Six steps to upcycling success: from baby crib to blanket rack

Several years ago, a friend’s parents were preparing their home for sale. This included decluttering three decades worth of family-oriented items before they would make a “downsizing” move to another house. During a pre-move visit, I found that many precious, long-stored items had already been moved from their basement and piled into the double-car garage for sorting and packing. Within that mixed batch of belongings were the remaining parts of a 30-year-old baby’s crib (a.k.a. our upcycling subject).

Before my visit was complete that day, his father had talked me into taking a few of their gently used items for my own home, including two partially working gas-powered mowers, an elegant fireplace screen, and the disassembled parts of the baby crib (which he particularly insisted that I take). With a lift of the tailgate door, into the back of the Jimmy SUV it all went for a short journey to yet another garage. Ours.

Fast forward five years and that friend has become part of a happy couple with a baby on the way, and we are in need of a gift for their baby shower. Recalling that we still had his family’s baby crib parts stored away in our basement, I instantly began to (hint, hint) rack my brain to come up with a way to re-use the crib parts to create a meaningful gift. Rebuilding the crib was not an option since thirty year old crib designs are just not up to current safety standards.

The simplest, most useful re-purposing idea I could think of was to convert the two remaining wooden side rails into a baby blanket rack. I came up with several ways to create the top connection joints for the A-frame design. I settled on the one concept that required no cutting, as I aimed to preserve the original crib pieces for posterity and sentimental reasons.

Here are the six steps I took to get from storing old fashioned baby crib parts to gifting a baby blanket rack (in espresso-brown finish, of course). Go ahead and give these a try yourself:

Step 1aStep 1

Step 1 – Assess & Design: Take a good look at the items on hand and assess how to use them to their best. Decide what needs repair, what can remain as is, and what should be removed or not used at all. Design how the pieces will fit together. See if adding or subtracting parts will help the overall function or even enhance the final form. Play around. Mock it up. Then – Commit to The Plan.

Step 2 – Purchase Hardware: With plan in hand, seek out the hardware that most closely fits your design. Sometimes what works best is not easily obtained or even available nearby. If you can reuse something, even better. In my case, I didn’t already have suitable hinges. I had a lot of trouble finding just the right width and quality of hinge until I made a trip to a specialty woodworking store that carried “cast brass strap hinges“.  I was running out of time for my upcycling project, so I purchased two new strap hinges even though I would have ideally reused some old ones.

Step 3

Step 3 – Assemble, Check Fit, Disassemble: Take the unfinished pieces and actually build to your design. Does it work like you expected? If not, rework it – drill new holes if you have to, you can fill them in later. Set it up like it would be used and see if it needs anything more. If happy, take a photo to remember where everything goes. Then take it all apart. Store the parts carefully.

Step 4

Step 4 – Surface Preparation & Paint: Prepare wood surfaces by filling in holes or dents with wood filler and sanding off old varnish or paint. Apply a good primer coat and let dry. Lightly sand off rough bits of primer. Begin applying your chosen paint in coats (2 minimum) and make touch ups where needed, after each coat dries. Paint your hardware bits too if your design calls for it. Watch the paint dry with anticipation.

Step 4 continued

Step 5 – Re-Assemble and Check Fit: If the paint is dry, its time to rebuild! Put all the parts back together, tighten all screws gently and check how it all fits together. Sometimes paint thickness can get it the way, so sanding some paint off of areas where the hinges will hide anyways can make things fit nicer. Use your judgement. If it looks right, tighten everything up! Build with confidence and pride.

Step 5

Step 6 – Apply Accessories & Take Photos:  Spruce up your upcycled creation by applying accessories and get it ready for its first photo-op! It’s ready to live again as something completely new to you or someone else. Way to go! Upcycling success is yours!

Step 6

Tell us: Do you have any upcycling projects that worked out for you? We’d love to learn about them. Send us your before and after photos and a description of your project to haltonrecycles@halton.ca and we just might post them here.

Your upcycling deserves to be showcased!

About Walter Scattolon

Hi! I'm Walter and I've been Halton Region's Landfill Technologist since 2004. Keeping tabs on Halton's only open municipal landfill is a big part of my job and so is managing the Landfill Gas Collection system on site. How much space do we have left for waste? What about the greenhouse gases? When should we build the next cell in the landfill? - These are all questions I find the answers to, year after year.
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4 Responses to Six steps to upcycling success: from baby crib to blanket rack

  1. Pat & David Melnychuk, Calgary, AB says:

    Very ingenious, it looks great!

    • Thanks Pat & David! – As an update, the blanket rack is now deemed a family heirloom by the proud new parents. Their son, born in mid-May, will grow up to read this someday and know that he was the inspiration. His parents mentioned a good point when they said that trashing things is the ‘easy way out’, but restoring and up-cycling take a lot more effort. They went on to say that restoring things makes you think about how much we all throw away as a society. They have already made steps to collect a few old wood pallets to rework them into garage shelving! They must have been inspired… ^ws

  2. Nicole says:

    Walter….. that is beautiful! Just catching up on our blog (it’s been awhile!) and I just had to comment on your entry. That was so nice what you did for your friend. Extremely thoughtful in more ways than one! You’re awesome!

    I have all Eli’s blankets in a storage chest. It would be awesome to display them on something like you have made. Great job!

    Miss you guys,
    Nicole and Eli

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