Cradling refers to a structure, usually in wood, of horizontal and vertical bars which have traditionally been applied to the reverse of wooden supports (panels) for various reasons, amongst which the desire to straighten (flatten) warped panels.

It is a restoration technique that has damaged countless paintings over time.

The reason why cradles can be so dangerous is that wood reacts constantly to fluctuations in relative humidity: warping and straightening with the absorption and release of moisture. Attempting to force the panel not to react in this natural way by applying a rigid structure is often dangerous. Tensions build up and splitting occurs.

However, removal of the cradle is not always the way to resolve the problems that have arisen. This is because the original panel was often thinned in order to apply the cradle, making the panel even more sensitive to relative humidity. In each case finding ways of minimizing the negative effects of cradling and repairing the damage done is often the best solution.

One problem that occurs with cradling is that the horizontal bars (those that go across the grain of the original panel) that are designed to slide through the vertical ones with movements in the panel often become jammed. This is one of the reasons why tension builds up and splitting occurs.

1. Repairing problems with cradled panels

2. Splits in panel caused by blocked/jammed cradling bars

3. Some of the bars have been removed in order to repair the many splits in the panel with insets of seasoned wood

4. The same view after the insets of wood have been planed down

5. Cradling bars made from seasoned wood have been inserted where the old cradling bars had been removed