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?

β€” Megan Fitzpatrick

65 thoughts on “An Insignificant Piece of Personal Significance

  1. Creative Insights

    Empire style crib could be hacked or destroyed? Nay. Skip CL and go to antique or consignment shop. FEATURE the antique element. It is legal and safe up to the age you note, though make the repairs, for sure. Check for places to have little fingers catch AND line it with a nice silky spill-over-the-edges quilt/baby blanket – try yellow and white. Thus decorated, it is EASY to sell, photo. Use a bit of finish restore on it – do NOT refinish it. Just tone it, clean it as an antique person would do. If no kids/grandkids, find a friend who needs it – what a gift.

  2. kwhp1507

    I am a disabled Firefighter EMT do to a tragic accident that left brain damage. I have taken up woodworking in my basement only a year and half ago. To “learn” the trade I use lots of recycled furniture and pallets for sources of wood. I have learned that things can be reconstructed and finessed in ways that pay “homage” to the original donor pieces. I say if you could not sell it for use as is and are not attached to it in its present configuration, reconfigure it into something meaningful to you! If you do not want to do that, I live near Columbus Ohio and would love to use it for a project if you choose not too. Providing we are close enough to drive lol. I bet all of the naysayers above might enjoy seeing a article in a upcoming issue of it being repurposed. Keep rockin on with the great articles in and out of the magazine!
    Kevin H.

  3. Sawdust

    Here we go again. Just ask Mr. Shanesy about his dining table from Moser. I would prefer that you use your skills to restore the crib, then find a loving & caring home where the original maker’s vision can be enjoyed as intended.

  4. chodgkin

    For goodness sake, don’t destroy it! Some new parent who prefers real furniture to cheap plastic or Chinese made junk but doesn’t have a handy woodworker husband, father, or brother will love it. (I have made cradles for all my grandchildren and I guarantee you they will go down the generations.) Fix it (it will be a nice challenge) to be safe for an infant, and offer it to a new mother — if you don’t know one personally, post a “free” notice with a photo in the waiting room of your doctor or ob-gyn and stand back as the phone rings off the hook.

  5. doneby

    Try a local consignment auction or antique dealer. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That’s an irreplaceable artifact that someone else might treasure. Please don’t destroy it.

  6. knothole

    Makes me wonder if you are losing your mind! Never destroy an antique. There is always some method of repair. There is always someone who wants almost anything. It can be challenging to find that person. Like toochtwo said, there are always charities operating thrift stores that would be delighted for you to donate the crib.

  7. robertwf

    Don’t you dare chop that up for parts. If nothing else fix it and donate to a museum. It is definitely worth more than something to cannibalized for parts.

  8. toochtwo

    There’s an infant somewhere that would sleep nicely in this beautiful old crib. Fix it and give it to a worthwhile charity like the Purple Heart Foundation. You’ll be doing some good and in your mind’s eye it will always be perfect. The cats won’t miss it.

  9. Redbat

    My dad made a crib that turned into a storage problem for one of my daughters. The crib I made I designed to take apart and fit into a card board flat box for storage. It has been use for 9 babies so far. What I am saying is that with modern methods like the Kreg pocket hole screws, you should look at cutting it apart in a way that you can screw it back together later, and store it flat in a box, or lift it to the ceiling in a room out of the way. This way you can keep a sentimental piece and not be overly burdened for storage. It sounds like some parts would still need to be glued up, but I am sure from my own experience you can break this down into 5 major pieces that can be stored flat.

  10. RogerInColorado

    If it were mine, I would disassemble it so that it would take up less space. I would store the parts out of sight, in the back of a closet or under the bed.

    If it wanders in your mind and some of the parts evolve into something to be used in something to make for your mother, you are good to go.

    If it never enters your mind again, you can rediscover the parts late and give them to a fledging woodworker to be repurposed and you are good to go.

    That you have kept it this long in spite of the space it takes up speaks volumes.

  11. MonteB

    Megan, I I have an old chair seat hanging on the wall of my shop. It is all that remains from a cheap chair which fell apart. I kept the seat because it reminds me of a time when that chair was the only chair I owned. If you do disassemble the crib, I would suggest using at least a part of it in some meaningful way.

  12. Robert

    If it were insignificant, my guess the crib would have been “curbside” some time ago. Might I suggest careful disassembly and storage for a future family heirloom gift? Maybe there’s an interesting article idea here too. Sometimes woodworkers are called upon to disassemble and repair vintage, but not necessarily priceless antique, family furnishings. This little crib could be the star of a photo essay on how to carefully take something to pieces without using the Sawzall.

  13. Mike

    I don’t know how anyone could even consider getting rid of something like that. Store CD’s in it if you have to. πŸ™‚

  14. RustieRock

    I would keep it and fix it so it would be safe. A crib pad that goes around the inside for padding, and ties to the side and end post would make it useable. And maybe one day, when you stand by it and look down at your child or grandchild, you will understand why you kept it. My grandson slept in my Mothers cradle as a baby, and now we are keeping it for his children, and grandchildren. Your cat can enjoy it till then.

  15. MikeyD

    If you really need to do something with it, and if it really is the death trap you claim it is, I would be tempted to carefully separate the foot and head board, figure out which is in the best shape, and keep that one as a wall hanging for the sentimental value. Not many of us can claim to have our first crib. Good luck.

  16. warren5421

    It looks like a Jenny Len (sp) type piece. Take it apart and make it a build project for the magazine. You would have a project with carving, turning, jointly and scroll saw use. Take it apart making it a magazine article showing how to do it without breaking it. You can then use the parts for projects that mean something to you if you don’t put it back together.

  17. ironhat

    Take it to an antique auctioneer and see what he thinks he can get for it. If it’s too low, give to him anyway and then remember that you were going to burn it (winter is over, after all). It will be more than what you went there with!

  18. RileyG

    ” an old, non-functional sewing machine” There is NO SUCH THING as a non-functional sewing machine.
    Owner of machines from 1890 to 1992. The older the better….

  19. 11POPWOOD11

    Gosh… How about this? Make a decision. It’s yours. What difference does it make what anyone else thinks you should do with it? It obviously has no sentimental meaning to you, So, repurpose it, burn it for heat, or kick it to the curb. It’s no ones business but yours. I know this is a very male response, and its not meant to offend. I think a lot who didn’t rely, had similar thought, and like me, couldn’t care less what you do with it.
    A suggestion, because it is an attractive piece of furniture, is give it to some poor family who have a baby but no proper place for it to sleep. There are thousands of them who might appreciate this item. To them it may just be a family heirloom someday. You clearly don’t need it.

  20. pasha137

    Megan: All new babies need a crib so if you can make it safe with a reasonable expenditure of time and expense, then do so and pass it on. If not, then alvage the parts and wood. Make little mementos for friends and relatives and mark them with,”Megan Slept Here” … just a thought.

  21. nancynbob

    I doubt that she’d ever admit it, but I bet that your Mom really hopes you’ll keep it. She’s proud of what you’ve become, but she really loves remembering when you were little – at least most of the time.

  22. R.L. Kocher

    The workmanship is remarkable. I’m sure a lot of care was taken with its’ creation. I would think you were the center of the universe in it. Keep it.

  23. mysticcarver

    I think you should keep it. Taken apart and stored flat. It may be worth something meaningful to someone you know at some time. It is a sweet looking crib and not some mass manufactured item(as far as I know anyways) If I had been the maker I wouldn’t want it torn apart due to inconvenience lol. Either way it is your crib and a hard decision I know. After all you are asking all of us our opinions. Of course it is my 2 cents and they work for me.

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Yeah – that seems to be the general consensus…and if I’m asking the question, it means I don’t really want to break it up, eh? I’m going to try to take it apart this weekend – fingers crossed for hide glue and no nails!

      1. RDW2

        You’ll be glad you kept it when you discover a need for it (as in, to pass it down). My daughter now has the cradle that my dad made for her when she was a baby and she used it for _my_ granddaughter. It was really special for my daughter.

  24. msiemsenmsiemsen

    The crib is kind of awesome looking. If you flip the front down I think you could set you tool chest in there a nice height from the floor. A nice spot underneath for a smaller chest on wheels for the nail gun and etc..

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Pretty sure it would collapse if I did that! (But that’s an interesting idea)

  25. Ally Shaw

    At least if you turn it into a side table and cabinets you’ll be able to tell friends the story behind it (that it used to be your crib). If you don’t have the space for another side table, make it as a gift for someone.

  26. Mike Hosimer

    My wife and I are the antique people in our extended family. I have a house full of family antiques, and I think it would be a same to give it away. I think it would make a great cat bed if you have to find a practical use for it.

      1. Mike Hosimer

        “This crib is nothing special – but it feels as if it ought to be.”
        If it feels special then it is. It is one of the things that you have had longer than you remember,
        and it is a pretty good looking crib in its own right. I think it deserves a better fate then being parted out. Of course I am not walking around it on a daily baisis.

  27. PhilS

    How “antique” is antique? My first reaction is to disassemble it, as other have suggested, and store it. If it were me, I’d keep it until I could pass it along to a family member or someone suitable. If you don’t want to do that, can you donate it to a museum or is there not enough provenance for that?

    Who knows, maybe 200 years from now it will show up on Antiques Roadshow as the crib that the famous Megan Fitzpatrick slept in as an infant. Of course you need some supporting documentation.

  28. Cosmo

    I have a similar artifact of my infancy that also served my daughters and one of my grand children. The grand children that came later would sleep in a modern, infant safe cradle as we finally admitted to the dangers of this beautiful hand-made piece made out of Ohio walnut and cherry. My wife will never get rid of it even though it has been stored in our basement for close to 30 years. My best guess is my son-in-law will, after my wife and I pass, take it apart and build something beautiful out of that old cradle. That’s just fine by me.

  29. Bryan Robinson

    You miss it when you think about giving it away, and after it is gone you don’t miss it. Take a picture and then take it to Goodwill for someone who can use it.

    1. rogerwebb

      You think you’ll miss it but you won’t ! I had a silver tea service that was my grand parents silver wedding present! It was a pain to clean and had never been used, I asked my kids what they would do with it when it was theirs. They said they’d sell it. I sold it and haven’t missed it! I also have a clock that was my great grand parents wedding present. They will fight over that and I love it too .
      Keep the things that you want to keep and get rid of the rest!
      You can’t keep everything!

  30. jaystpeter

    Sounds like your next project should be a shed.

    I had a 1000sq ft house for 12 years. The shed that came with it was barely adequate for a lawnmower, rake, and shovel. So, I bought another Amish built shed. Several years later, I bought a twin for the Amish shed and put it right behind the other (tools were pushing the other contents out of the first).


    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.

  32. 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.

    1. exyle

      ….And if you decided on an electric rather than mechanical clock you could use the case to store quite a few CDs….

  33. 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.


    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan 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.

  34. 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 FitzpatrickMegan 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.)


  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. Eric R

    Incorporate a piece or two into your tool cabinet and toss the rest.
    It sounds as though it’s lived it’s life and has served well.

  40. 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.

  41. 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

  42. 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.

  43. 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…

  44. 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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