Amateur planning to build a bed


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First let me say that my plans are a bit in the distance at this point. I'll be practicing with glue ups, joinery, saw work, etc. before I actually attempt to build a bed, but I've been mulling it over for quite a while now and would like some formal input from those more experienced.

I'd like to make a simple queen size platform bed with a slanted headboard (sorry, haven't figured out Sketchup yet). I'm planning on mortising the side, head, and foot rails into the posts, but I'd prefer not to use any of the standard bed hardware. That means I need a creative way to be able to break it down for moving/installing. Draw-bored mortise and tenons have appealed to me, but I know that normally they are meant to be a means of permanently fastening a joint (with or without glue). Now here's my (admittedly amateur) thinking...what if I were to use tapered brass rod for the draw-bore pins at the side rail-to-headboard and side rail-to-footboard joints, and leave them a little long so that they can be pulled out and the joints disassembled? This would leave me with a standard bed assembly: headboard, footboard, and separate side rails.

As for the question of wood, it seems I can get red oak relatively cheap (6/4 for $2.19 bd/ft). It seems to be one of the more affordable in my area, and I find that I like it sufficiently. We've made a couple shelves out of 6/4 red oak already. Would you advise against an amateur testing and growing his skills on this stuff? I'm open to a challenge, I just don't want to be foolish.

And finally, dependent on the previous question, I've read mixed ideas about the thickness as well as the width needed for side rails, foot/head rails. For the side rails I would be gluing and fastening a cleat to the inside of the side rails (1x1 poplar?) for the slats to rest on. So surely I don't need 6/4 oak for side rails. Should I use 4/4? 5/4? And how wide is safe/standard, 7"?

I've thought about preparing for wood movement in the headboard as well. My plan is to glue up a panel from solid wood (3/4 oak?), cut 4 tenons (one near each corner), and mortise it into the posts. I would glue and pin the upper tenons into the posts, and leave the bottom tenons unglued but pinned like the outer tenons of a breadboard end style table, with oblong holes drilled into the tenon. Theoretically this would give the frame stability in the upper headboard and posts to prevent racking, and the pins in the lower headboard would also prevent racking, but allow for wood movement.

 

I know those are a lot of verbal plans with little visual support, but I've attached a photo for the general idea I'm going for (though it doesn't have a slanted headboard that I'm planning).

Alright, pick away. Poke holes in my plans, or give me the go ahead. What do you think?

modern2_crop.jpg

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Thanks for the reply. I was afraid that was going to be the case. I half-guessed that if it truly would work, then somebody would have done it by now. I'll probably go with a stub tenon and bed bolts as that seems to be the most reputable option. With the bed bolts, I would have to raise the head/foot rail higher or lower than the side rail, correct? Otherwise the bed bolts would meet in the post. Are there any alternatives to this that I'm not thinking of?

I like the idea of a half dovetail tenon, but I think it's a little more complicated than I'm willing to take on so early.

Can you expound on the I-beam slats that you mentioned?

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5 hours ago, CalledtoCreate88 said:

With the bed bolts, I would have to raise the head/foot rail higher or lower than the side rail, correct? Otherwise the bed bolts would meet in the post. Are there any alternatives to this that I'm not thinking of?

I think you would want to use a glued M&T joint for the head and foot rails, and use the bed bolts only for the side rails - so there's just one bolt through each post.  The bolt would pass through the tenon of the head/foot rail, but that shouldn't be a problem.

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The I-beam slat design is just like a steel I-beam, but made of wood. Consider a flat board slat. Typically 3/4 x 2 or 3, it lays against the side rail cleat on its wider face. The weight of the matress is resisted only by the narrow dimension of the slat, so they sag in larger bed sizes. Plywood strips are even worse, as half the plys are oriented cross-grain and contribute very little to bending strength in the other direction.  An I-beam, H-beam, channel, or full box shape allows the same volume of material to spread over larger outside dimensions, with increased rigidity. 

Instead of 20 plywood stips of 3/4 x 2 and legs in the middle, you could take 12 strips, orient them so the 3/4 edge is facing up, and join them with 4" strips of 1/4" ply to form a channel with dimensions of a 2x4 and rigidity nearly equal to said 2x4. No need for center legs. The channel shape is simpler to make than the I-beam.

@Chestnut has the proper education to give you a better explanation, I'm just a hack with a bit of experience.

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On 9/7/2020 at 3:58 PM, CalledtoCreate88 said:

(6/4 for $2.19 bd/ft).

This is dirt cheap, I can't mill my own lumber for cheaper than that.

For the side rail design I agree with G Ragatz above. Have the headboard and foot board as separate assemblies that don't disassemble. For attaching the side rails I'd use a stub tenon and some sort of bolting mechanism. My goal would be to keep the whole thing hidden, I'd bet that commercial hardware is going to be cheaper faster and easier than trying to reinvent the wheel.

A stopped sliding dovetail for the side rails would work but there is not a small amount of skill required in producing such joint in a manner that would be strong enough.

For the headboard and wood movement I would make it like a breadboard but I'd skip pegging. Glue the top and then glue a cross brace that would be at matress level. In your provided picture the glue at the top and the cross brace would sufficiently hold the headboard legs together and the pegs would only complicate things and cause potential visual disturbances to the look.

For the cross slats I'd make a T shape instead of an I  shape. You could even make a C channel Basically you have the regular slat that would lay in the horizontal plane and then you'd attach a board to the bottom in the center to make a T as seen from the side. The leg of the T should be 3/4" material and about 2" wide 8 4" wide slats with T legs should be more than enough, yes make them red oak. I'd glue and screw them. Don't use plywood strips for the slats. Plywood has grain in alternating directions. When made into a strip this cuts the amount of wood that runs in the strong direction roughly in half and makes plywood slats FAR weaker than regular solid wood. With the price of red oak that you can get I wouldn't worry about 2nd species I'd just go all oak. For comparison 6/4 Oak here is around $3.50-$4.00/BF.

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On 9/7/2020 at 4:58 PM, CalledtoCreate88 said:

And finally, dependent on the previous question, I've read mixed ideas about the thickness as well as the width needed for side rails, foot/head rails. For the side rails I would be gluing and fastening a cleat to the inside of the side rails (1x1 poplar?) for the slats to rest on. So surely I don't need 6/4 oak for side rails. Should I use 4/4? 5/4? And how wide is safe/standard, 7"?

I missed this part of your original post earlier.  I would stick with the 6/4 for your rails - not only to resist bowing, but you'll want that thickness to accommodate the bed bolts.  Not sure if there's a standard, but I would go with 7" or wider on a queen size bed, both for rigidity and appearance - you don't want it to look skimpy.

Also, regarding the bed bolts, there are decorative covers available that disguise the counter-bored holes for the bolts, but also allow easy access for dis-assembling the bed frame:  

https://www.horton-brasses.com/searchadvanced.asp?searchfor=bed+bolt+cover

 

 

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1 hour ago, wtnhighlander said:

Wood pricing is very regional. I can get red oak for less than $2 / bf, but grows like weeds around here.

Wood pricing is very regional. I can get red oak for less than $2 / bf, but grows like weeds around here.

Oop's, you're stuttering again. And your right about the cost of red oak.  I can get it from Spanky at $2 or less.

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On 9/11/2020 at 3:59 PM, G Ragatz said:

I think you would want to use a glued M&T joint for the head and foot rails, and use the bed bolts only for the side rails - so there's just one bolt through each post.  The bolt would pass through the tenon of the head/foot rail, but that shouldn't be a problem.

Hey, thanks for all the replies.

Ragatz, yeah, that makes sense. I guess I was going off of what Wtnhighlander was saying to be cautious about using M&T for a bed. But it makes sense that they'd be plenty strong as long as they're glued, and not used for knockdown joints.

 

On 9/11/2020 at 7:29 PM, Chestnut said:

This is dirt cheap, I can't mill my own lumber for cheaper than that.

For the side rail design I agree with G Ragatz above. Have the headboard and foot board as separate assemblies that don't disassemble. For attaching the side rails I'd use a stub tenon and some sort of bolting mechanism. My goal would be to keep the whole thing hidden, I'd bet that commercial hardware is going to be cheaper faster and easier than trying to reinvent the wheel.

A stopped sliding dovetail for the side rails would work but there is not a small amount of skill required in producing such joint in a manner that would be strong enough.

For the headboard and wood movement I would make it like a breadboard but I'd skip pegging. Glue the top and then glue a cross brace that would be at matress level. In your provided picture the glue at the top and the cross brace would sufficiently hold the headboard legs together and the pegs would only complicate things and cause potential visual disturbances to the look.

For the cross slats I'd make a T shape instead of an I  shape. You could even make a C channel Basically you have the regular slat that would lay in the horizontal plane and then you'd attach a board to the bottom in the center to make a T as seen from the side. The leg of the T should be 3/4" material and about 2" wide 8 4" wide slats with T legs should be more than enough, yes make them red oak. I'd glue and screw them. Don't use plywood strips for the slats. Plywood has grain in alternating directions. When made into a strip this cuts the amount of wood that runs in the strong direction roughly in half and makes plywood slats FAR weaker than regular solid wood. With the price of red oak that you can get I wouldn't worry about 2nd species I'd just go all oak. For comparison 6/4 Oak here is around $3.50-$4.00/BF.

Make the headboard like a breadboard but without pegging? So you're saying glue at the top M&T would be strong enough to not need pegging, and the bottom M&T would allow for movement as long as I made the mortise slightly larger than the tenon and left it unglued? Then the "cross brace" under the headboard would make it unnecessary to glue the lower M&T of the headboard? Just making sure I'm following correctly.

As for the slats, I like the T slat idea better than having a center support. And I definitely wasn't planning on using plywood. We like the mattress to remain as firm as possible. So 3/4" x 4" wide slats with 3/4" x 2" legs under the slats. Sounds like a good plan. Definitely appreciate it.

Wow, I knew it was a good price on the oak, but I didn't know it was THAT good. I have a local cabinet shop that lets me order through them at their price, and it's S3S, which is great because I don't have a planer or jointer.

 

On 9/11/2020 at 10:50 PM, G Ragatz said:

I missed this part of your original post earlier.  I would stick with the 6/4 for your rails - not only to resist bowing, but you'll want that thickness to accommodate the bed bolts.  Not sure if there's a standard, but I would go with 7" or wider on a queen size bed, both for rigidity and appearance - you don't want it to look skimpy.

Also, regarding the bed bolts, there are decorative covers available that disguise the counter-bored holes for the bolts, but also allow easy access for dis-assembling the bed frame:  

https://www.horton-brasses.com/searchadvanced.asp?searchfor=bed+bolt+cover

 

 

Wow, this is gonna be a chunky bed.

 

On 9/12/2020 at 10:38 AM, BillyJack said:

What do you have for tools?

Right now? Only a table saw, a random orbit sander, and a ryoba and dozuki Japanese saws (and some measuring tools of course). But as I said, I'm just formulating a plan at this point and buying tools as money allows. Next on the list are chisels, a jigsaw, a jack plane, a bit and brace, and mortising gauges.

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21 hours ago, curlyoak said:

  $2.19 bf 6/4 for red oak is an amazing price. I would check on the grade and ask if it is kiln dried. If it sounds too good to be true, then.....

I've already bought some and used it for shelves. It's great - straight, relatively smooth - I have no complaints. I'm not sure it's kiln dried or not. It looks like it's available in Common #1 and FAS1F. I'm not sure which they ordered. Possibly Common #1 because there was a small knot in one of the slabs?

18 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

Wood pricing is very regional. I can get red oak for less than $2 / bf, but grows like weeds around here.

Wood pricing is very regional. I can get red oak for less than $2 / bf, but grows like weeds around here.

Yeah, that's what I was assuming here as well. I have no complaints with it.

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