Baby Bed
by Brian Anderson

Hi Chuck,

Attached are a couple of photos of my latest project. My wife Valerie is pregnant and due in June. We live in Cologne, Germany, and recently spent a couple of weeks visiting her parents in Aigonnay, France. Her father has a nice workshop with a good old oak woodworking bench, so I packed my traveling tool kit into the car, and built a bed for the baby in the form of, yes, you guessed it, a boat.

I had a copy of “The Expectant Father’s Boat Book” published by WoodenBoats. It had some good bits and some photos of cradle boats ranging from a ship of the line for the young future King Fernando VII of Spain, to several more humble craft. There are also a couple of sets of plans, one for a simple pram much like the one I ended up building, and a second for a full-on strip built round bilged dory. In the end, I had the idea that young Mr. or Ms. Anderson might actually want to row around in their former cradle, so I decided to build bigger than most of the boats in the book.

She is about 4ft long with a 2.5ft beam. Her sides are an exterior grade okume plywood, and stem, stern and bottom are of a commercially scarfed and glued 1” pine board that you find a lot of here in Europe. She was glued and screwed together, and then I removed the screws and replaced them with pegs. I used a water resistant vinyl acetate white glue. I figured that epoxy would be expensive, take forever to dry in the unheated workshop (temperatures in the 50s and 60s) and my wife and her mother were adamant that there would be no harsh glues or paints used. I figured that since the boat would never be in the water for longer than a couple of hours, a couple of good coats of oil paint below the waterline would prevent any problems with glue failure in the joints or in the pine bottom and ends. She went together easily for not having any plans, and turned out to be very stiff and strong.

The only slight hitch was that after I put one of the inside rails on, an old friend of Valerie’s who is an artist, volunteered to paint the sides. She started right away, and it took a couple of days. In the meantime, the tension from the rail on one side of the boat pulled the whole thing slightly out of fair. It isn’t really noticeable unless you look closely from one of the ends, though.

The painting turned out really well. We even managed to get the thing into the car and back home to Cologne without damaging the very slow-drying artist’s oil paint Nathalie used. So we will have to wait a couple of weeks for the paint to dry, and then varnish the sides to protect the painting. Then it will be time to finish sanding the rails, paint the bottom and lower sides the traditional red, and decide if the rails and ends should be finished bright or painted. I also have to figure out some kind of stand for it. Valerie has vetoed the idea of davits. So it will have to be some kind of stand. The trick will be making something that will remain useful after the bed becomes a boat or a wagon or whatever.

The only problem I can see is that Valerie now thinks that the bed is too nice to actually use as a boat in a couple of years. She has generously agreed to allow me to make another one when the time comes though.