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 sean@seanrubino.com.

*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.

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2 Beds 1 Shop…And the Clock is Ticking

My wife is due to deliver our 3rd child any day now and we are one bed short for our current family of 5.  The goal was to have my daughter’s bed completed last month so when the new born comes home my daughter could have her own bed.  Now the clock is ticking and it’s the final countdown.

Months ago I found this photo on Google Images.  My wife and I wanted to keep the furniture in Sabrina Xin’s bedroom to have a Chinese theme to keep up with her heritage so I am using this as inspiration for the design.

Chinese bed

I drew up a sketch with a few details and made a few rough dimensions to get started.  This is not a complete project sketch.

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Smash cut back several months: my mother called me and commissioned a bed to be made for my brother.  He has been sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor for 4 years and now he needs an actual bed.  I contacted him to get an idea of what he would like in bed design and he just wanted a simple bed made from construction lumber with an 18″ clearance under the rails for storage.  With those parameters I began designing and I came up with this simple “modern” style.  Again, this is not a complete project design.

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Now as I build one bed I might as well build two.  Just as with my Tatami Platform Bed build, these beds start with the feet, then the foot and head rails, the side rails, and finally the headboard.

I glued up the foot blanks of African Mahogany for the Chinese inspired bed (Elm was my first choice but it is impossible to get in CA) and while that was curing I filled the knots in the foot blanks for my brother’s bed with colored epoxy.  Once the glue was set on the Chinese bed I began milling the feet to final dimension.  Then I laid out for the bed rail hardware.  A note about that: I am using the 4″ x 5/8″ heavy duty wrought steel bed rail hardware from Rockler for both of these beds.  The hardware is easy to install and makes for easy bed assembly/dis-assembly.

To keep everything organized and moving at the same pace I milled the rails and all the parts for both beds at the same time one bed at a time so the machines (planer/table saw) didn’t have to be switched constantly to accommodate different widths and thicknesses.

This is where the projects currently sit.  I am working on these bed a little each night and hopefully I will be finished shortly after my wife delivers.

 

DIY Tatami Style Platform Bed with Downloadable Plans

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For the past several months my wife and I have been trying to decide on a good bed design for our eldest son, Vinny.  I could have made a racecar or a boat but who knows how long my son would like that sort of bed so I was looking for something a little more “timeless.”  Insomnia, or just plain eagerness, yielded a few late nights of searching the ether for ideas.  I happened across a site called tatamiroom.com and found the style of platform bed I wanted to build (here is the link to the page I used as a guide, and I have plans available here <—Click for a downloadable PDF plan).  Unfortunately, searches on woodworking forums and YouTube for plans or detailed builds were fruitless, thus my journey began with the simple photo from tatamiroom.com.  I knew there was going to be no bed hardware for this build so all the joints needed to be interlocking.  This meant all dimensions were to be taken individually to fit each part.  No big deal, just a little more time investment in getting the joints just right.

I needed some starting guidance so I surfed over to thewoodwhispererguild.com and reviewed Marc’s Dogon Platform Bed video series to see where he started with his project.  The footboard was the genesis and then the headboard, followed by the rails.  This was the extent of my “plans” for this build.  Everything else came from the dimensions of the mattress and how high off the floor I wanted the bed to be.

The Wood

I had several board feet of alder in thicknesses from 5/4 to 8/4 and widths up to 11″ on my rack so naturally this was my wood of choice, since it is what I had on hand.

The alder getting sorted.
The alder being sorted.

I laid out all my foot, headboard, and rail parts taking care to avoid all knots and defects as possible.  Then I used a jig saw to rough cut the foot parts to prepare for milling.  I started by cutting to rough width at the band saw, then jointed one face, planed the opposite face to final thickness (true flatness was not necessary for all parts), jointed one edge, and finally ripped to a final width of 1-5/8″.  I then set up a stop block on my crosscut sled for a repeatable cut for a final length of 8″ for twelve of the 1-5/8″ square pieces and 5-1/4″ for the other four 1-5/8″ square pieces.  These sixteen pieces make up the bulk of the feet.  Then I milled a piece of alder to 1-5/8″ wide, 7/8″ thick, and then cut eight 4″ long pieces at the table saw using the stop block and crosscut sled.  Lastly, I need four pieces that were 7/8″ thick, 4-1/8″ wide and 4-3/4″ long for the piece to hold the feet together.

Foot parts roughed out for picking out most pleasing grain.
All the foot parts milled.

Below is a view of how the feet go together.  I glued up the feet in two stages.  First, the grain was matched for the most pleasing view of the faces and the end grain.  Notice how the growth rings almost look like the foot is made from a solid piece of wood.  Next, thick square pieces were glued to the small “spacer” blocks ensuring that the “inside” faces were flat.  When the glue was dry I lightly sanded the inside faces to clean any squeeze out and then the two pieces were joined with the wider “spacer” block.  The wider spacer has a 3/4″ square by 3/4″ tall “key” in the middle.  This was made to lock the foot and side rails into the feet so they would not pull away when setting the bed up.  I could have made the height of that key much shorter in retrospect.

Looking into the foot.
A look at the foot construction.
The rough foot blanks arranged.
The feet all glued up.

Cutting the Rail Joints

When measuring the width and length of the bed rails, I made a mattress template out of 1/8″ hardboard.  Then I added some room, about 5/8″ on either side and end, for ease of making the bed and added the required length to accommodate the size of the feet.  Then I measured in 1-3/16″ from each end, to allow for final trimming, and made my joinery cuts at the table saw (see the photo below).  This was done for each joint individually.  Also, note that each rail end was milled to be a tight fit in it’s foot position and then block planed to about 1/32″ thinner.  This allows for easy test assembly but allows for finish build up to make it a nice slip fit when completed.

The foot, foot rail, and side rail joints.
The foot and side rail joints.

Notice how the top of the rail is proud of the foot and is bottomed out.

Foot rail is in place.
The foot rail in place.

Here is a view of the feet and rails all set up.  Also, the headboard stiles are in place.

The rails are all fit into the feet.
All rail joints are cut and fit to the feet.

Here you see the stile of the headboard inserted over the side rail and into the foot.

How the headboard stile fits into the foot and side rail.
The headboard stile locking in the side rail.

The Raised Panel

The next order of business was to build the headboard.  My original plan was to make a solid alder panel with some square hole details (similar to what is seen on tatamiroom.com).  I then realized I had an unused piece of bubinga that had been sitting in my shop for 2 years.  I measured and it turned out to be long enough and have a good width for a nice raised panel.

Headboard material laid out.
Headboard parts laid out.

Next I had to decide on a profile.  I purchased a raised panel bit from MLCS Woodworking only to find I was not satisfied with the particular outcome of the test board.  I placed the bit in my bit cabinet and moved on to practicing making a raised panel on the table saw.

MLCS Raised Panel Bit #8685 on left and table saw profiles on right.
MLCS Raised Panel Bit #8685 on left and table saw profiles on right.

I set the blade height to 3/8″ and put on my auxiliary fence (plan from Fine Woodworking Magazine issue #231 by Bob Van Dyke) and set the feather board to the distance for thickness of the bubinga panel.  Keeping in mind that the new fence throws off the measurement tape on the fence rail, I used a steel rule to set the fence 1/4″ to the right of the blade.  Then the first kerf cut was made all around the board referencing the back of the panel on the fence.

Tall fence and featherboard used to make the raised panel.
Tall fence and featherboard used to make the raised panel.

After the relief kerf was cut I then removed the auxiliary fence and feather board, set the blade angle to 45 degrees and positioned the fence and blade height such that the bevel would be cut and not engage the 1/4″ tongue that was made in the previous step.  This was done on each side several times adjusting the fence as needed to remove material.

The panel is dry fit after all the grooves have been cut and the panel was sanded to 320 grit.
The panel is dry fit after all the grooves have been cut and the panel was sanded to 320 grit.

Now the headboard was glued up and ready for some detail work.  After some thought, I realize I should have pre-finished the bubinga with the oil I used on the rest of the bed just in case contraction and expansion revealed a bare streak on the edges.

The headboard all glued up and the panel sanded to 320 grit.
The headboard all glued up and the panel sanded to 320 grit.

Now that the entire perimeter of the bed was made, the mattress supports could be attached.  I set the rails and headboard in position, measured, and cut the mattress supports.  They referenced off the short posts of each foot and were 3/4″ thick and 1″ wide.  Glue and screws attached the supports and tapered face grain plugs (using this from leevalley.com) were cut to cover up the screws.

The mattress supports glued and screwed to the inside of the rails and plugged with tapered face grain plugs of the same species.
The mattress supports glued and screwed to the inside of the rails and plugged with tapered face grain plugs of the same species.

I was toying with the idea of adding a curve to the headboard rail and stiles but I had a thought.  If I were to cut a long subtle curve in the parts, then the whole thing may look odd because of the rectangular raised panel.  The curves and straight lines would conflict.  So I decided to employ a trick I learned from my buddy Marc Spagnuolo, The Wood Whisperer.  That was to use light to bend the wood.  I started by marking out where the curve would have been and then using a spokeshave I cut a long tapering bevel such that the widest point was in the middle of the rail and stiles.  I was thoroughly pleased with the result.  Incidentally, the Hock Spokeshave was a prize from the “Shop Stool Build-Off” in an earlier post.

Hock Low Angle Spokeshave shaping the rail and stiles of the headboard.
Hock Low Angle Spokeshave shaping the rail and stiles of the headboard.

The Details (15 hours of work)

Once the foot and side rails were ready for the trim piece to be glued on I needed to add the curve on the bottom.  I made a template that had just a slight peaking at 3/8″ to 1/2″ on the foot and side rails, respectively.  I removed the waste at the band saw close to the line and template routed flush to the line.  I then clamped the piece to the table and gave it the same treatment as the headboard rail and stiles.

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Shaping the bottom of the rail.

Now it was time to work on the trim pieces to tie the feet into the rails.  I milled four pieces to 7//8″ thick and 1-5/8″ wide then measured each length individually relative to its location.  Glue and clamps attached these pieces to the rails.  When the glue was dry, I scrapped it clean and planed it all flush with my Bailey 606 foreplane.

Flushing the trim on the foot and side rails.
Flushing the trim on the foot and side rails.

The last thing I added to the bed were two pieces of alder that would keep the headboard from leaning back and possibly splitting either the feet or the headboard itself.  They rest against the wall and act like stops.  These were cut about 2-1/8″ wide and tapered to the same width as the trim pieces at the bottom and glued and screwed to the back of the headboard stiles.  They were attached in the same fashion as the mattress supports then sanded by hand to 220 grit.

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Headboard back support and trim.

To blend all the lines together I chamfered all the edges that met at the feet.  This was done with file and block plane.

All the chamfers at the feet and rails.
All the chamfers at the feet and rails.

I also made a taper on all 4 sides of each foot set 1/2″ in from the bottom to give a little more clearance when walking around the bed.  This was done at the band saw and cleaned up with a block plane.  The ends of the rails were not sanded but were planed with a newly sharpened block plane.  I found this to be the easiest way to smooth out all the end grain on this project including the tops of the feet.

The foot detail.
The foot detail.

One thing I did not capture an image of was the mattress cross supports and the cross support spacers that were glued into place on the side rails, however, they may be visible in the photos during assembly.  The cross supports were made from poplar and milled to 5/8″ thick and cut to length.  All edges were chamfered at the router table and got one coat of spray lacquer and sanded lightly with 220 grit.

The Finish

I fully intended to just do a spray lacquer finish on the bed but after doing a few test pieces I decided to first apply Cherry Danish Oil first (paying close attention to the headboard panel to get into the grooves), then Tung Oil, followed by a week of curing, and finally the lacquer was sprayed on.  I used Sherwin Williams Hi-Build Semi Gloss Lacquer and the initial coat was full strength, followed by a light sanding with 320 grit and vacuumed the dust off.  This was done twice.  The final coat was mostly lacquer thinner with a little bit of lacquer, about 80/20 thinner to lacquer.  This last coat smoothed out the finish nicely.

The Assembly

This is straight forward so I will just caption the montage of photos.

Vinny and I sorting the cross supports.
Vinny and I sorting the cross supports.
Looking for #1, Sabrina Xin is helping now.
Looking for #1, Sabrina Xin is helping now.
Now the whole gang is here when Gianni joins the fun.
Now the whole gang is here when Gianni joins the fun.
First the feet.
First the feet.
Gianni feeling the felt.
Gianni feeling the felt.
Gianni and Sabrina Xin confirming the smooth finish.
Gianni and Sabrina Xin confirming the smooth finish.
Vinny helping with the first side rail.
Vinny helping with the first side rail.
Putting in the second rail.
Putting in the second rail.  Notice the cross support spacers.
Dropping in the headboard.
Dropping in the headboard.
Placing the first cross support.
Placing the first cross support.
The help.
The help.
Getting there.
Getting there.
All together!
All together!
Oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing.
Oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing.
Finished and made.
Finished and made.

Foot Detail

Headboard Detail

This was quite the build for me taking most of the summer in 110 degree heat with an even hotter shop.  I don’t know who is more excited about the build though, myself or my son.

I hope you found this to br an interesting and inspiring post.  Thanks for watching.

Tatami Style Bunk Bed coming mid 2017.

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