Gretchin’s Cradle

Viewer Project - By Vic Hubbard
Added on January 31, 2011

Location: Pasco, WA

Amateur or Pro: Amateur

Finish Used: I used Sutherland Wells Polymerized Tung Oil. Two coats were applied liberally with a foam brush and wiped completely off. The final coat was applied more as a “polish” coat and really rubbed in.

Wood Species: Crotch and Flame Yellow Birch, Black Walnut.

Project Description:
As many of TheWoodWhisperer regulars know, I’ve been building my shop for just over five years. Although, I have done a lot of construction projects, I had never built a piece of “fine” furniture. Just over two and half months ago, my best friend from 6th grade, Joe and his wife Gretchin called to let me know that after years of trying to get pregnant, they had finally succeeded. In my happiness for them, I offered to build Gretchin a cradle.

After sending her several web shots of different cradles, Gretchin found one she really liked made by Timothy Clark. The look of his cradle was the starting point for my design. The other parameters I needed to go forward were the dimensions of a standard cradle mattress and a comfortable height for the bottom of the cradle. The entire build from this point forward was more of an organic design, based on relative dimensioning and other challenges and opportunities I found along the way.

The lumber I chose for this project was two 6/4 boards of Yellow Birch, one that had crotch figure and the other flame figure purchased from Jensen’s Hardwoods in Walla Walla, WA. Now it was time to start designing and building. Having the basic dimensions worked out on butcher paper, I started the rough dimensioning of my stock. First came the sides. When I saw exactly how the crotch figure landed on that board, I realized I was going to sacrifice the most efficient use of the board to get the best figure layout. I was no longer going to be making the entire cradle from Birch.

It was at this point I decided to bring in the Black Walnut. I’d bought this piece over at Jensen’s Hardwoods for a future project. It was fairly straight grained, so I started sketching out ideas for a bent wood lamination. One of the main things I had to work out was a rocking mechanism. All the cradles I’d seen on stands used a dowel to rock and some sort of peg to keep it from rocking. After a lot of sketching I came up with using a tenon, instead of a dowel. Rather than having a peg of some sort that I would either have to attach to the cradle or risk losing, I came up with an integral locking mechanism.

By far, the hardest part of this build was fitting the Black Walnut gussets at the bottom of the trestle ends. My spokeshave became a good friend.

That’s pretty much the entire 2 1/2 month process. I am very indebted to Marc and Nicole for building TheWoodWhisperer and the resulting community. On several occasions, when I was stuck, there were immediate answers to my questions, both from Marc and my friends in the Live/Chatroom. Without all the support and information, there is no way I would’ve attempted this as my first build.

You can read more about this project and see some in-progress photos in the Wood Talk Online Forum.

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