Three Cradles

Things have been hectic here on the property over the last several days. With the weather starting to cool down we were in a rush to finish up the summer work and prepare to get into the winter cycle of heavy fence repair and tree triming.

Along with that I have to start buying the equipment I will need to build my workshop, survey the location, lay out the blocksthat will support the framing and start buying the lumber for the floor.

There are only eight days remaing on the Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for workshop  and I am still short $29, 194.00. I have little hope the project will succeed. With that said, I am here to tell you that I will have a workshop up and running by the end of 2019.

So, on to the cradles.


In the lower left hand corner is  a traditional colonial style cradle in walnut I built for my sister’s children at the very start of my woodworking career, sometime around 1976. It marks the first time I ever had to deal with any angles that were not ninety degrees. I suppose in many career paths the old saying “fake it till you make it” works more often than not. That does not apply to woodwork, however, as I can attest.

One of the nice features of this design is the return curve on the rockers. The tips of the rockers are curved down to keep the craddle from tipping over. Sadly, I do not have a photograph to show that detail.

But when it was  – finally – completed, she loved it, and it survived all three of her boys. She still has it, in fact. At the time, tung oil was fast becomming popular, so that is what I used to finish it.

HangingCradleInBeech 001

I built this hanging cradle in Beech some time around 1984, in preparation for the birth of my first child. I was In Israel, working for the man who would later receive that Holtzapffel Lathe I described in two earlier posts, and getting ready for my first stint of reserve duty with the Israel Defense Forces.

So I was in a bit of a rush. I could only spend an hour or so early in the morning before the owner arrived to start work and another hour or two in the evening after he left for the day. There are thirty-two spindles around the body of the cradle, and each had to be turned to the same pattern. So I needed to fabricate a copy mandrel and secure it to the back of the table top lathe (an old Crftsman tube lathe) of the shop owner. All of that took a lot of time, but once it was done the spindles turned out just fine.  The wood iBeechCradle2 001s beech. Beech is not a particularly beautiful wood, but it is even grained, glues up well and accepts a finish with no fuss or bother.

As you can see in this photo, the cradle hangs from spindles on either end. These pass through the hanger plate fastened to the head/foot boards and a turned collar on the inboard provides a bit of added thickness to keep the spindle in place. You can’t see it very well (if at all) but there is a wedge on the inside face of the shaft to lock everything in place.


BeechCradle5 001

The stand for this cradle is quite simple; there is a mortise cut along the centerline of the foot  which receives the tennon on the end of the leg. The crosstree between the two legs passes through the legs and is held in place with two opposing wedges, one dropping in from the top and the second comes up from the bottom. There is not much meat around the mortise for these wedges, so the end of the slot has to be carefully cut away and the wood replaced with a patch running crosswise to the grain of the crosstree to add some strength. It works well, those I was never really comfortable with it.

CherryCradle1 001

The third cradle is made from cherry, and is slightly diferent from the one I made for my children. The shape of the legs and the design of tthe spindles along the body of the cradle have been changed to suit the client, and I modified the design of the leg and crosstree to allow for a more robust wedge and socket. That sticky-out pin above the top of the wedge is another feature of the hanging cradles. If you follow that pin through the leg you will see that it closes onto the lower frame member of the end of the cradle. There it fits into a socket bored into the lower frame member to lock the cradle into place. But most of the time this remains unused.

I can remember my wife on many cold winter nights sticking her foot out from under the covers to give our hanging cradle a gentle nudge when the baby started to whimper. The babe when right back to sleep, every time.

Building this piece allowed me to do a bit of carving and shaping on the legs along with improving the wedge and socket. I finished this piece in gloss polyurethane and then rubbed it down to a satin finish.

CherryCradle4 001

CherreyCradle2 001













The wedges (photo above) and the collars (photo opposite) are shaped or turned in lignum vitae. It is not only an extremely hard wood but oily to boot. You must swab the area where you hope to apply glue thoroughly with acetone to pull the oil out of the wood priot to applying any glue. All oily woods will accept glue, but only after cleaning with acetone.

Every piece gives the builder many opportunities to learn. Either from his or her mistakes or by looking ahead and anticipating a problem that can be solved or avoided. I love that aspect of this work.


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. Those words were written a few years ago. Frankly speaking, the literary well has dried up. I now live in Dunnellon, Fl, where I amworking as the caretaker on a horse farm and looking to build a workshop here on the property where I can get back to building furniture. With any luck I will be sinking piers some time early in November and hope to have the floor joists ready for flooring by the end of the month. I'll get back to you on that.
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