Queen Bed Frame
A bed frame has always been on the laundry list of projects that I've been wanting to make simply because we've never had anything more than a steel support frame for our box spring. I also made a bed for a client years ago and have been secretly bitter that my first bed frame was for someone else and not for me.
The design is from Marc Spagnuolo's site but altered to fit a queen mattress. Shrinking it down made things a lot more manageable in my small shop, but it was still quite a bit to move around. My bed shares the cherry frame that Marc used, but per my wife's request I made a swap of the walnut panels for some curly soft maple I picked up at a very good price at my local hardwood dealer. #bedframe #curlymaple
The raw sketchup for the project looked pretty promising. Altering this to fit a queen mattress was fairly straightforward. All I had to do was pull in each corner by the difference in width/2. Because it's CAD the joinery was all preserved as well, but most of that worked out without having to reference the sketchup design.
The cherry I got for this was in pretty rough shape. I got it on a deal with a friend in the lumber business at a decent price. If the piece was something a little more prominent in the home I would have been more picky about what lumber I was using.
First steps are breaking down to rough lengths. I could easily use a jig or circular saw for this, but handsawing is a lot more enjoyable and I don't have to wear hearing protection.
I like to use my wood try square to lay out rough cuts like this. I don't need a machinist combo square to get things roughed out and this way I don't have to fuss over the extreme accuracy of this square.
I'm frankly surprised that I can saw to a line for how infrequent I do this.
The trick to sawing straight on a cut like this is looking at the reflection on the board in the plate of the saw. If you're cutting straight you should see the board continue on straight through the reflection of the saw.
You can see easier with the pencil how despite being obscured by the saw plate, the board is 'seen' in the reflection as it would be if the saw wasn't there.
Even though I put everything across the jointer, I like to hit it with my BU No. 7 to take out any machine marks before I glue up.
Leg blanks ready to glue up. I chose to avoid any fancy arrangement for face-grain on all sides because the tops will be exposed.
After the 4 legs were glued together I chose to resquare them as I've learned that lesson the hard way in the past thinking something like this will remain square off the tablesaw.
Jointer fence looks good.
Pretty clear indication that it's good to rejoint sides square before planing down the legs to final dimension. Glad I remembered to catch this one.
Jointing and planing everything for this project is a pain. The size and weight are just a huge burden to deal with. I chose to plane all the boards before cutting them down to their respective widths to save on overall planer time.
This was a definite 'move the planer' situation to get the needed infeed and outfeed.
Just an idea of the amount of raw lumber required for this bed. I will say I had to do a lot of milling to get down from the rough outer layer to get some consistent color in the cherry.
I only had to lay out the joinery in one of the two sets, the router setup will keep the other on track.
One of the legs had an unfortunate knot. I was able to hide it on the inside, but I'll have to deal with the soft material later.
It's at this point that I'd like to introduce you to the central theme of this build: Fixing dumb mistakes. I busted out the iron to steam out dents more on this bed than I ever have on any other project.
Determined to have accurate mortises on the legs, I used the blue tape & Superglue trick to create an auxiliary fence on my router. Place blue tape on both mating surfaces and superglue inbetween creates an incredibly strong hold.
I placed the block while the router was in place so I had an exact fit.
Now I don't have to worry about the router wandering while I make cuts. I always try to cut in the proper direction, but real life happens quite a bit.
Clean and accurate mortises!
Each of the mortises were the same distance from the edge, so to cut them I just came in from both sides to get them sized to the plan.
It's good to check that everything matches, just in case you need to make some last minute repairs.
Marking the rails for tenon thickness. I like a good visual indicator for when I'm making the test cuts on the tablesaw.
First try was a hair too wide, so I'll move the blade up a tiny bit and give it another go.
Nice and snug here. Now I just hold all the settings and
I didn't have a good way to support the long pieces, so I clamped board to the fence of the crosscut sled that will lock the rail in place to give me some staying power to the sled.
Just about perfect results here. Just a little cleanup with a plane should bring them to the scribe line.
Faces are all cut to correct thickness.
Thankfully the ends were the same relief distance as the faces, so I didn't have to change the settings of the saw.
I find it easier to round over the corners of the tenons vs squaring up the mortises, so this is the first of 12 tenons to get fit to it's respective mortise.
First leg complete.
This is what a fit tenon will look like. I like to use a chisel and rasp to get the corners rounded over quickly and accurately.
My tenon fitting arsenal.
Footboard together. Finally seeing the scale of this whole thing.
Head and foot boards together. They'll stay like this for most of the time that I'm not working on them. Helps keep things off the floor and getting damaged.
Another reason I like to keep the pieces assembled is that I can use those dimensions to cut and fit all other components to the design. That way I can account for minor changes in the design and avoid loose stuff.
I could have done integral tenons, but the domino is fast, easy, and just as structurally sound.
Now I have "integral" tenons!
Rails and stretchers are fit and in place.
Each leg requires a shallow mortise to accept the mattress support rail that will connect the head and footboards.
As these are visible, at least a portion of the time, I like to take the time to square up the mortises. It just looks prettier.
Because I used a router bit to make the long groove, I had to make sure my next grooves cut on the table saw were going to be the same size as well. I used the router bit itself to gauge the cut. This was the second test cut which proved to be extremely close if not exactly the same width.
Testing the grooves in the rail against the grooves in the stiles. They had to line up exactly to ensure a good fit.
Next was creating grooves to capture the panels. Hardest part here was just making sure that the groove was in the exact center of the rail.
Resulting fit is perfect.
I put the whole section together again to make sure all corners were looking good.
Both head and footboard grooves lined up. Feeling good.
When planning the bed, I wanted to use walnut as an accent as it's already featured in a lot of our furniture in the house, but my wife wanted something lighter. I agreed to use some maple, but wanted to include some visual excitement to help offset the cherry. I was able to pick through the pile at my local hardwood supplier and grab the two curliest maple boards they had. I was over the moon after I took it over the jointer to get a proper look at the figure.
I chose to do a bookmatch on the panels as I didn't have boards wide enough to do a single for the panels. I resawed the material to 1/2" and then planed to final thickness from there.
I followed the blue tape method to keep the seam tight during the glue up of the panels. This keeps them tight and from wandering around.
Using cauls is an absolute necessity to keep panels flat while in the clamps. I jointed all these and covered them in packing tape to keep them from adhering to the panel/glue.
I used cauls on every panel, even the smaller ones for the headboard. I only had one shot with the material at hand and I didn't want t to ruin it.
I dropped all pretense of being able to handplane these surfaces without tearout. Even using my high angle smoother I would have torn out or left tracks. Before this the panels took a trip through my friend's drum sander to help even everything out. The drum left deep grooves in the panel so I had to take the panels through 80-120-180-220-320 grit to get all the scratches out. This is probably the most I've sanded in years.
To get the right fit, I used a pair of story sticks to measure the final distance from groove to groove. This avoids any kind of guess work involved with trying to use a tape measure. I was able to get the exact widths and pull back measurements where I needed for seasonal movement.
I honestly don't know what I was doing in this shot. Probably cleaning up the edge to make it ready for trimming to width/length.
The grooves in the frame were 1/4", but I was not satisfied in the strength of 1/4" panels. To give myself a little more meat I left the panels at 3/8" and planed a rabbet in the edges to get down to the 1/4". I was able to utilize my skew rabbet plane to fit each side to their own grooves.
I made sure to chisel in a small relief in the rabbet edge on the cross grain edges to avoid spelching out the back.
I ended up putting a relief chamfer in each rabbet because I got blowout on the second long grain edge.
First panel fit, looks great.
Testing the final width of the large panels.
I'll take a pile of shavings over a shop of dust any day.
The top rails both received a shallow curve from end to end. I roughed these in on the bandsaw, but they were not even. This was a perfect chance to make a flexible sanding strip to cut down the high spots. I followed the instructions from Marc Spagnuolo and the strip worked fantastically. I will stick around for sure.
First dry fit of the headboard, moving along fairly well.
The two components I was looking forward to the least were the connecting support rails. At over 6' long they'd be the longest parts of the bed. I tried to save the straightest boards for these, but they still had some twist. Instead of trying to flatten these on my jointer that has shorter beds, I use my jack plane to knock down the high corners as much as I could to avoid making it worse trying to do it on the jointer.
Jointing and planing turned out okay in the end.
Even at 6' long I managed to get a square cut with my crosscut sled.
I couldn't cut these tenons on the saw so I have to do it by hand. Scribing in the lines here so I know where everything needs to land.
I set a fence up so I could ensure a straight cut with my handsaw. I'm using my sash saw for this which is an all around good saw with a combo filing so I can cross and rip cut.
Better view of how the fence is guiding me here.
After using the fence on both long sides I cut the short ends by hand as that would be easy to get right with both ends as reference.
With the shoulder defined I can simply chop away the waste of the tenon with a wide chisel.
I used my 1" chisel and made quick work of all the sides. This might be worrysome if the grain was wild, but with moderate to straight grain it's no big deal.
After roughing in the tenon I used my shoulder plane to even the surfaces and cut it down to my scribed marks.
At this point I made up a small sample piece with a matching mortise that is found in the legs. This way I can make test fits and not have to heft the legs up and down every time. It saves my back and the legs from getting banged up.
"Like a glove!"
My son showing me how to set a holdfast with a push block. So innovative these young ones.
This was a risky setup, but I wanted to see what this thing was going to look like. Those rails have just about 3/4" holding them in the legs, so once I got photos I meticulously pulled everything apart and put it back up against the wall.
Onto the rail connecting hardware. I know there are hook systems available, but I've never been comfortable with the stability of those. I've been a longtime fan of bed bolts, but don't like the need for them to go all the way through the leg of the headboard. I got around that restriction in the past by making faux through tenons to cap them off, but I wanted to keep the clean look of this leg. I'm going with a system that is essentially a threaded rod secured into the head/footboard which is secured by a bolt in the rails. Here you can see where I've marked out the slot for the bolt/washer and I've already made the hole for the rod to slide into.
I routed out the pocket using my edgeguide and a few layout lines.
A good view of where the hole intersects the pocket.
I used the small block as a drill guide to make sure I was getting straight holes in the long rails. It worked like a charm!
This allowed me to use the drill press to get a straight and accurate hole all the way through the sample block.
I used the WoodWhisperer Thread Taps to get the holes in the legs threaded. These are longer than traditional taps and have bigger flutes to evacuate more chips.
You can see the threads are pretty crisp when they're cut. They're plenty strong on their own, but I go the extra mile and put thin CA glue down the sides to dry in the threads. This hardens them up and I just need to run the tap down one more time to clean them up again. They're essentially rock solid after this point.
I chose to not permanently fix the rod into the leg because I want the ability to disassemble the bed for transport without having giant pieces of metal jutting out of the headboard and footboard.
This is how the final assembly will look.
Gluing on the support for the box spring rails
I wanted a full platform under the bed, not for any specific reason, I think it just looks better.
I managed to forget that the space between rails was 62" and not 60". Most of these ended up at a rough 61". :| I'll likely re-make these to full width later, or maybe I won't. Who knows?
All slats got a ship lap to keep them from having gaps between each other.
With all joinery cut, I roughed in the tapers on the 'feet' of the legs.
After roughing in, I smoothed them up with the jack.
I also put a heavy chamfer on the bottoms of the legs to avoid the sides chipping out if the frame is dragged on the floor.
Something that bothered me from the beginning was that one of the tenons had a loose fit in the leg. It wasn't flopping around, but it was clear that I made the tenon 1/32" too small. I had 2 other tight joints on that leg, but I wasn't ready to take any chances. What I did was cut a thin slice of veneer on the bandsaw and glued it to the side of the tenon to beef it up again.
After the glue was try, I went back with my shoulder plane and rasps to get it down to fit the mortise again. I was happy to not concede on the quality of the piece without the need to remake a whole component.
Finishing....oh finishing how I hate it. With so many large pieces I chose to pre-finish everything. It was much better than trying to do it all assembled. The whole process took over a week.
The panels turned out better than expected. They did yellow more than I wanted, but the cherry will darken over time and provide more contrast.
I made sure to tape off joinery to ensure good glue adhesion. You can also see that I hit all corners with a 1/8" roundover. I don't like the look of rounded edges, but this was done for the sake of safety/comfort and not bashing my leg open on a corner in the middle of the night.
My longest clamps were 3" too short and I wasn't in the mood to go buy longer pipes for my pipe clamps. I went with ratchet straps which worked well enough.
The last casualty was from my own slippery fingers as I fumbled the headboard stretcher over the stiles. I sanded it out, but it's still very apparent when looking at the bed. It's ironic that all the big mistakes on the bed are on my side. Probably symbolic of something, but it's fitting that this one sits right above my head every night to remind me that being complacent at any point can lead to undesired consequences.
I've seen more creative clamping solutions, but this one is up there. I crushed the sacrificial blocks with the ratchet straps, was a good call putting them there.
First full assembly! Looking great!
Almost an afterthought. I made sure to sneak my brand in on the back of the headboard. Maybe someone will remember who made this.
Mattress installed and ready for a good night's rest. While taller than our previous metal frame, it is just what we wanted. The cherry is still quite pale, but will darken up over the coming summer months and provide a nice contrast against the maple.