I will ever do. Get a good look at it, you may not see something so beautiful for a while.

Making the sides, top, and back was a bit of work. Though that part is done. Multiple boards needed to be jointed together, a process which I figured out with a lot of help from my better half.

Boards were purchased [left] (for much more than about 10 cradled at Babies are us of course). A table saw was aquired, a router was upgraded, router bits were mail ordered and returned, jigs were sent for, and clamps were aquired. In the end boards were biscuted (don't ask) and joined. Some of the joints were wrong, the boards were rejoined. In the end, we were left with some very beautiful big rectangles of rich cherry. Sucess; it took us about three weeks.

Within a weekend the bottom, sides and headboard were finished (almost) [See to the left]. Then the fun started. To connect the sideboards and the footboard requires Box Joints, also called Finger Joints. They look strikeing, but I had never made any in my class. Luckily we have web access. I got a special finger joint jig, some special router bits, and a whole lot of cheap wood from Home Depot. I practiced, and practiced and finally got pretty good at it. We cut the joints for the footboard. They came out well. You can see them in the picture o the left. By the way, figuring out how to round out the footboard was fun: The solution involves a peice of quilting thread, a pencil and a ruler.

The hard part is the headboard. Its to big to fit in my box joint jig. To get a bigger Jig is a many hundreds of dollar problem, and a place I dare not go. So, I did some surfing on the web and came up with an alternative plan. I could make a jig for my table saw to cut the joint for the headboard. The picture is below on the left. If you search for table saw jig for box joints you will see how it works.
I then did what any reasionable person did. I practiced. Before I cut into the headboard which cost a small fortune in wood, I needed to prefect (or become a least somewhat compitent) making these joints. Mostly I failed. I cannot reliably produce the joints on the table saw.
Sometimes it works for me, but not always. This is a recipy for failure. Thats where I am now, I am going to teach myself yet another method of making these joints: Doing it by hand. Thats really hard. I have had to invest in yet more tools: sharpening stones for my chissel set. That said, I have alot of confidence things will come out OK.

However, if they don't, I have started this blog so at least you can partake in my Odissy on the road to a well made cradel. The plan is to have it done by April 1st. All we need is a FOX TV crew here, it will be like in so many reality shows: A tight deadline, lots of problems... Will he make it? Keep following, you will be the first to know.

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