I designed the crib to match our current bed and night tables, although the finish won't be exactly the same; our bed is stained a reddish color and oiled, while the crib is only oiled. It's made of cherry, though, so it should darken over time.
After it finished it's life as a crib, the dimensions allowed it to work well as a child's love seat or settle, so it should be a useful piece of furniture for years to come.
The mattress is non-standard. We had a custom futon made for us by the nice folks at Thousand Cranes in Berkeley. If you don't live in that area, I'm sure you could find a futon shop closer to home that could put one together for you.
We were concerned about not creating a smothering hazard, so we had them make a fairly firm futon that wasn't excessively deep and soft. I can't tell you whether or not our concerns were justified, but it seemed like a prudent precaution.
The crib was designed in December of 2000. I ordered the lumber from MacBeath Hardwoods on December 30, and began work the following week. I worked on it weekends and some evenings throughout January and it was finished (apart from the slats that support the futon) on January 29, only hours before Ann went into labor.
I don't own any large power tools, and I decided that I wasn't interested in investing in them for this project. They're noisy, they create large amounts of sawdust, and they take up a lot of room. Since my workshop is my garage and I don't want to permanently displace my car, buying a table saw, drill press, planer, etc. just doesn't make sense at the moment.
Doing without a table saw meant that I spent $50 to have the lumber store rip cut the lumber to the rough dimensions that I wanted, but I felt it was worth it. Besides, I find ripping lumber to be a chore, and I'm much more interested in cutting the joints.
Here's a composite view of my work area (click for detailed views):
Joints were laid out using a marking gauge, combination square, micrometer and tape measure. I sharpened my chisels and planes using a trick I picked up off the internet: several grades of sandpaper spray-mounted to a piece of plate glass. It works amazingly well. You can put a mirror finish on your tools with very little effort, and when the sandpaper gets worn you just tear it off and glue on some new pieces. For more details on the technique, there are both short and long versions of the instructions.
I used a hand drill with a simple drilling guide attached and a 1/2" forstner bit to bore out most of each mortise. Then I cleaned the sides up with a 1/2" chisel and used a 1/2" swan-necked chisel to smooth the bottoms. I cut the tenon shoulders with a Japanese handsaw and then chiseled off the waste.
I changed the design of the slatted sides to save time. Instead of the individual mortises and tenons shown in the drawings, I cut 1/2" x 1/2" dados in the edges of the rails. The slats are glued directly into the grooves and short spacers made of 1/2" x 5/8" strips fill the gaps between them. I cut the dados with an antique hand plough plane.
I hate sanding, so to finish the surfaces I used a cabinet scraper and scraped everything smooth by hand. That gave me a finish that was smooth enough that I could probably have lived with it, but I decided go one step further. To get a really satiny finish I gritted my teeth and followed the scraping with a bit of sanding with a 220 grit paper.
I already had a lot of the tools that I needed, but I also needed to buy a few more. I found two stores in Berkeley that were invaluable: Hida Tool & Hardware Co. and Tools, Tools, Tools, both of which are on San Pablo within a few blocks of Cedar & San Pablo. The hand saws and one of the chisels came from Hida, and the scraper, plough plane, marking gauge and swan-neck chisel were from Tools, Tools, Tools.
By January 19 I'd cut all the members and all the mortise-and-tenon joints, and had scraped and sanded everything except for 12 of the little vertical slats.
By January 21 I'd finished all the scraping and sanding, and one of the side panels was 80% assembled. To place the slats into one of the panel frames I first clamped the corner posts to the top and bottom rails (without glue). Then I marked the locations where the slats would go with light pencil ticks on the inside faces of the rails.
To assure that the marks on the top and bottom rails would line up properly I first marked up a story pole and then marked the rails from it. By butting the same end of the pole against the same post when marking each rail I could be certain that the slats would all be parallel to the corner post and (I hoped) plumb.
Next, I glued a pair of spacers into the top and bottom grooves in the center of the rails and placed a slat on each side of the spacers. The slats were set between the rails diagonally at first, then twisted until they were perpendicular. I tapped everything back and forth until the slats lined up with the tick marks, then added another slat and pair of spacers. I worked out from the center, first one side then the other, until there wasn't enough room for a slat to fit between the rails diagonally.
As I added each slat I used a second pair of clamps to suck them up tight to the others. To place the last two slats I pulled the corner posts off and slid them straight in from the sides.
On January 22 the left side panel was complete, although I didn't glue the posts to the rails. After both the side panels were done I pulled the rear posts off them and began assembling the long back panel.
By January 30 I had all three panels assembled and I was ready to glue the whole thing together.
Final assembly took only a few minutes. I left everything clamped together for a few hours, and that night I applied a first and second coat of Fair Oil (pure linseed oil). Ann's labor started just a few hours later.
When we got back from the hospital there were still a few finishing touches that were required before the baby could use the crib. With help from Ann's dad, Bob, I screwed strips of cherry to the lower inside edge of the long bottom rails. These strips support the oak slats that the futon rests on.
The support slats are tied together with two strips of nylon webbing. The webbing is attached to the slats with brass screws and washers. The two slats at the ends are held in position by small socket bolts that are screwed into the support rails. The bolts act as stops to keep the ends from moving toward the center, and the nylon webbing maintains the spacing between the other slats.
Here's the finished product: