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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
*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.