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28 year-old Adam Seim makes his living as a maintenance engineer at a New York City radio station. He got the gig after he and his brother, both master woodworkers, built a $3 million studio for the station, complete with mahogany paneling and Corian counters. Seim’s construction chops can be seen in a number of bedroom makeovers done by the volunteer group Blissful Bedrooms, which does amazing transformations of the bedrooms of extremely disabled New York City teenagers.

Seim’s wife Sara is expecting their first child, a girl, so he went to work building a crib for the baby. Actually, it’s a mini-crib because a full-size crib would be too big for their cramped Brooklyn apartment.

The crib was constructed of ApplePly, a formaldehyde-free Baltic birch plywood with a maple veneer. Seim calls it “one of the strongest plywoods out there.” This is not cheap stuff. The 4′ X 8′ sheets cost $138 and it took two of them to make the crib, though a nice 30″ X 48″ piece of ApplePly was left over.

Seim read up online and learned that safety regulations require that the rails for the crib could not have more than 2-3/8′ of space between them in order to prevent the infant from getting her head stuck.

Using Google Sketch Up, he designed the crib so it is slotted together.


The only hardware used are stainless steel pins bolted into the four corner supports. They hold up the platform on which the mattress sits.

The crib is 34″ tall, 28″ wide, and 41″ long.

Seim decided that, for budgetary reasons, it made sense to make forms out of 1/2″ medium density fiberboard on a CNC milling machine and use them to cut the crib’s parts out of the ApplePly at home. Cutting plywood on a CNC machine takes a lot more time than cutting MDF. After redrawing the design in AutoCAD, Seim emailed it to the Third Ward wood shop in Williamsburg where it took less than an hour to cut the MDF forms. He had to pay $100 for an hour of time on the machine.

When Seim got the forms home, he sealed them with polyurethane and used a pattern bit on his hand-held router to cut the parts for the crib out of the ApplePly.

To keep those nasty VOC’s away from the forthcoming baby Seim, the crib was finished with milk paint and tung oil.

Mom-to-be Sarah loves the handmade crib.

Jon Kalish

Jon Kalish is a Manhattan-based radio reporter, podcast producer and newspaper writer. He’s reported for NPR for more than 30 years.


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Comments

  1. mark says:

    I am so jealous of your skills!

  2. James Floyd Kelly says:

    That is beautiful work! Love the minimal hardware needed. What type of bit did you use with your router, and did you design the shapes and corners and cuts with the router bit in mind?

    1. Adam Seim says:

      Thanks! I originally planned on using a 1/4″ spiral upcut bit, with a 3/8″ guide bushing, but after quickly snapping 2 of them in the tough appleply, I switched to a 1/2″ straight bit with 5/8″ collar. If I make another one I will order a 1/2 spiral bit and a precision guide bushing.

      http://amzn.com/B003HC2OB6
      http://amzn.com/B000P4HOF0

      A router bit cannot cut out an inside corner smaller than its radius, so I had to plan accordingly. I did have to do a minimal amount of filing and sanding to get the joints to fit perfectly.

      I also offset the the lines 1/16″ on the form that the CNC cut to make up for the thickness of the guide bushing.

    2. Adam Seim says:

      Thanks! I originally planned on using a 1/4\” spiral upcut bit, with a 3/8\” guide bushing, but after quickly snapping 2 of them in the tough appleply, I switched to a 1/2\” straight bit with 5/8\” collar. If I make another one I will order a 1/2 spiral bit and a precision guide bushing.

      http://amzn.com/B003HC2OB6
      http://amzn.com/B000P4HOF0

      A router bit cannot cut out an inside corner smaller than its radius, so I had to plan accordingly. I did have to do a minimal amount of filing and sanding to get the joints to fit perfectly.

      I also offset the the lines 1/16\” on the form that the CNC cut to make up for the thickness of the guide bushing.

  3. Frank says:

    Looks great :)
    Since it’s “slot together” I was wondering whether you secured the connection somehow – or does it just fit very tightly?

    1. Adam Seim says:

      It’s not a tight fit, it doesn’t have to be forced, but the joints aren’t loose either. I cleaned them up with a file till they were just right.

      Gravity holds it all together. The mattress support pegs are resting on the side rails, which forces the joint closed.

      It would be possible to install small safety bolts near the bottom joints, but I don’t think they are necessary, Once assembled, I can rock and move around the crib quite a lot without the joints even coming apart a little.

  4. James Floyd Kelly says:

    Have you made the files available publicly or do you have any thoughts on selling a kit or the files?

    1. Adam Seim says:

      Yes, I have considered selling them, but there is a little bit of red tape and testing that is required to manufacture cribs that I would have to look into first.

      My design to the best of my knowledge meets or exceeds the 2011 federal safety requirements, but it would most likely need to be inspected by a third party testing laboratory.

      This document goes into the details: http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr11/cribfinal.pdf

      Because my design has long slender rails made from plywood, I made sure to use the best material available. Appleply is considerably stronger than standard plywood, and has no gaps or splits in the internal plies. It also is formaldehyde free which rules out most common 13 ply baltic birch. If someone were to use the same design with a lower quality plywood, I would be worried about the strength of the rails and joints.

  5. tim says:

    Elegant design for easy assembly/dis-assembly, minimal parts type of concept. Nice material too, although a little utilitarian-looking, in the end, for the price. In my humble opinion, however, it seems too much trouble for a one-off, finished product; with all the computer work, machine set up, mdf forms etc. A traditional joined-wood piece of work using solid wood, would have been much simpler, less time, and looked better, richer, in the end. Perhaps, the design would be excellent for a lightweight resin, plastic, or other material, either molded or printed. Could these side panels be printed up, either whole, or in two halves then joined, featuring a hollow core, with internal cross-hatched trusses? If that could be engineered with minimal material yet good strength, this has the makings of a Home Depot or Target best seller.

    1. Adam Seim says:

      My initial designs were for something much more complicated, with many details and features, with drawers, pull-out changing table, built in mobile… it was going to be the best crib ever! Then I decided I should look up what kinds of standards exist out there for cribs, because I had heard about many recalls and crib deaths.

      The Consumer Product Safety Commission is the group in charge of making the official rules about crib construction, and after reading all of their relevant public documents and standards concerning cribs, I realized that a crib’s primary function is to safely contain an infant without supervision and keep her from getting suffocated or trapped, and prevent her from climbing up and falling. They have many stories and statistics of babies getting injured and killed with the primary cause being poor crib design.

      There are many problems with screws coming loose over time, decorations that fall off, poor airflow, small spaces that trap fingers and hands and feet, large spaces that trap heads, moving parts that collapse overnight, the list goes on…

      I started from scratch with my design and following the CPSC’s standards for non-full sized cribs I came up with what I think is the safest crib that I could build.

      I tried to add as much “detail” as could, such as the alternate tapered rails and the slightly curved tops, but the utilitarian look is also very safe.

      I chose appleply, because it was the best I could find short of having a custom plywood being glued up to my specifications, and the only one that said it was designed with children’s furniture in mind. It really is incredibly strong plywood, and I’ve done lots of work with standard 13 ply in the past.

      Solid wood is a great choice for a building material, and I enjoy working with it, but since I currently don’t have convenient access to a shop, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a crib that would be better than what is on amazon for $120 (amzn.com/B002MZTZ5W), especially with so many pieces and parts.

      I have casually followed the progress of 3d printing for several years, but I’ve never physically touched a 3d printed opject. Is 3d printing currently capable of printing high strength, child safe materials?

  6. Bonnie Velazquez says:

    Hi there! I absolutely love this crib you designed, and since my fiance was hoping to build her crib himself, I wanted to know if you had a pdf file of this particular crib available or if perhaps you had suggestions for coming up our own design? Thanks so very much.

  7. Bonnie Velazquez says:

    another side note that I just thought of, sorry to continously comment btw, but is it possible to modify this design so that its a rocking crib with detachable wheels? We’re in the process of moving and I wanted to make it easier for us to move into our new space.

  8. Adam Seim says:

    Thanks, I’m glad you love the crib, and congratulations on becoming a new parent!

    I don’t have a pdf, but I do have the a 3D model in sketchup and the cnc outlines in autocad. I designed this crib to take advantage of the CNC’s capabilities of cutting arcs and angles while also creating precise tabs and slots. It could possibly be made with a jigsaw and a full size pattern adhered to the plywood, but that would be very time consuming, and require being very careful to follow the lines exactly so the slots and tabs fit together nicely in the end. Let me know if cutting this out with a cnc is a possibility for you.

    As far as designing and building your own crib, I came to understand that this is something that must be done with great care and with the safety of your baby in mind. I am very much the type to throw caution to wind and think that regulations are just corporate BS, but after reading all the safety standards I could find, I realized that what they really are is a bunch of very intelligent good-intentioned people doing what they can to prevent any more babies from needlessly dying specifically because of faulty crib design. This was something that was very new to me and helped me to understand my role as a parent.

    This is a great starting point:

    http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr11/cribfinal.pdf

    http://www.cpsc.gov/info/cribs/index.html

    A crib is nothing more than a fancy “cage” to safely contain an infant. A crib is the only place you will ever leave a child safely unattended (except for maybe a carseat, but what kind of person does a diy carseat?) You don’t want a crib to suffocate or trap your baby, you don’t want your toddler to climb over the top and fall, you don’t want your baby to get stuck between the mattress and the rails, you don’t want the fasteners to work loose over time and the crib collapse… etc…

    I’m not saying this to discourage you from building your own crib, but to show you that building a crib for a child (especially yours!) is something to take very seriously.

    Please, please, please, never make anything like this:

    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/walnut-plastic-homemade-crib-84831

    or this:

    http://daddytypes.com/2008/03/12/ooh_will_homemade_crib_of_death_win_designsponges_diy_contest.php

    Anyways… on to your other questions, the first two iterations of my design were for a rocking crib, but the more I read the safety standards, the more uneasy I felt about making a crib that could possibly tip over with a larger baby leaning over the edge and I couldn’t think of an elegant way to easily convert between a rocking and non-rocking crib. We ended up finding a really nice rocking chair at an antique store and it is even quite useful if you aren’t rocking the baby!

    I also wanted to put on wheels:

    http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=21650&site=ROCKLER

    and:

    http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=11182&filter=58866

    but after asking my wife if she would ever actually move the crib around to another room I decided to just keep it simple. My design easily comes apart if it has to be moved, but if we need to move it a short distance, we just slide it on the floor… Here is a pic of the crib taken apart: http://i.imgur.com/GKbYI.jpg

    1. EvaRam says:

      Hi Adam, I realize this article is over a year old but just stumbled upon it and I’m so impressed and intreagued with the slot together crib that you made. I just learned how to program a CNC – coincidentally the same month I found out I was pregnant. I’m almost 6 months now and would love to make my own crib for the little munchkin. I sourced the appleply and read through the guidelines from your previous posts. Thank you for the info. Do you mind sharing your AutoCAD file with the crib parts outlines with me? Thanks again for inspiring me on this! I hope to make lots of meaningful pieces for my munchkin with my CNC access and knowledge :)

      1. Adam Seim says:

        Hi EvaRam, contact me at abseim@gmail.com, Thanks for the kind words!

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