As some of you may recall, several years ago an old friend and I cut some
wind-topped or downed walnut and oak trees on my mother's property and took
them to the sawmill. He is still sitting on his half of the lumber to see
if it will hatch or multiply. I on the other hand have made a few things of
which by far the most difficult have been two cradles of which the attached
pictures show the second. I originally designed the cradle from scratch for
my elder daughter's first child. As it happens I finished it when her second
child was two months old. Similarly, the one in today's attached pix was
intended for elder son's firstborn, but is finished today within 24 hours of
his second child's 2-month birthday. I guess that is my natural rhythm.
For reasons not clear even to me, I really wanted to make it lyre-form. I
was raised on the classical Greeks and Romans, and imagine that was behind
it. The 19th century lyre-form furniture is pretty but used a lyre shape
that is too pot-like for my desired look. After some research I found just
the item. It was a lyre in the arms of Apollo in a 4th century BC marble in
the Berlin museum. The artist was Praxiteles (if you are going to pirate a
design, might as well steal from the very best). I scaled it out from the
photograph using dividers, and then laid out a paper pattern taking into
account strength and infant head safety.
The primary wood is the walnut that I cut. The floor and highlights are
curly maple, mostly from a Minnesota lumber yard near our cabin. There are
some design differences between this and the first cradle; I felt like
having a bit of fun. In the first, the highlight medallions are crotch
walnut, and there is no medallion in the stretcher bar. It was also
designed with pinned through-tenons at the stretcher ends that could be
unpinned and knocked down for storage. However, that proved to be a design
flaw as it keeps working loose on its own so I did not do that in this Mark
II model. It has through-tenons, but is firmly glued. The lyre-ends are
doweled to the sides. I'd prefer mortises and tenons, but with the curves
and varying thicknesses it is beyond my skill to do that with this item.
The whole thing was a challenge especially if something had to be corrected,
ahem, because once it was cut out there were no square points of reference
left. In one picture you can see the main pieces of my two lyre-ends
clamped together inside surface to inside surface so I could work them into
nearly identical shapes.
The other big challenge was the coopered joint in the side. The sides are
cut from a single wide plank of walnut, which was then cut and coopered to
allow for the curve. It has worked for me twice now, but is remains a
little unnerving until I see the solid, successful joint glued and ready.
There is a picture of that joint attached. Inside it is a shadow line that
adds character. Outside it is nearly invisible. To see it, you'd have to
look for the very small break in the flow of the grain in the most curved
part. I really wanted that look because as I have fine walnut boards 12" to
18" wide, there is no point in making it look like it has been pieced.
Nothing is glued for thickness. The 8/4 stand is made from 8/4 lumber.
I used very little sapwood, but left it unstained. This was air-dried
walnut with lots of color. To me the sapwood added a marbling effect
everywhere except inside one lyre-end where it is a stripe that does not
bother me. In today's steamed, colored and termite-barfed furniture world,
I thought that in addition to the marbling effect, I like the idea that this
is obviously prime walnut timber.
I used my 13-inch planer to prepare the mill-rough lumber to thickness. A
band saw and a saber saw were used to cut the curves. Long rips were done
with my Festool track saw. After that, everything done with hand saws,
hand planes, chisels, and rasps. The finish is four coats of blonde
shellac, wet sanded, with a diaper-proof top-coat of Behlens Rock Hard
varnish (my last still usable can of the old alkyd formulation) with a dab
of purple trans-tint dye to reduce the amber of the varnish. After curing,
which took TWO MONTHS at winter temperatures in the garage, the whole was
wet sanded at 1000 grit and then rubbed out with Black Bison wax in dark
walnut, and 0000 steel wool.
There are a couple of visible screw-ups that make my teeth itch, but I can't
do anything about them. Elder son and his wife are both architects. I feel
sure their trained eyes will spot everything I messed up. I would imagine,
though , that they will make allowances for a guy who is doing the best he
can at occasional cabinet work in the garage, and doing it as a gift for
that matter. Or so I hope.
This is the second of a MAXIMUM of four, to be made only if needed because
of the imminent expectation of babies.