ALWAYS THINK SAFETY! Drill bits can shatter during use. Always wear safety glasses when operating power tools. Always disconnect power before changing drill bits.
Table Saw: 1/ Maintain concentration! 2/ Use a Riving Blade 3/ Use push sticks or feather boards 4/ Never place hands behind blade 5/ Wear goggles
Router or Radial Arm Saw: Always follow manufacturers safety guidelines.
Step 1: Overview of Bed Construction Article
Our two grandchildren visit us annually from Toronto, and they are getting to the stage where they will need to have single beds. For newer woodworkers, please don’t be intimidated by the concept of bed construction. I was at the beginning, and discovered that it was one of the least complicated projects. My project involves tapers at the headboard legs and shaped footboard legs. My design also incorporates a raised panel at the headboard and a raised panel at the footboard. Of course the basic design can be changed with the dimensions remaining the same, for straight planed legs and plain panels for the headboard and footboard.
Step 2: Choice of Wood Used for Bed Construction
I will use cherry for the construction and in order to economise, I am trying to make use of thicknesses and lengths I have in stock.
The height for the legs of the headboard will approximate 46 inches and since the length I have in stock is 36 inches, this headboard will require a butt joint at the lower section of the two legs. This will require a multiple dowel joint which of course will have to be accurate within thousands of an inch, and absolutely true over its entire length. The joint will be almost invisible and will be stronger than the material itself.
Before attempting a joint such as this which has to be close to perfect, it is essential to calibrate the table saw blade and ensure the cross cuts are square and true. Use a machinist’s square to ensure the table saw blade is absolutely vertical and personally, I use a shop made sled for perfect cross cuts.
Step 3: How to Construct the Headboard Legs
I used 4 – 3/8″ x 2″ hardwood dowels and after application of the glue, I used two long pipe clamps and an aluminium straight edge to ensure the finished part is absolutely straight and true.
It is unlikely a joint this true and strong could be created by any other system other than Dowelmax.
A couple of points and tips I have picked up after construction of several queen size beds:
- Carefully calculate the height of the box spring and mattress to ensure that the lower part of the headboard is reasonably close to the top of the mattress. This prevents the pillows from slipping out,
- Calculate so that the top of the box spring comes level with, or just marginally above the top of the side rails. This makes it easier to put fitted sheets onto the mattress, (this one is my wife’s tip!)
- For the longitudinal box spring and mattress supports, I use when possible, 1 inch x 8 inch timbers. This facilitates the use of 8 – 2 inch dowels (leaving a space between every second and third dowel). I glue the dowels into the longitudinals only, and dry fit into the headboard and footboard,
- basically these tips are standard.
At final construction, dry fit and clamp into the head and footboard, then secure a metal or wooden bracket into all 4 corners to prevent movement. I have found this type of assembly extremely successful.
Step 3: How to Cut the Shape of the Footboard Legs
|Legs||1 1/2 inch x 3 inch x 21 inch|
I used a template to shape the bottom of each leg, thereby reducing the width to 2 3/8″. The inner edge is previously milled and we want a straight true face at the outer edge. To do this we use the table saw.
Prior to cutting the shape for the footboard legs, I want to ensure that both lengths are identical. I use the table saw sled, fence and 1 inch spacer. It should be noted that the sled must be in exactly the same position for both cuts. I position it fully retracted. Set the table saw fence at 22 inches and install the 1 inch spacer between the leg and the fence (caution, it is essential to remove the 1 inch spacer prior to making the cross cut.)
In order to ensure that the table saw blade does not foul the lower curvature, draw a horizontal line above same.
Draw a vertical line on the table saw fence which corresponds to the leading edge of the table saw blade.
When cutting the outer edge, stop the cut when the horizontal line on the leg intersects the vertical line on the fence.
Finish off the lower profile using a band saw, rough cuts as shown.
Step 4: How to Cut the Shape of the Headboard Legs
|Legs||1 1/2 inch x 3 inch x 42 inch|
Once milled, use the table saw, fence and 1 inch spacer to complete cross cuts and ensure both legs are identical in length.
The design incorporates a 4 degree taper at the upper section of each leg, and to achieve that I have built a simple shop made guide.
To increase the safety aspect of the guide, I have incorporated a dowel used to feed the work piece and further, have secured the guide to the rear face of the leg at approximate mid section. The screw is at the rear of the headboard and should only penetrate approx. 1 inch. I took 3 cuts to finish the profile.
Step 5: How to Construct the Bed Footboard
Dimensions (excluding legs): 17 inch x 38 1/2 inch
The design incorporates raised panels, bounded by 4 – 7/8 inch x 1 1/4 inch pieces, routed at the external inner corner.
The dimensions of the raised panel sections are:
|Longitudinals||7/8 inch x 3 1/2 inch x 36 3/4 inch|
|Short members||7/8 inch x 3 1/2 inch x 9 inch|
|Centre panel||7/8 inch x 9 inch x 30 1/2 inch|
For routing the edges and ends, I use Freud carbide tipped twin cutters.
For beginners here are a few tips I have picked up over the years:
Always disconnect power source before changing router bits
- Always work against rotation of cutter. Failure to do so could lead to serious injury.
- I number the cutters #1 & #2 and begin with cutter #1 (see diagram)
- When installing the cutters, bottom out #1 and again bottom out #2. Using this method should ensure that the pieces fit snugly together without alteration.
- All cuts to be implemented with the front face, down.
- Route all pieces at the same setting.
- Route cross grain cuts first, consequently any tear out and rough edges will be removed when implementing the long grain cuts.
- Take about 3 or 4 passes, finalize each cut.
- When all cuts are complete, change cutters to a large diameter carbide tipped bit (see photograph 590) and route all the perimeter edges of the centre panel.
- Implement the cross cuts first then the long grain cuts.
Roughed out section of footboard shown below:
Video Part 1: How to Join the Legs to the Footboard
Step 6: How to Construct the Footboard Boundary Rails
These components are not absolutely necessary and can be eliminated by increasing the dimensions of the raised panel. These are however advantageous with respect to an aesthetic point of view and with respect to the headboard, tend to make the headboard legs visually more substantial.
|Upper and lower rails||7/8 inch x 1 5/16 inch x 38 1/2 inch|
|Short vertical rails||7/8 inch x 1 5/16 inch x 17 inch|
The rails are mitred at each corner. The front inner edge has a routed profile.
Insert the centre panel and glue all 4 corners of the raised panel assembly. Note: this structure is very pleasing from an aesthetic point of view, however is weak in construction with stub tenon penetration merely 3/8 inch. We will therefore employ a dowel arrangement which will penetrate all 3 components i.e. long rails on raised panel assembly, perimeter board and footboard leg. There will be 3 dowels at each corner and each dowel will be 2 3/8 inch in overall length.
Once the glue for the raised panel is cured, I have found it advisable to trim both ends. The table saw is not really suitable for this cut. For these cuts therefore, I used the router with a straight carbide tipped bit, in conjunction with the fence and clamping system.
Some important points:
- Use a wooden guide to provide a fine cut
- Move router from left to right in other words, against rotation
- Before employing the cut, use a small machinist’s square to ensure the edges are absolutely square with the fence
The routed rails bordering the raised panel have no strength and are used purely for aesthetic purposes. These rails can be left out provided the panel is increased in length and width to suit.
These mitres should be cut in the table saw and prior to beginning, cut a test piece with the mitre gauge to ensure that the cut is absolutely true.
The initial cuts should be close to 45 degrees, but do not have to be exactly 45 degrees, as the final cuts can be adjusted to suit. However it should be noted that if the angle is too far removed from 45 degrees, the routed profile will be adversely affected.
As stated, these rails do not add strength to the structure, but will be glued and screwed to the long grain raised panel, i.e. 2 screws on the end rails and 3 screws on the top and bottom rail.
I reiterate, the raised panel method whilst very appealing is also very weak. The addition of the rails around the perimeter do very little to add to the strength of the assembly, therefore it is necessary to increase the lengths of the dowel fixtures to penetrate all three members, i.e. footboard leg, the routed rail and the end sections of the raised panel.
Video Part 2: How to Use the Router Lift to Adjust the Router
Step 7: How to Construct the Bed Headboard
|Legs||1 1/2 inch x 3 inch x 42 inch|
A slight angle of 4 degrees at a position 24 inches above the foot, and continues to the top rail.
The raised panel framework for the headboard is designed to be very similar to the footboard design. However since the width of the footboard legs differs from the headboard legs, the actual length of the raised panel framework (headboard) will have to be increased to 39 3/8 inch.
Once the routed frame has been attached to the perimeter of the raised panel headboard, I intend installing a 7/8 inch x 2 inch routed rail, which will be doweled to the top of the headboard, and range between both headboard legs.
Once the rail had been routed (see profile photograph #). At the outset, the rail is slightly oversized to extend marginally over each end.
This will allow for trimming once the dowels have been installed and the assembly dry fitted.
Reference from one end and install 6 – 1/4 inch dowels two at each end and two at the centre. Reference from the rear, and use suitable spacers to provide a relief between the mitred headboard frame and the routed rail.
Note: In referencing from the rear, the clamp screw will land on the routed profile, so install a small backing plate to reduce damage in the form of indentation.
When complete, install 3 dowels and dry fit, carefully mark the overhang at each end, and trim off until absolutely flush.
(photo #673 shows the long distance gauge with the 1/4 inch holes and Dowelmax on top of the headboard).
(photo #674 shows the junction of the fancy top rail with the headboard) (when inserting this photo at the right place, insert “reference Dowelmax to the extreme edge of the headboard as shown in photo #674, and the scribed line on the decorative rail).
Step 8: How to Join the Legs to the Headboard
The next step is to join the headboard and lower transverse rail to the angled legs. These legs are identical in length therefore we can reference from the top with complete accuracy.
We will need a spacer at the top to accommodate the decorative rail and reference the attachment dowels using the upper edge of the headboard.
Place the two legs together, rear faces touching.
From the centre, measure down 2 3/4 inches (decorative rail is 2 inches in height). Mark the junction point, and using a square set at 4 degrees, mark the reference line on each leg. See photo.
Since the forward face of the leg is tapered at 4 degrees, the end of the guide block will be parallel to the scribed line.
Although this is a “face” type joint, it is in actual fact easier to perform with Dowelmax in the normal configuration. I used a 5/8 spacer between reference bracket and guide block and a 3/4 inch spacer between guide block and clamp bracket to provide additional width.
As with the footboard, I want to increase the strength of the raised panel assembly by using long dowels, i.e. 2 3/8 inches. Penetrate the leg, the perimeter rail, the rails and styles. Set Dowelmax to the top end of the headboard using a 3/8 inch spacer between reference bracket and guide block. Drill holes 4 & 5, use the distance gauge set at approx. 3 3/8 inches, drill holes 1 & 2, use the same setting on the distance gauge for the last two holes, and again drill holes 4 & 5.
Video Part 3: How to Join the Legs to the Headboard
Video Part 4: How to Attach the Bed Rails to the Headboard and Footboard
Step 9: Staining and Finishing
My preference is to prep, stain and refinish most components (some partial assemblies) before implementing complete assembly and glue procedures. It is in my opinion to proceed in this manner, however be warned, it takes twice the time.
Carefully tape all joint connection areas. Be careful not overlap or bare areas that will show after assembly.
Mix the shellac & methyl hydrate in a 1:3 basis respectively. Coat liberally, evenly and with the grain on all surfaces to be stained.
Even out surfaces with extremely fine steel wool.
Apply stain with grain then rub into pores (removing excess at same time).
I want a dark finish, so I used a dark walnut gel for the first coat. Leave overnight.
Mix dark walnut with espresso gel on a 1:1 basis.
Apply as before. Leave overnight.
Apply a second coat of the mix if a darker, more rich finish is required.
I prefer a lacquer finish.