Picking the best wood for your baby crib can be downright mind-boggling.
- Do you want a hardwood or a softwood? Hardwoods are generally more stable, but softwoods are generally easier to work with.
- Do you want an expensive wood or an inexpensive wood? Expensive woods are usually more attractive and more “limited edition”, but inexpensive woods are easier to come by and less devastating when you make mistakes.
- Do you want a straight grain, curvy grain, thick grain, thin grain? Do you care if the grain is ugly (i.e., are you going to paint it)?
This guide will make your woodworking project less complicated and help you select the best wood for your baby crib.
Hardwoods vs. Softwoods for Baby Cribs
Before looking at the individual wood varieties, you must understand the difference between hardwoods and softwoods. “Duh, Mike. Hardwoods are hard, and softwoods are soft.” Not always. These types are actually based on the origin of the wood, not its strength or density. Most hardwoods come from flowering, deciduous trees, while softwoods are logged from conifer (evergreen) trees. As an example, balsa is a hardwood, but it is so soft and lightweight that it is used to produce model airplanes.
Hardwoods for Baby Cribs
Here is a run-down of popular hardwoods, their specifications, and their price (higher number equals greater hardness or greater price):
Ash is a good wood for baby cribs because it is easy to use and easy to stain. Unfortunately ash is difficult to find and must often be bought from large lumberyards.
Birch (yellow or white) is suitable for baby cribs because it is widely available, has a moderate price, and its grain causes stability. Be forewarned that birch is not easy to stain, so painting with a low-VOC or zero-VOC paint is your best finishing option.
Cherry is a popular wood for making baby cribs. It is easy to work with, takes stain well, and is sustainable when purchased through sustainably-grown forests. You won’t find cherry in home improvement shops, so be prepared to pick the wood up from a local lumberyard.
Mahogany is a great wood for baby cribs, but its downsides often limit its use. Mahogany is not sustainably grown, is available only through a lumberyard, and is very costly.
Maple is a stable choice for baby cribs. Hard maple is too difficult to work with, but soft maple is much easier to use. It also tends to be more affordable than other hardwoods. Suitable maple (in quality or quantity) is rarely found at home improvement shops, so you will likely need to place an order with a lumberyard.
Oak is a traditional wood for baby cribs. The grain of white oak tends to be prettier than red oak and is less susceptible to moisture. Lumberyards offer the best selection of white oak.
Poplar is not a common choice for baby cribs because it is not widely considered attractive. If you don’t care about the natural wood look, painting is an option. The good news is poplar is relatively inexpensive, soft and easy to work with, and stable. You can find it at home improvement stores.
This list only scratches the surface of the exotic hardwoods available. Depending on how you want your baby crib to look and how much money you have to spend, these other hardwoods (or veneers) may be better suited to your baby crib project. If you don’t want to mess with calling around to different lumberyards, you can order online at Rockler (click here for free shipping).
Softwoods for Baby Cribs
Softwoods offer additional choices for building your baby crib. The list below includes three common softwoods, their traits, and their costs:
Cedar is most identified by its distinctive color and smell. While it is not a popular choice for baby furniture, it is relatively soft and can easily be used. Some children have cedar allergies, so this wood is a better choice for dressers and closets.
Fir (Douglas Fir) is an acceptable wood for constructing baby cribs. It is fairly inexpensive, and it is carried at home improvement shops. Since it does not have an attractive grain pattern and does not take stain well, you will likely want to paint it.
Pine is an inexpensive, readily available, easy-to-use wood for baby cribs. Expect a slightly unattractive grain pattern and multiple knots. Various pine boards are sold at home improvement shops, but lumberyards carry the best quality boards.
Baby Cribs and Sustainability
For a final note, let’s talk about sustainability. Since hardwoods have a slower growth rate than softwoods, extensive use of hardwoods for baby cribs can lead to deforestation. To produce an attractive baby crib in an inexpensive and stress-reduced manner, consider using only softwoods or softwoods with hardwood veneers. Check out the Rockler site (woodworking paradise) for all kinds of options for building your perfect baby crib.