Introduction: Laser Cut Doll Cradle

Here is a quick and easy doll cradle that I whipped up on our laser cutter at the Johnson County Library MakerSpace. We love the laser cutter because of it's versatility and I personally love it because it makes me feel like an (almost) fancy wood furniture maker. I started with a completely different design than the one I ended up with, but I've included the .svg files for both in case you prefer a more traditional looking one.

The only major tool you need is the laser cutter. We have an Epilog Zing with a 40w laser and a 12x24" bed. If you don't have access to a laser cutter (and maybe you do and don't know it - call your local library)--that's okay! There are many ways to cut wood! Use a CNC machine! Print out the files on paper and use a router! Or a jigsaw! (Maybe not a jigsaw-the sanding--*shudder*).

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Materials you'll need to provide:

  • (3) 1/4" cabinet grade baltic birch plywood cut to 12x24" (or your wood/material of choice)
  • stain, poly, or paint and applicator if necessary (rags, brushes, etc.)
  • sandpaper - 220 grit
  • flash drive

Tools you can use at the MakerSpace:

  • Epilog 40w laser
  • wood glue
  • small paint brush
  • web clamp

Step 2: Design the Crib

Or just download these files. Your choice. Feel free to change them up if you want to.

I did this pretty simply with some image googing, measuring, and a piece of software called CorelDraw. If you don't have Corel, feel free to use Illustrator or Inkscape and bring in the files on your flash. Working with basic shapes and cut lines is fairly easy, but make sure your measurements are correct if you're doing tabs. Also get familiar with the weld tool.

Step 3: Cut a Prototype

I can NOT stress this enough - do not waste your materials by just tossing it in the cutter without testing. Get some free cardboard and make sure your design is right. I tried out two cribs and ended up back to the drawing board on both because of mistakes. Cut a prototype first and put it together!

I should also mention here that if you don't know how to use the laser cutter, get some help. At our MakerSpace, we're here to help you learn how to use the equipment and treat it properly. But even if you're not here, people love to help each other. Ask for some help.

Some tips: cut your cardboard so it fits flat on the bed. Focus the machine. Choose your settings wisely.

Step 4: Cut Your Wood!

Test some settings with the materials you're using before sending the whole job. Don't forget to re-focus the machine if you just cut the cardboard. I used these settings:

  • Speed - 25%
  • Power - 100%
  • Freq. - 750

I should add here that if you want to stain wood, you can do so before you cut it. You can also stain it after you cut it and sand off some of the burn marks. Your choice.

Step 5: Dry Fit and Glue

Once you have all your pieces cut, it's time to glue it together. But first! Do a dry fit and see if there are any parts that need to be sanded down a smidge to fit together. And then keep sanding. I did a quick once-over with 220 grit paper since flat surfaces are easier to work with than the completed piece.

Once you're happy with the surface and the pieces fit together, pull out the clamp and do a dry run. You want to make sure the clamp fits the way you want it before your fingers are covered in glue.

Finally - the glue. I used a little paintbrush to get it right on the 1/4" edge of the wood and sides of the slots. I found the strength sufficient, but if you don't feel it's sturdy enough feel free to add some quarter round or scrap to the bottom edges to add glue surface area.

Clamp it and wait! (A couple of hours is probably good. I left mine overnight.)

Step 6: Stain, Poly, or Paint

Once the glue has dried and things are nice and sturdy, go ahead and give it a good rock. Satisfying? Good. Moving on.

Finish the wood any way you choose. I really wanted to use a polycrylic water-based finish. But. I. Am. Lazy. (And Cheap). There wasn't any in my garage, so I grabbed the wipe-on poly. I put on three coats, but wasn't happy with it. I wanted a nice thick layer. So I covered it with a paint-on polyurethane of the same make. I liked it.

If you want to do polycrylic instead (don't be cheap like me), simply follow the directions on the back of the can. Or save yourself all kinds of trouble and toddler tears, build it in MDF, and spray paint it a nice, glossy hot pink.

You get the idea. In case you really want details, my method was this:

  1. Wipe on poly using rag. Let dry.
  2. Hate myself for not using gloves.
  3. Get gloves.
  4. Rub with steel wool or fine grit sandpaper.
  5. Wipe with clean, dry rag.
  6. Repeat steps 1, 4, 5.
  7. Repeat set 6.
  8. Feel disappointment.
  9. Dig out old can of polyurethane.
  10. Brush on poly. Let dry.
  11. Rub with steel wool or fine grit sandpaper.
  12. Wipe with clean, dry rag.
  13. Repeat steps 10-12.
  14. Ignore for 24 hours. Rejoice.

Step 7: Play!

That's it really. You're done. Now just wait for the opportunity to fix it when your kid decides it's a chair.

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