May 3, 2013

DIY Moon Prop Tutorial {Glens Falls NY Newborn and Family Photographer}

**BEFORE you make this... it is NOT okay to sell moons made from this tutorial. I am not saying this because I am losing out on income (I'm not selling it obviously) but out of respect for the people that do make pre-assembled moons.**

I love props. I love newborns so I especially love newborn props. I might have a slight addiction to buying props... like worse than I'm addicted to pinterest or coffee. WAY worse.

See that pile in the upper left photo? It may or may not extend and cover the half of the studio not shown in the photo (and yes, those may or may not be window ledges filled with The Vintage Cabbage Rose hair pieces and bow ties in various sizes from Wear You Go... okay, I have to stop... if I continued to list my favorite vendors we'd be here until next Tuesday!).

Back to my point... I first saw this cradle months ago. And wow, oh, wow is it ever gorgeous... it's also sold from a French company and 990 Euros (I don't even want to convert what that is... let me put it this way... from my time in Italy... it's a whole heck of a lot of American money). It's gorgeous but out of my league!

Then I started seeing all these newborn moon props all over facebook and blogs... thought to myself... I can make something similar, something inspired-by on my own.

**Disclaimer... I am a photographer. I am not a handy man, a shop teacher or in any manner an expert on woodworking... if you choose to make this, you make it at your own risk and I assume no responsibility for any injuries caused during the making or use of prop made with this tutorial. I would strongly suggest if you have no experience with power tools that you take the plunge and support the many small business offering similar props on etsy and big cartel.**

Here's my DIY version. 

Bandsaw (or handsaw)
 *Please ensure you use proper safety equipment.
Power Drill or screwdriver 
Rule (I used a T-Square)
Vice/Grip... second pair of hands.

2 24x24 Particleboard pre-cut panels (in thickness of your choice. I used 5/8ths). $4.48 per panel
1 package of 50-ct screws in a size corresponding to the width of your panels. ($6.00)
 *A Lowe's employee helped me with the size because... well... I'm a girl and yes, I played that card while staring at the 8000 choices because my brain shuts off with any math that does not involve frivolous spending or wine. 
1 small can primer ($6.00)
Thumbtack (the kind with a handle "thingy")
String, yarn or twine
Sandpaper (I used fine grit only because it's what I already had but medium would be better)
Wood putty (optional/$8.00)

Total Material costs:  20.96*

*Since I had a lot of the smaller items on hand these are not figured into my cost but can all be purchased at a dollar store so I estimate the cost of buying everything to be about $35).

The Directions:

 Step One: Drawing your Moon shape

1. Measure out 12 inches from corner on each side of one of your boards.
2. Connect opposite lines (you'll draw two) to make an intersection in the center of your board.
3. Tie one end of string to thumbtack and firmly affix to center of board. I needed a second pair of hands to hold thumbtack in place.
4. Roughly guesstimate length needed of string needed to stretch to middle of one side of board. Tie your pencil at this length and adjust. You want your string taut.
5. Carefully start at one of your center lines and using the string/thumbtack contraption as a compass draw to next line and continue around until you have a perfect circle.
6. Draw desired inner shape. This is is just trial and error and why you need an eraser handy. I made mine with a wider base and skinnier top for better weight disbursement.

Moon line drawing

Step Two: Cut first side on the bandsaw (you may choose to use a small handsaw if you feel more comfortable) by following your pencil lines. This is a two person job in my opinion but I am a beginning woodworker... VERY beginner and had someone experienced to help me. 

Step Three: Use the side you cut as a template. Carefully trace side one on to side two. 

Step Four: Cut second side. Set both aside for now.

Step Five:  Measure and cut inner slats.

1. One each leftover corner piece, align t-square (or regular ruler) along outer edge and mark at 5 inch mark (this will be the width plus thickness of side panels of your piece). You may choose to make this width larger. I wanted to utilize all the board I had. Do this to all four corner pieces for a total of FOUR slats. I made each of my slats approximately 3.5 inches wide but you may choose to make yours any size.

2. Take one inner piece and measure for more slats. I drew three vertical lines each 3.5 inches apart then marked off every 5 inches... leaving me with a total of eight more slats.

3. Cut all pieces. At this point, you should have a grand total of 12 5x3.5 slat pieces but you will have enough wood left to make more if need be.

Step Six:  Support Stand. 

1. Take second salvage inner piece and draw line down center (long length). 

2. Cut along line so that you now have two pieces.

3. Draw the desired stand shape.  Mine were approximately 10 inches long by 6 inches tall at the highest point.

4. (optional) You may choose to make your shapes uniform. I choose to leave them as is (they almost looked like a half tear drop) and put the side with the wider width under the back end (where there is more weight) of the moon. I'm not sure if this is a logical conclusion on my part but it worked and despite attempts to knock it over accidentally, it stayed upright.

**NOTE** While my directions do not make it seem like I was overly precise with measurements... I was. This was the longest part of the entire process. I wanted to ensure all my pieces were as uniform as possible and in the end I was very glad I took that extra time.

Here's a cell phone photo of my pile of cut pieces pre-assembly.

Step Seven: Assembly.

1. Lay one side flat on the table and then arrange your slats (standing up) as you would like them to be arranged. I left a two inch lip on mine to give me room to put a blanket and still have baby secure.

2. Trace around each slat. Number each slat as you go. I put the number on the small end so that I knew that was the one I had traced and number your trace outlines so you know where it goes.

3. Pre-drill holes in moon and each slat. I put my side piece in a vice (straight up and down) and drilled two holes using the trace outlines as a guide for placement. Once I'd drilled those holes I put each slat on it's trace mark (for proper placement) and then drilled using the existing side piece holes to corresponding holes in the slat.

**This is step is VERY important. If you do not pre-drill, your slats will split when putting the screws in and not be structurally sound.**

4. (optional) This is the point you would add a countersink if you desire. Just take a drill bit slightly larger than the head of your screw so that when you assemble screw lays flush or slightly under outer edge of wood. You can then use wood putty to fill the holes. Once dry, sand to provide a smooth surface.

5. Once you have all holes drilled, slowly assemble one side using screws. If you screw them in too fast or did not pre-drill enough into the slat, it may cause the slats to split. I took my time after learning those lessons and it went great.

6. Lay assembled piece on flat surface. Take second side piece and lay it on top while aligning with other piece (it was easy for me since I had a thicker side and a more dainty side of my moon).

7. I used drew pencil marks on the inner thin edge of my side piece (you'll be looking at it) so that it gave me an idea where each slat was located. I pre-drilled two holes in each slat this way (straight through side into slat).

8. Assemble second side with screws as you did the first side.

Step Eight: Base

1. You already precut two base pieces. Simply set moon right side up at the desired angle and attach one base piece to each side. You may choose to use screws with nuts and bolts but I again used what I had on hand... the existing screws.

My freshly assembled Moon.
Step Eight: Finish
1. Sand edges. You want to make sure there are no sharp edges where baby will be. 
2. Prime. MDF absorbs the primers like crazy. I used two coats on mine.
My primed moon (after one coat).

3. Paint, Stain, White-wash... decorate in any style you would like.

The entire process took me about 2.5 hours to complete (minus drying time between primer coats).
I will add photos of mine finished and in use... once I do both :)

Thanks for checking out my tutorial. If anything is funky or you are an experienced builder with better suggestions... by all means, please let me know! Again, I'm a photographer... not a woodsmith.


.because life is beautiful


  1. Love it! Thank you! Were you able to cover your screws well? Im wondering if there is a better way to attach the slats without going through the outside of the moon....

    1. Hi Carrie! I didn't even attempt to cover the screws because I wanted the assembled rough look with screws showing which is why I chose the gold ones on the white moon. If you want to cover the screws then I would countersink them during assembly (then applying some wood putty and sanding to make a flat surface).

      As for the wood slats, would love to hear your ideas but I'm afraid any other method wouldn't leave them sturdy enough to hold the weight of a baby. Safety first :)

    2. pocket joints would work as well, but would be more work

  2. Hi Yesenia,

    Love the design, I plan to be making a couple soon. And as I'm thinking of hiding the screws, I thought I would share with Carrie and your other readers my plan :-).

    To attach the slats I'm going to make some "internal" rails the same curve as the inside curve of the moon, just set in from the edge a few cm's, and attach with glue and screws from the inside. I haven't decided if the rails will be of MDF or wood though. MDF doesn't always liked to to be screw along the thin edges and often splits and as I plan to screw the slats onto the rails, I may opt for wood instead.

    I'm also toying with another idea (to help storing it) though as I haven't fully though it out, I won't go into detail. Happy to post here the results if you like :-)


    1. Hi Leon,

      Would love you to post results and photos!

      I agree that the MDF was not easy to work with and I had to make sure my screws were just a certain size with pre-drilled holes... and then go really, really slow. It's still holding up well though.



  3. Hi Yesenia,

    My build is still progressing but, as my sister loves to be indecisive, I have needed to change the plans ... again ;-) Still similar plan but the cradle and stand will be separate items to the moon shapes. The moon shapes will attach to the stands when needed. This will allow better storage and my sister can use different shapes with the same cradle and stand. Being an ex-aircraft tech, I think my design may be a little over engineered, but I prefer to be safe.

    Also, Instead of 2' x 2', I have opted for 3'x'3 boards.

    I forgot to mention before, but I hope you wore a respirator or face mask when cutting the MDF. There has been numerous researches linking the MDF dust created when sawing or routing as a carcinogenic.

  4. Thank you so much! I have my first grand-baby on the way and want this for his pictures. I'm thinking a photo each month.

  5. Hi Yesenia, My Moon has "finally" been finished. and it's design was nothing like my original plan. I was to do it again, I wouldn't be making it so it could be dissembled, it made for much more work LOL I have pictures (unpainted, I left that for my sister to decide on colour) but have no idea where to send them for you to see.

  6. Just came across this and sent directly to my handy husband - THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting!!!!

  7. Thank you guess what hubby will b making this weekend :)

  8. my project: