The past few months out in the workshop I’ve been building a crib, and a toddler bed and a full size adult bed for our new baby — Bradley. The story of how I wound up building this crib is an interesting tale about baby furniture in America today…
With a baby in the house, we had a clear need for a crib. I wanted to build a crib, but with everything going on in our lives — our work, my teaching, writing, preparing the house for the baby etc my wife Alyssa and I were all set to buy a crib for the baby before he arrived. We went to all the usual baby stores — Baby’s R Us, Baby Depot, Buy Buy Baby, Target etc — all the cribs were poorly made imported junk that looked terrible on display and were more than I was willing to pay for such junk. Then we tried all the usual furniture stores in the area and while the price tags went up exponentially the quality was only marginally better and I could not find anything I was willing to buy at any price. Eventually we found a brand and product line we liked by ‘Young America’ — a company that specialized in higher end youth furniture, made in the USA from American Woods. With a 25+ year history in the marketplace and long running product lines you could keep adding pieces as your child grows — all things I liked. It was expensive, but I found a way to get it at a reasonable price via a buying club my parents were part of. We were all set to place our order and the week we finally went to enter the order the manufacturer said it was no longer accepting new orders. From searching online we found out that the parent company Stanley decided to shut down the factory (and with it eliminate about 400 jobs). If only I placed my order a week earlier…
So it was back to the hunt. If I couldn’t find anything American, maybe a European brand? Some friends recommended Bellini — an Italian company with a good reputation that specializes in baby and youth furniture. They had some nice designs and pricing was a little higher than that of Young America — but from reading reviews and looking at the current product line I learned that recent years the furniture was no longer made in Italy, but made in Asia and had a decrease in fit and finish quality – yet the prices remained just as high as ever. If I am going to pay European prices I at least want it to be made in Europe. Quickly running out of time and patience I decided the only way I was going to get a crib that made me happy was to build it myself.
After a lot of searching I finally settled on a set of plans from Wood Magazine — the 3 in 1 bed which you can find here. The cheap Yankee in me liked the concept of these three in one cribs/beds and figured it would mean less furniture to store in the attic. It starts out as a crib, then converts into a toddler bed and finally converts to a full size adult bed by way of some nice hardware (decorative metal bolts and barrel nuts). The hardware — bolts and nice heavy metal bed frame are made in the USA and available from Products America here. The folks there are friendly and they produce hardware used by other baby furniture manufacturers.
I modified the design a bit by making the short side sections slatted — just like the front and back — being careful to adhere to government safety guidelines for cribs. I’m happy I did as I really prefer this look and the baby seems to like the extra light as well. I built the bed from Cherry instead of the maple you see in the article. I hand selected the cherry to have nice looking grain patterns and even tones. It took longer to build than I would have liked, as life, the birth and other obligations got in the way, but I am happy I finally finished this project and Bradley has a nice place to sleep. I am also happy with how rock solid this bed feels compared to the models we saw in the stores which felt flimsy in comparison.
On the bottom of the headboard is a small note — “For Bradley M. Rainford — Love Dad” for Bradley to find someday when he’s older.
Now the trick will be getting the baby to sleep in it — it’s only been a day or two and he loves playing in the crib more than sleeping in it, but he’s used to sleeping in the master bedroom. Thankfully the bed will be there waiting for him to play, grow and eventually sleep.
In a couple of upcoming posts I’ll talk a bit about how I built this project and some other modifications I made (baby safe finish, hardware patina modification, jigs) and other interesting construction challenges. If you’d like to read some other posts related to this project as they get posted please check out this link here.
Now its time to build him a dresser….