Not done yet…

…but it’s getting closer.

I’m kindof cheating a little there – that’s a dry-fit before gluing in all the slats. But it all fits and the mattress top is at the right height so that’s a good start.

Got the day rolling by checking on the last coat of shellac for the rear support and especially the endgrain carving, which turned out well.

Then I put a tarp down on the assembly table, laid out the parts and rails, and dry-fit everything together. Then I stood the crib on the back panel, got out the hide glue and glued up the tenons going into the front panel, and then glued up the wedges and started driving them home to secure everything.

It went pretty well, even if one wedge did fail after I’d driven it home (it’s the one listing off to the left in the top photo). But enough went in to do the job, so it’s fine.

Then I took the flushcut saw and trimmed down the wedges, leaving a few mm proud only, flipped over the crib onto the front panel and inserted the end panel and dry-fit with the top panel and found – horror – a gap of nearly 2cm. The frame wouldn’t close. How I missed that I don’t know, but I spent the next hour fettling the top panel with jack and smoother and shoulder planes to get it to fit properly.

(Got to sign the work)

Then once I had it fitting properly…

I painted the tenons going into the back panel with hide glue, seated them, painted the wedges with glue and drove them home as well.

Then I got some (now in bloody awful shape, I need to fix these again) of the heavy-duty clamps I used for the bench and clamped front to back panel to get good pressure on the joints.

And then there was some tea. Then I dry-fitted the back support and top crossrail and the slats.

There had to be some more fettling of the back of the mattress support platform (and will have to be some more still, I’ll do that tomorrow), but it all seemed to fit fairly well, so I stuck on the mattress to make sure that it was 510mm from ground to mattress top.

Yup, all good. And the grain pattern on the rails matched better than I’d hoped it would. I did have to remake one slat from a spare I had, but by the time the light was fading, I had the curved uprights glued and drawbored into the top crossrail and that glued into the main body and all the slats glued in place and clamped.

The question now is whether the hide glue can hold the slats on the left into the frame, as that curved upright wants to spring up and away from them. If it doesn’t hold, I’ll swap out the hide glue for titebond; but it should be okay.

And that was all there was for the main frame. I still have to fettle the mattress platform a little, that’s a five to ten minute job, but we’re just about done and onto finishing with the frame.

And all that leaves….

…is the drawer.


To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Make a drawer
    • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
    • Cut the drawer front to size.
    • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
    • Cut dovetails for drawer.
    • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • Assemble and glue-up and drawboring of everything.
  • Last minute fettling and foostering.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

End in sight…

Full day in the shed today, trying to get the cot finished. Needed to get one final assembly in order to mark off the curved tenons on the side slats.

Mental note – never build something larger than this in the shed. The amount of time lost because of having to assemble it outside (meaning needing to wait for a dry weekend because it’s dark by the time I get home during the week) has been a complete pain in the timetable for this. But most of the work on the frame is now done; the drawer runners are jointed at one end and the layout is marked up on the other end, the side slats are marked up on the curved end and have the tenons and mortices cut on the other end. The groove for the top panel needs to be cut in the long stretchers, that’s a half-hour job at most. After that, everything is finishing and fiddling.

Well, and the drawer. But that’s not exactly going to be tough, the longest part will be thicknessing the material from an inch down to three-quarters of an inch; it’s poplar and with Sid, that should take less than a half-hour. A sweaty half-hour, yes, but you can’t have everything…

Surprise inspections keeping me on my toes…


The curved bits were probably the most demanding of this whole build – steambending is nifty, but get details wrong and you spend an absolute age fiddling to correct the flaws. And trying to get a smooth surface on the curved pieces has been a pain.

It’s spokeshave and scraper all the way with these things, I can’t get a bench plane onto them at all really. It’s interesting to learn new tools, but it’s not exactly a fast method. But there’s not much work left to do there at least.

It doesn’t photograph well, but it’s smooth to the touch. And with rounded corners – that’s something else I need to do to every exposed corner, ensure it’s rounded over. It’s done for all the slats at the back and for about a third of the frame, but it has to be done for everything. Happily, it’s a fairly fast process, it takes the longest on the slats because the rounding is quite pronounced, but on the frame it’s a lot faster because on most of the frame, you just want to break the sharp edge rather than round it all over.

To-Do List :

  • Measure off side slats (because they’re going into a curve, this is going to be fiddly) and cut tenons.
  • Cut mortices for side slats.
  • Cut grooves for top panel in long stretchers.
  • Joint drawer runners into the bottom end crosspieces.
  • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
  • Cut the drawer front to size.
  • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
  • Cut dovetails for drawer.
  • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
  • Assemble drawer.
  • Drill for drawboring on the M&T joints that I’ll be drawboring (the long rail to upright ones and probably the back support and top crossbar joints).
  • Make drawbore pegs.
  • Finish plane all parts.
  • Finish walnut pieces with a few coats of shellac.
  • Paint drawer with milk paint.
  • Assemble and glue-up and drawboring of everything.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

Depressing weekend results…

So the weekend started off well. Popped the steambent upright from last weekend out of the drying form:

And the results were very good, the only crack I could find is barely there at all:

And there’s some marks from the compression strap:

And a small defect in one spot on one edge: But those are a swipe from the spokeshave to remove and apart from them it was nearly a perfect bend.
The problem is that the first upright isn’t a perfect match…

The twist I could take care of with planing, I don’t need the full thickness on those sections, but the difference in curvature could introduce stresses I don’t need in the piece, so the idea was to steambend another upright this weekend using the last of the plastic tubing I had and pick the best two of the three.

But the compression strap slipped mid-bend and it ended badly 🙁

Utterly unusable scrap, and I didn’t even bother putting it on the drying frame.
My solstice holidays start at 1700h on Wednesday evening so I might have time to try one more time, if I could get the polythene tubing fast enough, but for now I have to assume I have to make what I have work. It’s not the worst job in the world, it’s just that if you have a 100% and a 90%, the 90% is always going to look bad by comparison 😀

But it was a pretty crummy result for a weekend, so I just marked out the last of the boards to cut and plane and left it at that, and spent the rest of the time sharpening tools in prep for stock prep come Monday evening…

One short rip, one long rip, a few crosscuts and some planing on walnut – that’ll be pretty easy, walnut is lovely to work with.

The panels need their final crosscutting to length and then I need to figure out how to do the grooving for the frame-and-panel construction (my #40 got the cleanup-from-ebay purchase treatment finally this weekend with the wire wheel for the worst of the corrosion and the blades are still in the vinegar awaiting their cleaning and sharpening).

And then there’s the poplar for the drawer and runners, and another short walnut board for the back support. Not expecting much trouble here either, though there might be a long rip cut on the poplar depending on how things work out. There is also another side panel and an end panel of ash however, and that kiln-dried ash is proving a bit of a bugger to plane. Sid got a workout getting the larger panel to just be free from twist, I’m just glad there’s no major cupping or bowing going on there.

And then there’s the drawer front. I was thinking ash initially, but a while working with the kiln-dried stuff is giving me second thoughts about doing it in that because carving blind dovetails in that strikes me as being challenging. I could do it in walnut, but I’m not sure which board I’d use; and then there’s a sapele board of the perfect width sitting right there. But it’d be the only piece of sapele in the whole thing and I’m not sure how it’d look. Decisions, decisions. Meanwhile, tick-tock, the delivery date looms…



edit: At least I’m not the only one having bending issues

Platform and salvage

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d get this done by today, but I seem to be getting faster at chopping mortices, if not actually at marking them up. And it fits. There’s a small amount of twist here and there, I think I can straighten it out for the final assembly and then pin the tenons to help keep them flat (and it’ll look cool as well, little white ash pin dots along the walnut frame). The two long front and back rails are tilted with respect to each other, that will have to be planed away on the bottom but I’ll keep it on top as it gives a kind of lip to help keep the mattress centered which is nice.



And then it was time to take the frame out of the drying form and see how bad the springback would be and how bad the splintering was and if it was salvageable…img_0010a

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There was some experimentation this weekend, some of which didn’t work and the rest of which were… learning opportunities. I got the last slat planed to thickness, but lost one along the way because I couldn’t get it to thickness, there was a split in it from poor resawing that was diving down below the minimum line and it wasn’t recoverable. So next week I’ll take another 30″ off the ash board I have, plane it flat, hack it into 2″ wide laths, and resaw them down and wow does this ever teach you why we invented bandsaws.

Meanwhile, I had two experiments to run. One was to try to avoid drowning in the growing mound of shavings I’m generating…


Honestly, it’s getting silly now. I’ve lost two clamps to it. Seriously, somewhere under there is a sash clamp, a lidl F-clamp, four boxes of lawn seed and a container of round-up. And normally you’d just use a broom, but the space is so small and restricted that a broom would honestly be more hassle than help. So I got an aldi wet-and-dry shop vac and tried that, but while it could grab the dust and some shavings, the shavings clogged it up pretty fast. Well, there’s a solution to that – it’s a thing called a cyclone seperator. Think of a conical funnel with a lid on it. The vacuum connects to the lid, and you connect another hose to the side of the funnel angled to cause the incoming stream of stuff to spin, whereupon is slows down and drops to the bottom of the funnel and into a barrel mounted there.


And there it is…

…but it doesn’t work. There’s very little suction, because it leaks air everywhere. Normally the barrel underneath would be air-tight (they’re normally used to store liquids after all), with a seal in place around the lid. Here, it’s a bin and the lid is a chunk of mdf clipped in place by the handles. I suppose it was asking a lot of physics 😀 I’ll have to find a proper barrel, pay more attention to seals, and try again. The bin will go to waste, as in, I’ll use it as a bin for garden waste, but I foresee a trip to somewhere that sells barrels soon. Which, oddly enough, is a very short list it seems. I’m a bit hesitant to order one off amazon because who the hell posts a barrel? I’d never be able to look the postman in the eye again. Not to mention the point that if the Firearms Unit hears I’m getting barrels posted to me, they might take it up the wrong way…

The other experiment, which went slightly better, was to test steambending walnut. The idea is simple – wood is stiff because of a (fairly complex) chemical called lignin. It melts around 150C (well, there are several melting temperatures because your average tree will have lots of slightly different lignins – apparently it’s a challange for people studying the stuff to seperate them out, there are so many), but it will soften around 100C which is a nice convenient temperature as you just have to generate steam and that’s fairly easy.

So the theory is, take the wood, expose it to steam for a time (the rule of thumb is one hour per inch of thickness), then clamp it into a jig and bend it to the desired curve. This is normally done with a sealed box of some kind (either made from wood or PVC pipe or whatever) and then you pull the wood from the box with big thick gloves and as quickly as you can, clamp it into the jig and bend it before it cools. You have to bend it beyond the curvature you want, as it will spring back and how much overbending is needed is something you need to know by experience. Lots and lots of videos up on youtube show how to do this, but to be honest, they all looked like high-waste kinds of learning processes — especially because I only have kiln-dried walnut and this process really works best on something that’s never seen the inside of a kiln — and I didn’t feel like trying them at all as a result. And then I found this:

BTW, if you’ve not seen this guy’s channel, go there now, it’s fascinating stuff.

But anyway, his genius idea is to encase the wood in a plastic tube – specifically, the kind of continuous poly tube that you’d make smaller bags out of using a heat sealer – and pump the steam into that tube. That lets him put the wood in the jig, steam it for an hour, then bend it while still steaming it and hold it in the bent shape in the jig while still steaming it and then control the cooling-off process. Apart from the benefit of being able to work on long timbers for boat hulls, which is his thing, he gets lots of other bonuses, like being able to take his time doing the actual bending, controlling the temperature seperately from the bending process, and being able to keep the lignin softened even after the bend is done, and letting the stresses in the bent wood settle out before letting the lignin harden. This leads to far less spring-back to cope with.

I took one look at this and thought that’ll do. So I get a wallpaper stripper, some poly tube (it’s very cheap on ebay) and some metal plumber’s steel strap and prep to get bending. The strap is needed to go around wood on the outside of the curve – the reason the wood is bending at all is that with the lignin softened, you can compress and collapse the inside of the curve. You can’t stretch wood y’see, it’ll snap and splinter if you try, so the strap keeps the outside from stretching and the inside in compression.

This was, incidentally, one of the mistakes I made – I forgot the strap until the wood had been steaming for a half-hour and had to make up and apply the strap while the wood was around 100C. That does not lead to fine tolerances and unrushed work.

The first step though was to build the jig, so I needed a flat surface and some blocks around the curve to clamp to. I had a few sheets of MDF that I don’t really want to save for anything because honestly, MDF is awful. So I glued enough together to give me an inch-thick slab of MDF, and I started laying out where the blocks should go.




Then lots of drilling, a quick run to woodies because none of the screws I had were up to the job, and then screw&glue the blocks in place. That may have been a mistake, but not an unrecoverable one; I’ll need to disassemble the jig and rebuild it, but a solid belt of a hammer might fix that glue problem.

Then put the walnut offcut I’m testing with into the tube, being sure I had a half-meter off either end, and put in a spacer (in this case a paper cup) to stop the tube from collapsing on top of the steam pipe and melting because of a high concentration of moisture and heat.


And then it’s just a case of clamping one end of the wood into the jig, filling the wallpaper stripper with water and plugging it in. It takes 20 minutes or so to get up to 100C and then start steaming, then I wait an hour (actually a little bit more because the steamer ran out of water before I was expecting it to and it took a few minutes to refill it so the temperature dropped for ten minutes), and then I start bending.


The bending itself is not exactly a delicate operation. You don’t quite get out the hammers, but you put on gloves and oven mitts, grab the wood and then it’s just muscle to pull it into the bend. You grab it with clamps as you go and then it’s a case of pull it to bend it a bit, tighten the clamps to hold that, then pull some more and pretty soon you’ve got the bend in. If you’ve not heard any loud splintering noises, you’re good.


Now leave the steamer finish off the last of the water that’s in it, so another half hour or so of steaming, and then unplug the steamer and start letting it cool down.


Now there are a few mistakes I’ve made here. For a start, I forgot the compression strap until half-way through the steaming and had to put it on outside the bag.


It’s also not the full width of the piece being bent, so a good bit of the wood is not supported. And then there’s the point that there’s no scrap bits of wood between the clamps and the wood being bent (and of course, as the wood is being softened, the clamps really dig in and deform the wood.


On the left, the supported and properly bent walnut (still quite damp); on the right, the unsupported part that split.
Still though, I’m not too unhappy. I know what to do now for the real thing. But first, I want to watch that experimental bit for a few days  to see how much it springs back and how much overbend I’ll need. I will need to rebuild the jig though – those blocks are not tall enough off the mdf to do the job and need to be redone. I’ll also want to make up a proper compression strap setup and some scrap bits to protect the walnut from the clamps.

And all that in the middle of being swallowed whole by a slow-moving avalanche of wood shavings as I resaw another 8″x30″x1″ ash board. And I want to get that all done before I go buy more wood on Friday…

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