Make a Joiner’s Mallet from Osage Orange

While attending the Video Woodworkers Skiatook Adventure, Ted Alexander milled some Osage Orange with his WoodMizer LT15 Bandsaw Mill.  He had a full length section of the tree milled to nearly 5″ thick and 13″ wide to cut into blanks for bowls.  On the day of departure, he cross cut part of that slab into 4 pieces and gave some to Ty Moser, Moy Perez, Braxton Wirthlin, and myself.  Initially I thought of turning 2 carving mallets from the section I had but I felt that it would have been a great waste of wood.  So I decided to retire my old chisel beater and make a new one, from ultra dense and heavy Osage Orange.

I looked around for some straight grained material to use for the handle and I found two pieces of white oak and a piece of black oak which was left over from a mantle I made for a client.  It had a nice portion which was straight grained and 1″ thick which would leave me with a minimum of 3/4″ material after milling.  I made 3 pieces of various length and milled it all to 3/4″ thick and 2″ wide.  This allowed for a good taper to fit into the mallet head and have a nice rectangular grip after shaping.  I prefer a rectangular grip as it is more familiar than a round handle so when I pick up the mallet I am sure to strike the chisel on the face (end grain) of the mallet and not the side (long grain).


Back to the topic at hand, I began by laying out and chopping the tapered through mortise in the head.  Some folks would first cut the taper on the handle and then use that as a template to lay out the marks for the mortise, but not I.  I have a tendency to do things the hard way so I made mine in the reverse order.  I started by laying out center lines and then marking the ends of the mortise on the top and bottom.  A bevel gauge set at 5 degrees helped determine the angled mortise and later the handle.  Using a 3/4″ auger in a brace I bored halfway through the mallet head, flipped it over, and bored through the other half.  You know you’ve done well when your holes match up.

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Now chop out the remaining waste with a mortise chisel by sighting down the markings on the side of the mallet.  If you aren’t confident in sighting down a line you can make an angled block for the chisel to reference on.  You only need to start about 1/2″ to 3/4″ using the block and then reference on the walls of the mortise.  Chop half way through, flip the piece over, and repeat.  Then shape the edges with a block plane or router bit to the profile that appeals to you.  I used a block plane and made chamfers on all edges.

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If you made the mallet handle first now is the time to test the fit.  Drop the handle through the top of the mallet head and drive the handle through until there is resistance.  Remove the handle and check the inside of the mortise for areas where the handle burnished the wood.  You can remove those areas with a file, flat rasp, or a float (my preferred tool for the job).  Keep checking until the handle slides in easily without too much coercion.

Apply a few coats of your favorite finish and complete it by buffing on some wax.  Now enjoy smacking your favorite chisels around.


Easy Shop Chair from Construction Materials

After my son and I made his miniature Nicholson Bench, I had a fair amount of 2×12 and other 2x material left over.  You could make this chair from a single 10 foot long 2×12.  I wanted to keep the build simple by using only 3 power tools (as mentioned on The Dusty Life podcast) so I kept the joinery simple and used only the circular saw, cordless drill/driver, and a 6″ random orbital sander.  However, those were not the ONLY tools I used.  I have a tendency to over complicate things such as the joinery between the seat and the legs.  I could have just used a ledger with screws to hold the seat in place but I wanted to make a dado as you will see in the video.  The goal for this chair was to learn angles and how to make a comfortable chair from a combination of geometry and sizing.

If you choose to make this chair I would change one thing: cut a radius the front of the arms for your hands to rest and/or make the top of arms slope down from back to front to allow your arms to rest naturally.  For me this chair was to serve a single purpose in my shop and that was to replace the old and very uncomfortable stool I sat on while recording The Dusty Life podcast.

Here are a few shots of the model I followed.  For the seat, I set it sloped at about 8 degrees and put 1-1/2″ taper on the sides from front to back so the rear legs sat closer together and the chair was not as boxy.  The back edge of the chair had a 3 degree bevel cut to allow the chair back to register at that angle to the seat during assembly.  The side edges of the chair back had bevel cuts to match the seat taper so the arms matched the sides of the chair back as well.  You can use all the parts from the chair to register your cuts accordingly.  There really was no measuring once I cut the seat to shape.  Everything was measured from that component.

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Overall size
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The important dimensions
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The back details
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A view from the front
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A view from the top

Table Saw Outrigger

I face a problem each time I have to make a final crosscut on a long board, typical of a bed rail being over 80″ long.  I don’t feel it is accurate enough (nor safe) to focus pressure downward as I push the material through the blade with a miter gauge.  There is still a chance of the board lifting or twisting leading to an inaccurate cut.  My first thought was to make a fence extension for the miter gauge.  This just ended up making the cut more difficult as I had to clamp the board to the fence making the piece even heavier at the end.  I decided support was needed somewhere toward the far end of the board.  I didn’t want to make another catch-all table surface so I made an outrigger.  I could have purchased a roller stand and set it parallel to the table but they are not long enough and I wanted to save some money and use up scrap material.  Thus started the 1 day build (really 2 parts of 2 days but it can easily be done in one afternoon).

The first step was to cut all the parts.  Below you will find a spreadsheet with the names and dimensions of all the parts needed to make the outrigger.  I made the parts list of the items I used but you can use what every you want if you would like to make yours look better.


Now for a step by step process on assembly of the outrigger.  I assume that if you are making this you have some experience with the table saw, router, drill press, and their accessories.

  1. Start with the bases by cutting an angle on the sides 2 inches up from the bottom and leaving 2″ of flat edge on the top middle.
  2. Predrill and countersink holes on a center line of the bases to attach the legs.
  3. Attach the legs using 1-1/4″ long #8 screws.
  4. Set the stretcher in place on top of the base pieces and predrill and countersink from the outside of the legs into the stretcher.  Use 1-1/4″ long #8 screws to attach the stretcher to the legs.
  5. Route a 3/8″ slot through the center of the adjustable uprights leaving about 2″ of material at each end.  Do this incrementally at the router table.  I started by drilling the start and stop holes at the drill press as a guide.
  6. Attach the adjustable uprights to the legs with the 5/16″ bolts, washers, and knobs.  I would use star knobs over the 3-point knobs I used in the video.  You can get more clamping force with star knobs but it really isn’t necessary unless you plan to use this as a work holding saw horse (if you make 2).
  7. Add some glue to the sides of the legs and place the plywood channel guides flush with the insides of the legs and against the plywood bases.  5/8″ brad nails are all that is needed to fix them in place.
  8. Attach the gussets to the adjustable uprights by predrilling and countersinking 3/4″ long #8 screws.
  9. Attach the rail supports at the top of the uprights between the gussets and using a screw on each gusset, again predrilled and countersunk.
  10. Predrill and countersink 2 holes from the underside of the rail supports to attach the rail.  I used 2″ long self-tapping screws here because I had thicker material to screw through.
  11. After attaching the rail to the supports, remove the rail and rip a bevel on the top side of the rail.  Set the table saw blade to about 5 degrees, rip one face, flip the board end-for-end (keeping the reference side against the fence), and rip the other face.  If you have a bead in the middle remaining just raise the blade a bit more and repeat this step.
  12. Reattach the rail, sand the surface (optional), apply a finish (I used shellac because it dries fast), and rub on some wax.
  13. Set the height so the work piece is flat on the table saw and in contact with the outrigger throughout the cutting movement.
  14. Done.

Here are some shots from my model.


Pens for Sale

The pens seen here can be purchased or made to order.  If they are made to order they will not look as they do in the pictures but they will be similar.  Order by clicking the PayPal “Buy Now” button in the sidebar (desktop) or at the bottom (mobile).

Each pen will be Priority shipped in it’s own pen display box.  If a matching pair of pens are purchased they will be in a double display box unless otherwise requested in the notes section while placing the order.


Burl and Green Resin hefty Cigar pen with antique brass and black.  A very nice pen that glows under a black light.
Burl and Red Resin ornate Cigar pen with gold and chrome.  A very classy pen.
Amboyna Burl Click pen with satin gold.  A beautiful every day carry or desk pen.
Double Dyed Resin Twist pen with titanium and gold.  A classy every day carry.
Ebony Coronado pen with chrome.  The black and white ball pen.


Veneering the Easy Way

This is an easy way to veneer a surface without the expensive equipment typically used for such tasks.  While I wouldn’t recommend this as a way to veneer a large surface or surfaces with curves, it is a fast way to cover a small surface with a very decorative veneer.

The first step is to have a thin veneer chosen for your project.  I purchase my veneer from as they have a wide selection of quality veneer, supplies (it’s in their name), and a lot of information on veneering.  The veneer is very thin measuring around 1/42″ thick.  This is key to this process.  Thicker shop sawn veneer will probably not work in this instance because of the thicker material.

With the veneer chosen it is time to pick a substrate.  I like to use a stable plywood such as apple ply (made in the U.S. of A.) or baltic birch.  Some people prefer MDF and even particle board as they are typically much more stable and free of voids.  The project you have in mind to make and the final destination should be the key factors in choosing your substrate.  If you are in a humid environment I would suggest plywood over MDF.

With your substrate and veneer chosen it is time to begin.  Cut your veneer and substrate slightly oversized (with the veneer larger than the substrate) to allow for final trimming to dimension.

Now spray the show face of the veneer with water to add some moisture.  Not too much, just enough to cover the surface.  You will notice how the veneer starts to curl.  This is normal so don’t be worried.  Then flip it over and roll on some wood glue.  I used TiteBond 1 wood glue but TiteBond 2 would work as well.  Keep in mind that TiteBond 2 and 3 wood glues dry darker than TiteBond 1.  Then roll the glue to a thin even layer on the surface of the veneer.  The glue will add moisture to this face of the veneer and level it out.  That is why you sprayed the show face with water first, to balance it out.

Now set the veneer aside and roll glue onto the surface of the substrate in the same manner.  Once that is finished set it aside and let both surfaces dry until they are no longer sticky from wet glue.  Don’t freak out, you haven’t ruined your material.

Once the glue is dry, place the two glue surfaces together and arrange the veneer so it overhangs the substrate on all sides.  With an iron on the medium heat setting place it in the middle of the veneer and work it out to the edges and toward one end at a time.  Keep the iron moving as not to burn the veneer.  If you didn’t let the glue dry long enough you may see some steam and that can cause the veneer to ripple.  If that happens, just take a sanding block with a hard flat surface and rub the veneer down to the surface.  The glue will be reactivated and it will bond again.  It doesn’t hurt to rub the surface with the sanding block after ironing while it is still warm anyhow.

Now repeat that process to the other side of the substrate to balance it out.  If you don’t the substrate will warp as you are stacking veneer in favor of one face.  When you are finished you should have two nice looking faces of your substrate ready for your next project.

Tools I used in this project (Affiliate Links):
Ink Brayer (glue roller) –
Iron –
TiteBond Wood Glue –
TiteBond II Wood Glue –
Sanding Block:


DIY Clamp Handle Improvement

I have had a bunch of Bessey clamps in the shop for a while and I’ll admit I hate using them.  When I have to glue some wood together I can’t get enough clamping force on the work pieces because my hands slip on the slick handles.  Until now.

I was walking through the local big box store and found a can of Plasti Dip.  I figured for a few dollars it would be worth the time to coat the wood handles in a rubber coating to make them more “grippy.”  And it sure did work nicely.

I bought both the spray can and the dip can.  Each application has its advantages and uses.  The dip can is great for small parts like handles of tools and such and the spray can is good for larger surfaces like shelves.

The application is simple.  Just stir or shake the can depending on which application method you choose.  Then slowly dip the piece into the can to coat the part or spray several light coats to build the surface up for the final few coats.  It really doesn’t get much more difficult than that.  Once the parts are coated allow them to dry for 4 hours and then they are ready to use.

Enjoy your new clamps and the better grip!

Concrete Dovetail Bench

I enjoy making benches and playing with mixed materials from time to time.  When the opportunity came up to make something using one bag of cement I had an idea.  Incorporate a traditional woodworking joint into cement and make a modern bench at the same time.  Thus the design of a cement formed dovetail leg and a single board bench seat.

For this project I used exactly one 80lb bag of Quikrete 5000 cement.  The form I made measures 10.5″ x 18″x 1.5″.  It was constructed of melamine and screwed together.  Making forms is a simple process, you just need your design in mind and remember that the form is an outline of the end result.  Also remember you will need to remove the form easily when the cement cures.  If you are making holes inside the form use plastic that can be cut away or pulled apart for easy removal.

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I mixed the cement in a bucket with a grout mixer in a drill.  This made mixing very fast and easy.  The cement was then poured into the form and vibrated to relieve the bubbles from the bottom and sides.  Note that it helps to have the form vibrating as the cement is being poured to ensure the air bubbles come off the surfaces quickly.  Also keep in mind to use some sort of reinforcement for the structural integrity of the cement.  I used mason ladder wire in the middle of the form.  Pour half the cement, place the ladder wire, and pour the rest.


When the cement is all in the form you will need to vibrate/tap on the form for 60 minutes, no less.  Otherwise you will have holes in the surfaces.  Allow the cement to cure per the instructions from the manufacturer.

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With the cement curing for a few days I worked on milling the wood bench.  I used a custom milled and air dried white oak board that was 11″ wide.  I cut it to 36″ long and milled it to thickness.  I would have liked it to be 1″ thick but the warping in the board brought it to 3/4″ after milling.  Any knots were filled and stabilized with tinted epoxy and the final milling was completed.

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Once the cement was cured I removed it from the form and cleaned it up with some sand paper to tidy the edges.  I placed the form upside down on the ends of the wood seat and traced out the pin locations.  Use your preferred method for cutting dovetails here.  I like using my hand saw and chisels but you can use a bandsaw as well.

Clean up the ends of the board and apply the finish of your choosing.  I went with a few coats of oil varnish.

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It is time to push the seat into the dovetails to set the with of the legs.  I wanted to add steel rope to hold the legs together and I found these Hammock Hangers looked great for this purpose.  I positioned the hangers in the middle of the legs, pre-drilled a 3/16″ hole for the 1/4″ TapCon screws, the steel rope was cut to length, the loops were made with the hoops inside (this has to be done at the same time), and I drove the TapCons in place to anchor the hangers.

To tighten the steel rope I used a turnbuckle similar to those used for gate supports.  Just turn the turnbuckle until the steel rope is stretched and the legs aren’t pulled in too much, do not over tighten.  The seat will tell you when to stop.  You can also hold a square to the seat and legs to be a guide.

Now put the bench in a nice location and enjoy.  Be sure to move this with a friend.  It isn’t rigid enough to pick up alone and the dovetails may be brittle.  Treat this bench with care and it should last for a long time.

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Here is a list of the products I used with exception of the cement (affiliate links):
Hammock Hangers –
3/16″ Masonry Bit –
1/8″ Steel Rope –
Steel Rope Thimbles –
Cable Clamps (similar) –
Turnbuckle –
Varathane Outdoor Varnish –

Shop AC Installation, Part 3: The Mini Split

With the garage door insulated I noticed a decent temperature reduction and stabilization throughout the day.  Typically, the shop would reach 101-103 degrees at 4pm when the sun was in full force.  With the door insulated the shop was now about 10-12 degrees cooler at that same time of day.  Still hot inside but 92 degrees is better than 103 degrees.

Here is a chart of indoor and outdoor temps I tracked for a couple of weeks after sealing and insulating the garage door and then installing the AC.  Aside from looking like a penguin lying on it’s back, it helps to show what steps can be taken to most economically reduce the temperature inside your shop.  Not everyone has the luxury of shop AC but weather stripping, insulating the bay door(s), and attic space insulation and an attic fan can significantly help balance the indoor temperature.

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Now lets install the AC.  I installed an 18,000 BTU 17.7 SEER 240V Pioneer Mini Split.  It starts by clearing a space to work locating studs and hanging the indoor unit’s bracket.  The screws provided were so wimpy that I replaced them with longer, 2″, self-tapping screws for added security.  The indoor unit isn’t that heavy to begin with but I would prefer 1.5″ of holding power in a stud vs 5/8″.

With the mounting bracket installed I then chose the location for the outdoor condenser.  It am placing it directly on the opposite side of the wall so there is no need to run long lines.  I made the form, placed some rebar in the middle of the form, then mixed and poured the concrete.  Once the form was filled, I used a 2×4 on edge to screed it and then troweled it smooth.  The concrete was left to cure for a few days according to the manufacturer’s suggestions.

Wiring the indoor fan for power was an interesting process, which I’ll address in a moment.  First you have to flip the unit over and remove the back corner panel for access to run the wire.  Then flip it back over and open the front cover to access the electrical connections.

Run the wire through the opening to bring the wire to the connection bar.  This particular unit was different than others I had seen as they labeled the wires 1, 2, 3 and the instructions made no mention of which was which.  I just looked at the corresponding wires on the other end and attached them accordingly.  Now wiring the unit was interesting because the U-lugs didn’t fit into the connections.  I ended up cutting the connectors off, twisted the wires, inserted them, and clamped them in place.  Now we are ready to proceed.

The hole was drilled in the wall, the lines were connected to the indoor unit, and they were run through the wall.  The hole to be drilled for this unit is 2.5″ in diameter and should be drilled at a slight downward angle.  It is best practice to drill through the wall and when the pilot bit passes through the siding on the outside then you drill from the outside to have a clean hole.  Once the hole was drilled the hole in the attic eave is located for the power line.  When that was being drilled I went into the attic and fished the line through the hole for the installer to save time.  Now here is the difference between doing something yourself and hiring someone to do it for you: Quality of work.  In an effort to not micromanage an AC installer I left him to do the work as he normally would.  Big mistake.  After he drilled the hole (no problem), connected the lines to the indoor unit (no problem), he then pushed all the lines through the wall and hung the unit.  He didn’t bother using the plastic sleeve and bushing to line the hole and seal the insulation from the lines.  It was partially my mistake not to notice this until the installer had hooked everything up and was about to cover the lines with a sheet metal cover.  When I mentioned it he said “well, it’s too late now.  I would have to unhook everything to fix that.”  What an idiot.  Both him (because he was) and me (for not noticing earlier).  So I just filled the hole with spray foam insulation and hoped that would be ok.

The final step was to connect the copper lines and wire the outdoor unit for power.  The copper lines need to be connected with a flaring tool.  This is the main reason I had an AC installer come out to do the hook up for me.  Once the lines were connected the installer then used a vacuum pump and nitrogen to pressurize and test for leaks (the second reason for an installer).

With everything working it was time to turn the power on and start up the unit.  From the chart at the beginning of this entry you can see the temperature difference in the shop to the outside.  It has been a pleasure to be in the shop on the hot days not only to work but to get out of the heat and cool down in my castle.

DIY Pallet Wood Stool with Downloadable Plan

It has been a year since my last pallet project.  For the past 3 years Sterling Davis hosts an event titled the “Pallet Upcycle Challenge” and this is my second time being involved.  For more info on Sterling’s event click here.

Plans are available in the sidebar in exchange for a donation amount of your choice.

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Since that first project, here, I had acquired several pallets and I needed to thin the herd.  I found a few different quick projects that I thought would be a good way to part with some of them.  One of which was this stool.  I liked the simplicity of it and seeing that I needed a better stool for my shop it would make a great temporary addition until I can make my Rush Seat Stool.

To get started with this project I had to break down a pallet.  Because this stool only used smaller parts I was able to cut the thin slats from the pallet supports with a jig saw.  These pieces were just over 19″ long.  The nails were pulled from the three thicker supports to ensure no damage to my power tool blades.

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Each slat then had an edge cleaned up at the table saw with a taper sled.  This allowed me to get a decent cut at the miter saw to cut the pieces to final length.  Then I ripped a taper on each let part.  4 pieces had a 1/2″ foot and a 2-1/2″ top and the other 4 pieces had a 1″ foot and a 3″ top.  This is because the pieces are 1/2″ thick and when they are butt jointed to form a leg they will look symmetric.

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The seat pieces were cleaned in the same fashion and edge glued to make a panel.  The legs were glued at the same time to cut down on the time wasted waiting for glue to dry as these 5 pieces were the only parts that were glued.

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To keep everything as square as possible during assembly (which is nearly impossible to do with non milled pallet wood) I made 2 sub assemblies with the top stretchers, or aprons, and 2 legs.  The aprons were positioned with the legs, pre-drilled, and nailed together with the pallet nails that I sharpened points on to help with the driving in.

When the legs were complete it was time to get a measurement for the other 2 aprons.  I did this by setting the 2 leg assemblies upside down on the seat and positioning them so there was a slight overhang on the seat.  Then I took the measurement and cut the pieces at the miter saw.  There were attached in the same fashion as the other stretchers this time using shorter nails as I was driving them into the sides of the aprons instead of the ends as done prior.

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With the 2 legs now connected I could now cut the lower stretchers.  This is just as simple as the aprons.  Take the measurement, cut to length, pre-drill, nail into place.  The only trick is to place them high enough on the legs so the but joints are hidden behind the legs.  This position is entirely dependent on the severity of the leg taper.  Mine had to be about 6-1/4″ from the bottom.

Not attach the seat.  It is as simple as placing it into position so the overhang is equal around the base, pre-drilling, and driving the nails in 4 corners.  Now you have a functional stool though it is going to be really rough as nothing has been sanded yet.  Do that now using 80-100 paper on a sander of your choice.  I used 100 grit on a random orbit sander and sanded for about 25 minutes.

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The surface could be sanded further if you like the plain wood look, which would have been nice as I had a good looking quarter saw piece of oak on the seat, or do as I did and whitewash, paint, or stain the stool for a different look altogether.  I used General Finishes Whitewash mixed with Vintage Cherry, Orange, and Medium Brown dye stains for added subtle color.  Once the wash was mixed I daubed and brushed it on with a sponge brush.  When mixing these colors on a surface it is best to use long strokes of each color overlapping the next then allowing it to dry.  This makes the colors blend and look like the piece had been painted several times over the years.

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With a 150 sanding disc on the random orbit sander I sanded through the wash to reveal wood beneath and broke the edges of the seat, legs, and stretchers even more.  This gives the stool an old worn appearance.

Finally the stool was given a good coat of Minwax Polycrylic water borne finish.  I like this finish the best for reclaimed wood indoor projects as it retains the natural wood look without darkening over time.  Also, the whitewash is water based and I didn’t want to use a topcoat of an oil based finish.  Just my preference really.

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After it has good time to cure I then lightly wipe the surface with 400 paper to smooth it out and it is ready for it’s photo finish.


Chinese Inspired Bed with Cherry Blossom Inlay

Upon returning from China after the completion of my daughter’s adoption, I decided to set out to make her a bedroom set.  I was ambitions with my design and chose to integrate cherry blossoms into her furniture pieces.  I started with her bed.  I took inspiration from other furniture we saw on the trip and continued designing until I found a style my wife and I liked.

This video below is a brief over view of the process.

This video is a little longer and shows more of the build in greater detail.  I chose not to narrate my work in this video as, chances are, very few if any people are going to want to make this same bed.

Due to popular demand I will quickly talk about the main construction of the bed starting with the foot board (head board is the same) and then the rails.

In the longer version of the bed build you will see that it starts with the lamination of the feet.  I started with an oversized laminated blank for each foot.  When the glue had cured I then milled the feet to the final thickness, width, and length then set them aside.

The next step was to create the cross pieces that would connect the feet for the foot and head boards.  These could be done in two different ways: 1) you could edge glue the top and bottom pieces from the three different thicknesses of strips to form the stepped profile or 2) mill the bottom piece to max thickness (about 5/8″) and cut a rabbet on each side about half way up to make a 3/8″ stepped double sided moulding (for lack of a better term).  I liked option 2 best as it would allow for grain continuity and the thinner piece would be centered easily.

With the lower rail shaped it was time to use the 5/8″ thickness to dictate the top rail.  I then milled a piece of material to 7/8″ thickness and repeated the double sided rabbet to form a lower step of 5/8″ to match the lower rail.  This is imperative that the thickness match as there is a middle stile that connects the upper and lower rail.  Which I will address in a moment.

Be sure to sand now because if you sand after you cut the mortises the rails will be loose.  Now that both the upper and lower rails are profiled it is time to cut them to length.  This is entirely dependent on the size of your mattress and the thickness of the feet (to account for the protrusion of the rail on the outer side of each foot).  All you need to know know though is that you need to keep an off cut from each rail to trace the shape onto the sides of each corresponding foot.  I started with the lower rail, tracing the outline of the rail with a marking knife, then drilling halfway through on opposite sides at the drill press to remove the bulk.  If you were to make these in a production shop I would make a template that could be clamped to the foot and then rout the material followed by some chiseling.  Or just use a hollow chisel mortiser.  If you go the drill press rout as I did, then you will have a fair amount of chiseling to do.  Just be careful to keep your chisels perpendicular to the faces of the feet.  When the lower through mortises are finished repeat the process for the top rails only this material can be removed at the band saw as seen in the video.

Now it is time to mill the middle stile to 5/8″ thick and how ever wide and long you want it to be.  I chose to use a version of a birdsmouth joint as seen in a lot of chinese furniture but a simple butt joint with a biscuit, dowel, or domino to reinforce it would be perfectly fine as well.  Mark the center of each rail and the stile make your joinery but don’t attach yet.

Now do a test fit of all the pieces, the feet, rails, and stile to see if everything comes together as desired.  The width needed to accommodate your bed should be addressed now.  Keep in mind the hardware placement in the feet and how far that is from the inside corners of the feet and the length of the rails between the feet.  A standard twin size mattress is around 35-1/2″ inches wide and the feet I made were 3″ square with 5/8″ wide hardware on center.  So 35.5 (overall inner width) – (2)1.1875 (the distance from the inner edge of the foot to the edge of the hardware*) = 33.125 or 33-1/8″  that was the distance between the two feet for a twin size mattress (don’t hold me to that, measure for your own application).

If everything fits well, glue it up.  Start by gluing the bottom rail through the feet checking for the proper width between the feet as you progress.  Now the middle stile needs to be glued in place if you are using dowels, biscuits, mortise and tenons, or domino joinery.  Just glue the bottom of the stile into place though.  Now place the top rail between the feet and glue the middle stile at the same time.  Clamp the middle stile and wait for the whole thing to dry.

Once dry, clean the tops of the feet and rail up with a block plane and prepare that surface for the cap rail.  I milled that piece to about 3-1/4″ wide but in hind sight I should have made it 3-1/8″ with the 1/8″ overhang on the outside of the foot board and not equally on the outside and inside.  That overhang made the rail assembly difficult without shaping the top corners of the rails which allowed them to drop into place, which I though of at the time but wanted it to work.  Goes to show you can’t beat physics.  The length of the cap rail is also dependent on the length of the foot board and the protrusion of the rails BUT I would suggest to keep the extension past the feet minimal.  Otherwise you will have sore shins, don’t ask me how I know this.

Glue that cap rail in place after some shaping and sanding and you are set to move onto the rails.  Again, a process that is entirely dependent on your design.  So here is a video on how to install that hardware.

Now you are armed with enough information on how I made the foot and head boards.  Watch the video (Ep. 52) to see how I assembled everything and feel free to ask questions either in the comments of this article, the video, or email me at

*Note:  There has to be some material on the sides of the hardware at the ends of the rails.  This material allows for a space between the mattress and the rail so that making the bed is a little easier.  Though it is entirely dependent on the thickness of your rails.  See, lots of variables, plan accordingly.