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Installing Bed Bolts


This is an old hand-me-down bed frame. Several years ago I replaced the worn and twisted metal clips that held it together with newer, beefier, metal clips. That was a mistake, as they did not last.

I am now replacing them with bed bolts. I've had great success with bed bolts. They produce a strong and solid joint that does not squeek or wiggle. I've most recently used them in the cafe cart project, but I've also used them in a shaker bed project. Both of those projects are linked down at the bottom of this page.

The old metal clips interlock, and they seem great for the "knock-down" ability of the bed frame. But over time, they just bent, leaving a bed frame that is loose and squeaky.

First job was to disassemble the bed and bring it down to my shop.

I was trying to make this a quick project, so for most of the project I just set up the camera in the corner of the room or shop and had it shooting a photo every 5 seconds for a timelapse.

For installing the bed bolts, I need to drill a hole through the leg of the bed frame, and also into the ends of the bed rails. I can't fit a 6 foot long bed side rail under my drill press, so I need to drill into the ends with a hand drill. So, I first made a jig to guide the drilling of these holes.

Also, I wanted to add two dowels to each joint. These are mostly for aligning the joint, but they should provide a bit of support as well.

I cut a piece of wood so that it was the same width as the side rails. Then, using the drillpress, I drilled two 3/8" holes towards each end of the jig, to accommodate the 3/8" dowels. I also drilled one 7/16" hole in the center, for the bed bolt.

For drilling the ends of the rails, I attached a board to the side of the jig and clamped it to the end of the bed frame rail. I could then drill the three holes as needed. I used a bit of tape on the drill bit as a visual indicator for how deep to drill

Once the three holes were drilled I then also drilled a fourth hole into the SIDE of the side rails this hole was arranged to intersect with the end of the bed bolt hole. This is where the round brass nut is inserted that the bed bolt is fastened to.

I placed painters tape on the headboard and footboard BEFORE I disassembled it, to indicate where the side rails attach to the headboard and footboard. I used that tape now to position the drilling jig. I also double checked this with a combination square to make sure that the jig was parallel to the edge of the bed frame leg. I clamed the drilling jig in position and then drilled the three holes that I needed.

One problem is that the bed frame legs are very thick -- Five inches thick. I do not have any extra long drill bits, so I had to get creative. I first drilled into the leg using the drilling guide jig. I then removed the jig, which allowed me to continue to drill the bolt hole deeper still. I finally used a 3/8" spade bit -- which was my absolute longest drill bit in that diameter -- to drill as deep as it would go. Spade bits are bit on the rough side, so I did not use it for the entire hole.

This drill bit was JUST long enough for the point of it to poke out the other side of the leg.

I could then flip over the headboard/footboard and locate that small hole, and use it to drill the required countersink from the other side.

The other issue I faced is that these bed bolts were only five inches long, and the bed frame legs were ALSO five inches thick. Therefore I needed to drill a countersink a full two inches deep, in order to allow the bed bolt to extend two inches into the side rails.

After all the drilling was complete, I could bring the bed frame back upstairs and re-assemble it. Here you can see how two dowels are added. These mostly help with aligning the side rails to the footboard. Otherwise with just one bed bolt, the side rails could just spin in place. The dowel holes keep it locked into the proper orientation. They also provide a bit of support and strenth as well.

Next two photos show inserting and fastening the bed bolt with a ratchet. The bed bolt is fed through the hole in the leg, and into the matching hole in the side rail. The brass barrel nut is then slipped into the side hole in the side rail, and the bolt is attached to the barrel nut, which secures the side rail firmly to the headboard or footboard.

Here is an overview of the assembled frame.

The next two photos show a close-up of the side rail, from the inside and from the outside, with the bed bolt and barrel nut fully in place and tighted down. The inside looks pretty rough, where I removed the old metal clip hardware, but that will all be hidden by the box spring.

At this time, I did not try to clean up or re-stain the bed frame. This project was just about replacing the hardware with bed bolts.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)

Bed Bolts at Lee Valley Tools (non-affiliate)
Similar items at Amazon
NOTE: I bought my bed bolts at Lee Valley. Amazon appears to carry similar items, but watch out, many of these seem designed for cribs. You'll want 5" or 120mm or longer bolts. Also note the Lee Valley ones come with washers, and the ones I see on Amazon don't seem to do so.


SensGard ZEM hearing protection
Stanley Leverlocks -- love these tape measures
Other auto-locking tape measures
Robertson Screwdrivers
Robertson Screws
AKA Square Screws
Robertson Driver bits also
Picquic — some of the best “multi-bit” screwdrivers around
(But get the ones with Robertson tips!)
Torx Screwdrivers (If you must)
Hitachi 10.8V Tools
Ridgid compact 12V drill


Thanks for reading!

See Also:

Shaker Style Bed

Harvest Table (Part 1)

Writing Desk in a Weekend

Mobile Cafe Cart