An Insignificant Piece of Personal Significance

cribPictured at left is the antique crib in which I slept until I was six months old or so. (I’m guessing – but that’s the age at which most of my friends’ babies could roll over and begin to pull themselves up; I can only assume my mother wouldn’t have knowingly left me in what would at that point be a death trap…though perhaps she at times wished she had.)

The crib is in my study/shop, and it’s taking up valuable storage space (look closely and you’ll see the brad nailer “stored” next to my poor, decrepit teddy bear). It sits exactly where I want to put my tool chest, which would fit perfectly. But there’s no other room in my house in which the crib makes sense or can fit (actually, it doesn’t make sense where it is, either), and because of the tight turn and narrow stairs up to my third floor, I can’t move it to my “room where all things go to die” (500+ CDs of which I can’t seem to divest myself, an old, non-functional sewing machine, two Victorian chairs I’ve been hauling around and not using for 24 years…).

I asked my mom if she wanted the crib back, but she has even less room than do I for another piece of furniture. I’ve tried to sell it on Craigslist as a decorative item, but found no takers.

It’s in need of repairs: the two of the fretwork panels are loose, the headboard moulding lifts right off, two legs are a bit bockety…. Plus the latches on the front panel are a joke (there’s a backup hook-and-eye closure…because sharp bits are awesome in cribs). There is no way I’d put a kid in this thing; I’m pretty sure it would be considered child endangerment under today’s statutes. I use it for storing blankets (on which my cats like to sleep, so the blankets have to be washed before I can use them on the guest beds). So basically, my baby crib now serves as an ineffectual blanket chest that holds little, protects nothing and takes up a lot of much-needed space.

So I’m thinking of breaking it up for parts (or just cutting off the posts so I can maneuver it up to the third floor – just because I feel as though I should keep it). If I cut it apart entirely, I could incorporate the fretwork panels into the doors of an as-yet-to-be-designed cabinet. The headboard could…hang on the wall? The turnings could become the legs of a bedside table. But will they? And would I regret cutting up this antique piece that has been with me since literally days after I was born? And if I do, will the parts end up on the third floor, never to be used? This crib is nothing special – but it feels as if it ought to be.

What would you do?

— Megan Fitzpatrick

65 thoughts on “An Insignificant Piece of Personal Significance

  1. timothy.linnan@gmail.com

    Remove the posts and store in separate rooms under beds or behind couches. Use them as defense devices when intruders come or you want to prod unwanted guests out the door after one of your late ending parties. Reuse the other pieces when the need arises. Put them in your lumber stash and use when you can.

  2. exyle

    It looks like you may have all the components to make a small Eastlake/Aesthetic case clock. Nice pediment….maybe the fret sawed sides as door or sides of the pendulum chamber?….the 4 posts at each corner of the case beneath the hood….As a visual here are some AC clocks that feature full length posts (that I am certain Mr. Lang will be familiar with) these could give you a good ideas for arranging elements for function.

  3. tms

    Hey Megan,

    If it is truly antique, then it was undoubtedly put together with hide glue. Rather than cut it apart, I would soak the joints with boiling hot towels. I usually put a sopping towel in the microwave for a couple of minutes and then with gloved hands wrap it up. I usually have one towel heating and one warming the wood, switching them as needed.

    It won’t take long before you can just pull it apart, without destroying it. Then, you can decide to store it flat, or re-purpose the parts using the original tenons.

    Tom

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      I am kinda leaning that way (hoping no PVA repairs – or worse, nails – were done on it). If I can get it apart cleanly, it can be put back together some day, and in the meantime, live on the third floor.

      1. tms

        Hey Megan,
        Good news, PVA will come apart with boiling hot rags too! I tried it once, in desperation, after I discovered a mistake in glue up. Granted, I was using Titebond 1, and the glue up was just under 24hrs old, but it came apart almost as easily at with hide glue.
        Tom

  4. RDMuller

    Do not part with it. Someday, someplace, there will be a special someone you would wish to have use it. In the meantime, do what I did. I added a contraption to insert in it (sort of like a box with vertical dividers) that I use to hold family photo albums. It is out of commission right now as granddaughter number 2 is in it.

    1. pmac

      Sorry not helpful but I couldn’t resist. I’d take a picture for the photo album, then I’d cut it into its individual parts and pick the feature/part that most reminded me of the crib and use those parts to build something I needed. The rest becomes firewood for the backyard firepit.

    2. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Ha! I’m actually trying to do just that…one with room for a proper shop. But the market here is slim with options (that match up with my slim pocketbook).

      1. pmac

        Maybe when that Schwarz character buys his dream warehouse/home/workshop/loading dock/store front to house LAP and his family he’d give you a good deal on his current abode. I hear it has a nice workshop. He might even throw in his helper monkey if you ask.

  5. billmurr

    Since you already decided to try and dispose of it, (and had no takers) then you should have no guilt about letting it go. I’d suggest turning the headboard into a decorative mirror or picture frame. At least that would be flat, and take little floor space. The legs might make good turning stock. You could use the wood to build a miniature replica. Or, salvage some of the wood to make some part of the tool chest, like a removable till.

    My Grandfather had made a dresser that was rendered useless by a flood. I tore it apart, storing the wood for some use later on. When my Father died, I made a flag case that is now holding the flag that covered his casket. I decided to perpetuate the memory of the dresser, by mounting an engraved bass plaque with that information on the inside. Hard to describe the feeling of working the same boards, a hundred years later.

    There are laws in place that would prevent the sale of Childrens sleepware, cribs, and toys, that do not meet Federal Regulations.

    Secondly, Itunes was my way of turning my CD collection into a usable music library.

  6. dangbert

    Megan, we woodworkers are an odd lot. Give us a problem and we start going wild with solutions (some practical, and some not so). The truth is, you are talking about YOUR history. Yes, its impractical where it is. Yes, its in poor shape. But as for destroying what is sitting in your office – for any of a multitude of rationalized reasons – would be something that would bring a tinge of regret every time you thought about it.

    Were it me, I would treasure the inconvenience and all the memories that go with it. (I would probably do a very loving, but minimal restoration.)

    Deb

  7. armerlo

    If you want to keep it and the problem is getting it upstairs because of the spindles, just cut the spindles off at the grooves close to where they meet the rest of the crib, drill holes in the ends of the spindles and the remaining part of the posts and install dowel screws (threads at both ends). Then move the cradle upstairs and screw the spindles back on. If you use a fine enough saw and cut it in one of the deeper grooves, no one may even notice that you did it. Just be sure to mark which spindle goes where so you can realign the grain.

  8. David RandallDavid Randall

    I tend to think of parts in relation to desks. Following the Modern Secretaire layout I designed with and for my wife (being written up for Lee Valley) you could use the four spindles as front columns, the panels as the outsides of the sides, and the headboard as the dust collector top, as you might find on an older design, but in a desk designed for multiple project files, and with a computer monitor or laptop in the middle that uses a separate keyboard and mouse.

  9. litcritter

    Decide what the most recognizable feature of it is, and find a way to incorporate it into something that you _will_ use. The more you find to repurpose, the more you’ll get the warm fuzzy of nostalgia when you open your tool chest, use a square, or whatever. Right now, whatever good feelings you have about the crib are tainted by the hassle factor of dragging around a non-functional piece of furniture.

  10. richardrank4

    I am an unrepentant “keeper.” Your baby bed is a treasure, and the idea of altering it hurts. Best that it go to someone who will love it and pass it along to the next generation. Dick

  11. tberryhawk

    This is where we separate the “keepers” from the “tossers.” Folks are either one or the other and even though there is a genetic component, siblings can be at both ends of the spectrum.
    As the eldest in the family and a definite “keeper” i would think of every way to hang on to both the history and the antiqueness of it. Taking it apart to store (not having the space to use “whole” ) would be my choice. It looks like there was a lot of craftsmanship that went into it and that should be honored.There is a use and a place for it sometime in the future.
    Next choice would be upusing the parts for special projects, given the time to do that and the ideas in mind.
    Absolutely last choice is the curb option, or a “free” ad in a local Pennysaver. And i couldn’t do that.
    But as others have said, it is your choice. Just don’t do one you will regret later.

    Good luck.

  12. tbier

    I’m not about to tell you what to do with your furniture, but I can say from personal experience ( a not-so-great when new 1940′s/50′s coffee table) that when re purposing old furniture the wood cuts like butter. Maybe save the legs for an adult-sized bed?

    Choice #2 – Viking funeral!

    Choice #3 – Know anyone with a newborn? Drag crib to the front door, ring bell, run away…

  13. Brian Gilstrap

    Too much history. Too nice to chuck it. Disassemble into panels. It’ll store easily upright and you can reassemble it later when it will mean more (things change when our parents pass…).

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