Wooden Nursery Mobile

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A friend of ours had a baby a while back and we wanted to make somethings special for her baby shower.  My wife had the idea to make a wooden mobile and this is what came of it.  All pieces are cut from baltic birch and hung by twine with gold foil.  The edges of the clouds are painted white while the raindrop is turquoise.   I’m very pleased with how it turned out and the gift was very well received.

Due to the praise it received I have made and posted another mobile for sale on Etsy.

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Baby Stroller Design

I headed out the door this morning in search of some new shoes for my 1 year old daughter. Somehow one got tossed over board from the stroller and so a new pair was needed.  In my 5km wander through the streets of Paris, I got to thinking about stroller design.  We have a generic “umbrella” style stroller that folds up fairly small, doesn’t weigh too much, and handles like combine with no wheels…  And herein lies the problem, you can’t have everything when it comes to strollers, so it can be light-weight, but not durable, sturdy, but not able to be folded compactly, small, but not able to handle anything but an airport runway…

Looking at strollers online, there isn’t exactly a ton of innovation going on here. They generally have 3 or 4 sets of wheels, 1-2 wheels per set. Ours has 8 which seems excessive as my daughter only weighs 20 lbs.  I mean cars don’t need double wheels, so why should a stroller? Most collapse in some way (some more than others), and most have a sun shade on them.  Really, a stroller is simply a folding chair with wheels, maybe it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that?

But I think it could be so much better!  Most strollers have small wheels (so they can fold up smaller) but these are terrible on bumps (COBBLESTONES!!!!).  It’s true, 12″ inflatable tires would smooth out the ride significantly, but you’d have a mini lunar lander on your hands.

Strollers also never seem to turn when you want them to, but do so quite willingly when you’re trying to keep it in a straight line.  The three wheeled ones would obviously help in this aspect, but they always seem to have their third wheel shooting out the front where it’s liable to take out some granny’s ankles (I guess that could be a good thing…).

And then there are the stairs…  Carrying a stroller up a flight of stairs with two people is tough work, awkward, and back breaking.  Trying to manage stairs on your own is nearly impossible (Paris Metro – I hate you!).

So do I have a new and wonderful design in my head? Maybe, but I couldn’t draw it while pushing, lifting, carrying our old stroller halfway across Paris in search of shoes…. Will have to save it for another day.

Caterpillar Crib

I hummed and hawed over building this.  I had had the idea for months and months, but I was worried it was beyond my capabilities, that I wouldn’t finish on time, was it even safe?  After much reading regarding safety standards I was convinced that my design would pass all requirements, and after a successful dresser revamp, I was confident to give it a try.

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I have been a huge fan of flat pack furniture made with a CNC machine such as that found at Unto This Last in London, UK (see here for my mini review).  While I’d love to make furniture this way, I have no clue on how to run a CNC machine, and I certainly don’t have the $25,000+ needed to buy one (It would also take up my entire workshop!!!).  I haven’t let this phase me though, and I often try to make things using the drill press and band saw.  I am debating taking a course in CNC programming and seeing if one could rent the use of a machine.

So I decided similar to my modular book shelf I would make it out of baltic birch (my favourite sheet product) and douglas fir (love the grain, and the price).  To cut out the designs  in the crib face, I had originally planned to use a router and a template. I’d never done this before, and in the end this lack of experience convinced me to try another method.  I think the router method would have worked very well, and one day I’ll likely try it out.  I’ve always hated jigsaws as I find they can’t cut in a straight line, and when taking corners, the blade bends (or breaks!) and you get a horrible cut.  The sheets were far to big to run on the bandsaw, so it seemed like my only solution was hours of frustration with my very cheap jigsaw.  I got fed up with the jigsaw after about 2 seconds, and went to the hardware store to see what my other options were.  On a hunch, I decided that maybe all jigsaws were not created equal, and after a $200 purchase, I came home with a top of the line jigsaw (by Bosch).  Was I ever impressed! This thing could cut as straight and smoothly as my table saw (well practically as good).  It cornered like an Alfa Romeo…

Back to the construction. So the pattern was cut out using a forstner bit on the ends, and the jig saw to connect the two circles to form a rectangle with rounded ends.  For something different, I did an alternating pattern on the end of the crib. The two sides that would be against the wall I left solid, partially out of time constraints, and partially to cover up an electrical outlet and a dirty wall (yes I tried cleaning it, no it didn’t work, although the paint did start to come off…).

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After tons of sanding with a palm sander, orbital sander, and by hand, it was ready for finishing.  I went to Windsor plywood to buy all the wood, and they recommended a low VOC water based polyurethane which was important to me as my daughter would be spending much of her early life in this crib.  I was also hoping to seal up the plywood as there are some nasty chemicals used in making plywood which do off-gas, but with a good layer of polyurethane, this would not be an issue.  The fir was stained with some ebony stain which really brings out the grain nicely.  The whole thing is held together with alan key bolts that connect to nuts screwed into the wood.

I’m hoping she’ll use the crib for several years, as there are two height settings for the mattress. Once she is older I plan on removing the back panel and she can have a bed that she is able to climb out of.  The caterpillar front piece is actually the right size for a double bed head board (planned of course….I wish), so in theory this could stay with her for many years.

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While I would not trade this crib for anything, nor do I regret the great experience I had building it, I am however shocked by the total final cost of this crib:

Baltic birch = 3 sheets at $55/sheet

douglas fir = $50

nuts and bolts = $30

polyurethane + brushes = $20

Which brings the price to $250 for materials alone. This does not include the 2 router bits ($50), jig saw ($200), forstner bit ($20), drill bits ($10), plywood blade for table saw ($50).  I figure these items I will use over and over again as I bought fairly good quality items. And finally my time, which I probably spent 40+ hours on this (most were so late at night/early in the morning I can hardly remember…)

So, what does a crib from Ikea cost? $100. How long would it take to assemble? 1 hour.  Do I care? Of course not, I have been grinning all day every time I walk past the baby’s room and see the awesome job I did.