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Arthur Dollhouse Kit
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Jill's
Cradle
2/22/07

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I made this cradle for Jill and Ryans lil girl Sara. I've made this cradle from oak once before for my grandson Mike , but his time I used maple.
There is a ton of layout work to be done before any woodworking! There are forty dowels creating the basket, that's eighty holes to layout. To complicate things just a bit, the dowels in the ends of the basket are splayed out, yes that's right, nothing is square here!

Since this project's biggest challenge is making all these holes and dowels line up properly, I'm going to spend most of this page explain how I managed to get this done.

Notice the long lines? They are needed to "eyeball" the proper angle when we move over to the drill press. More on that later.

To aid in layout and drilling all these holes, I stepped the areas of the inside radius, and left the outside alone for now. This will make it much easier to support the work piece on the drill press.


 
Laying out the sides of the basket is a little easier, because the holes are all drilled at 90 degrees.
I like to use a marking gauge to keep the holes uniform. You can also see where I screwed the two rails together to hasten the layout.

More on marking gauges
Now the fun begins, lets drill some holes! I won't go into drilling the holes in the side rails, since all the holes are drilled at 90 degrees. But the holes for the end rails are splayed out, so each hole is drilled at a different angle. 
7-Piece German Brad Point Bit Set
7-Piece German Brad Point Bit Set




This is my Jet Drill Press!


The easiest way to do this is to prop up the work piece to gain the proper angle. Notice the extra stock clamped to the sides? That gives the work piece a wider footprint, and helps keep things straight and square while drilling the holes.
The angle is gained by "eyeballing" the drill bit against those lines we drew earlier. 

The steps in the work piece help keep the drill bit from drifting around. 

When the work piece is propped up like this, it wants to slide. to prevent this, I simply clamped a piece of wood to the table at the left, positioning it against my stock so it can't slide away from the prop block.
Sanding the convex sides of the rails is easy, either by hand or with a disk sander.
Sand the concave sides with a drum sander.
Finish the sanding by hand, to remove all the machine marks. Use the waste from rough cutting the shape of the rails for a sanding jig. Just clean up the sanding marks with your sander and staple some 120 grit paper to it. This will remove all the high spots and even everything out nicely.
Here is a handful of dowels for the first end frame I'm going to make. I labeled the ends because they are all different lengths. I also beveled the ends slightly on my disk sander to make the dowels fit easier.
Ok, on last chance to align up everything, make sure your holes are clear of chips and deep enough, make sure the dowels are the correct length. Once you start this next step, there is no going back, you either finish it or throw it away, because you'll never get the dowels out once you've started... so go for it! It's not as tough as it looks!

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Oh yeah, you'll need a hammer to bash in all the dowels in this step! I used epoxy to glue in the dowels, for two reasons. First it gives you a long time to assemble the frame, and also because it cleans up easily with thinner, and if you miss some, it blends in with most finishes, so it pretty much disappears.
Now for a confession...i wasn't able to drive the dowels in all the way on the bottom rail, I probably had too much glue in the holes. So my end frame is 1/8" higher than it should be. I don't think this will be a problem, if I remember to screw up the other end frame the same way. I will also have to look at the side frames, and see if I will need to modify them.
Ok, moving on to the side frames, this is gonna be a snap! You can actually use a clamp here to help drive the dowels home, (tho I did a fair amount of mallet work on the ends!) I think I may have a problem with the sides matching the ends, the sides are a little big, but I can always pass the bottom of the side rails over the jointer if I need to shorten them up.
Ahhhh well it thought it was gonna be simple! Actually it did go together fairly well. All the dowel holes on the side rails are drilled at 90 degrees, so assembly is pretty straight forward.

After you get all the dowels started, a little squeeze with a clamp drives them all home. The important thing here is to make sure the overall height is equal on both ends of this assembly.
The last thing to think about is getting this assembly square. I was an 1/8" off, so I put a bar clamp across the long corners, and used a framing square to check for square. 
I have a suggestion if your have to "rack" this assembly alot just to square it up, go a little beyond square, so when the clamps are released tomorrow, it settles down near square. Yes it will spring back a bit.


Tapered drill bits with counterbore
 


Tapered Plug Cutters


Spring Clamps
Spring Clamps


Now comes the fun part! Yeah this is a bit intimidating, but if you take your time, you'll figure it out! I started on one corner, flushing up the bottoms, and carefully lining up the dowels on the side rails with the corner dowel on the headboard. 
I had problems with the upper rails in the side pieces. I needed to trim the angle a bit to get a tight fit against the headboard.
A spring clamp acts as a third hand, and heavy block and clamp in the lower right of this pic, support the headboard. Don't want it tumbling off the bench!

Once I have these piece aligned where I want them, I drill the holes for the screws. I use a tapered drill bit with a 3/8" counter bore, so later I can plug the holes with matching stock, and hopefully the evidence of screws will dissapear!

I'm using a straightedge to line up the dowels on the sides with the corner dowel of the headboard, this seems to be the best way to determine the angle of the sides. It also sets the revile where the sides meets the end at the bottom.

Ok, this is starting to shape up! I'm basicly checking the rail alignment between the sides and the ends, and then checking the whole mess for squareness. I'm a little off, but I think the floor panel will pull it back into square.
The next step is to make a bunch of tapered plugs to cover the screw holes, hopefully this will make the joinery look seamless. It helps to try to match the grain and the direction of the grain to help make the plugs dissapear.
 
 

Find Tapered plug cutters Here
The floor is held in place by simply secureing some cleats to the lower rails. But since the sides are tapered, and the mattress needs to fit the cradle comforably, determining the location of these cleats needs to be planed ahead. My mattress is 18" by 36" and sits on 1/4" plywood. I'd like a 1/4" extra all the way around for bedding, so by raising or lowering the cleats, I can control how much space i have between the mattress and rails. 
Yeah i have lots of clamps!
Ok, now I move over to the framework that will support the basket. The plans call for 1 by stock, which in my humble opinion looks skimpy. So I've decided to double up on the frame to add some beef to it. I also lowered the whole thing and changed the double spreader into a single one. 

So I have 2 uprights to make, 2 leg pieces and one streacher to glue up first. Make the stock alittle longer then you need.

Yeah I know I can't ever follow a set of plans without "improving" them!!!
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Counter bore to receive the bearing.
I also changed the pivot design of this cradle, Instead of a dowel and knobs, I chose the clean look of a single brass 1/4-20 machine screw, t-nut and a bearing to support the basket. 
Bearing supports the cradle basket.
The hole placement is the same, but I drill a 5/8" counterbore with a forstner bit and a 3/8" hole deep enough for the extra screw to hide in. (the plan that comes with the bearing kit says to drill this at 3/4", but the bearing in the kit is 5/8" or 3/4" so drill the hole for your size bearing!)
This will give you years of smooth opperation, yeah, your kids will be passing this down to your grandkids, and great grandkids!

Click Here to purchase the Bearing Hardware!

12 sander shapes the cradle legs My 12" disk sander makes quick work of cleaning up curved protions of the legs, I also used it to clean up the flat area betwiin the feet on this piece.
Assembling the cradle stand I used the same assembly method to secure the stretcher to the uprights. Glue and 4" screws make this one solid assembly!
The Block supports the stretcher during assembly
To aid in the assembly, I set up some blocks to support the stretcher while I drilled pilot holes, using the uprights as a drilling template.
Yes, I'm the first one in the cradle!!!
Final adjustments of the support screws. I use a 1/4-20 brass flathead machine screw, and on the back side of the basket I have a matching Tee-Nut. The machine nut passes thru the tee nut, and into the bearing in the frame. There is a hole behind the bearing to recieve the rest of the machine screw.
Cradle finished pic
Complete, now we just need a kid to fill it!
Cradle with Sara
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