There is something special about using the same crib that you slept in for your own baby. Family heirlooms are often special and hold many fond memories, so it’s exciting to think about using them for your own child. When it comes to wooden cribs it’s a great idea to fix them up before your baby sleeps their first night in that wonderful little bed.
It’s important to note before you move forward in fixing up that old wooden crib that safety should be job number one. Some older cribs may not pass the current guild lines for infant safety and a thorough inspection of the crib should be done before you even being. According to the Nation Safety Counsel the slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and the corner posts should be no higher than 1/16th of an inch. Also, there should be no design work or cutouts in the headboard or footboard. If the mattress is more than 5 years old it’s a good bet that it doesn’t meet current safety guild lines and should be thrown out. The mattress should be firm and tight fitting such that the child cannot get under it or roll over on their stomach and not be able to brief which is extremely dangerous. For more details on the safety standards for cribs, refer to the National Safety Counsels website.
Now if you have given the crib a good once over and it passes NSC’s safety standards then let’s get started. First you need to check the sturdiness of the crib. Often family antiques like these can be stored in an out of the way place such as the garage and or attic exposing them to high heat conditions. The joints in older cribs where put together with a type of glue called “bull” glue. Great for its time, this type of blue does not hold up well in long term high heat conditions so the joins may have become lose while in storage. With the crib placed firmly on the floor and against a strong wall place both hands on the top rail of the crib closest to you. Putting a little of your own weight down on the crib turn it slightly to the left and right. It may creak just a little, but it should not give way. This technique will usually expose and lose joints by popping them out. If the crib was manufactured past 1985 there is a possibility that the joint won’t pop out, but remain dangerously lose. This is because some current manufactures of wooden cribs use inexpensive glue and shoot a “brad” nail through each joint. The glue over time and exposure to heat will leave a dusty film in the joint with only the brad nail holding it together. Another important location that should not be skipped is the slats on both sides of the crib. Little hands grab and twist on them a great deal. Every one of those joints on the crib should be inspected for firmness and repaired.
Once inspection and repair is completed its time to brighten up your babies future bed. If you want to keep the crib looking like it did when you were a baby, there are some very simple steps to make it look brand new, without damaging the antique quality. Many older wooden cribs will reflect the more popular color of there day. This can vary some what in the year and style with which they were built, but the most important part is keeping the “patina” of the aged wood. Most finishes on cribs dull over time. This is a natural part in the aging of the finish.
To get your babies bed looking great I would suggest rubbing compound. Now there are many types of rubbing compound made for wood finishes but I would not suggest them. A rubbing compound is usually a liquid or gel suspension of an abrasive particulate and a mild solvent or a wax that is kept in a liquid form by the solvent. The particulate acts as a super fine sand paper that when used properly can put a nice shine on hardened finished surfaces. The use of rubbing compound is a simple and affective way to brighten up the dull finish on that antique crib without removing the finish or wonderful wood color below. I have found rubbing compounds that are designed for wood have a large amount of wax in the suspension. This type of wax can be very difficult to get off or bring to a shine, and I don’t like to work hard I like to work smart. The first can of wood rubbing compound I purchased was used twice and them promptly thrown away. For the best results a car rubbing compound should be used to buff up your baby’s crib. This style of rubbing compound has little or no wax in it making clean up a breeze. I would suggest a 2000 grit compound which can be found at almost any car supply shop, but I usually get mine from Auto body wholesalers. They simply have the best range of grit. After all my years of experience, it’s the 2000 grit that leaves the cleanest shine, with out risk of actually rubbing the finish right off. High grit choices have the potential of rubbing through the finish to the wood. If this happens you run the risk of leaving the piece without the protective coating of the finish and rubbing away the stain thus altering the woods beautiful even color.
To apply the compound use a soft cotton cloth. Place a small amount onto your cloth and rub evenly over a small area. Once you have a small portion of the surface covered in a light haze, being to rub with more force over the same area. As you apply force the compound will begin to haze up and only moments later it will begin to roll up and fall way leaving this brilliant shine below. Again, use small portions poured onto your cloth for I have found much faster and cleaner results with multiple applications to the rag instead of a large amount applied all over the surface of the crib. When you have reworked your entire surface wipe down the piece with a mixture of three parts water and one part common vinegar. This will remove any remaining dirt and rubbing compound leaving your baby’s bed shiny, clean and ready for use. As with any suggestion please do a test spot on the finish were it would not be seen such that you will know your getting the results you want.
Once you have inspected for safety, repaired lose or broken joints and polished up the finish your families heirloom will be ready for your babies first night of sleep.
About The Author
Lyle W Kelly
Lyle has spent most of his life involved in wood working and spent many years in the family business of antique repair and restoration.