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Bed From Construction Lumber


My son asked me to build him a bed. He wants a fairly simple design, with straight lines and no curves, and with extra room underneath for storage. Also, he wanted it to be black.

This is the design that I came up with in Sketchup. I based the overall dimensions on the bed that I built my daughter back in 2012, but I took out the curves, and raised it a few inches.

I know, this sketch is not black. Working with black-on-black objects in a drawing program doesn't work.

Here are the plans, with dimensions added. This is what I used to guide my building of the bed. These dimensions assume a standard twin bed mattress which is 75" long, by 38" wide.

These plans are provided here at no church. However, if you would like to thank me for this, please see my support page!

I started by going to the local big box building center and picking up Five 8ft long 2x10 boards. This should provide enough lumber for the body of the bed. (Not enough for the mattress support slats, but more on that later.) 2x10 boards come from older and larger trees, so you can find some really nice straight grained boards if you sort through the pile a bit. Most boards will NOT have the pith (center) of the log, which is preferred. Ideally, you do not want any boards with pith in them.

I have a video that goes into the reasoning behind buying 2x10s in more detail.

I let the boards rest and acclimate in the shop for a few days, and four of them were great, but one of them had a bit of twist. (I honestly don't remember if there was a touch of twist in the store, or if this happened after I brought it home.) This was the one board that had pith in it, so it should not be a surprise, as the center of the tree is the most unstable.

I cut the twisted 2x10 up into shorter boards and then ripped it down to 3" wide planks to use for the four legs that I need. By cutting it up into shorter boards, the small twist was no longer an issue.

I jointed one face to flatten the boards and then glued and clamped the boards together in pairs to make the leg blanks. To be clear: each leg is made by glueing two boards together. This gives us something around 3 inches square.

After the legs had dried, I flatted two faces on the jointer and then ripped them down to 2-1/2" square pieces, which was the final size wanted for the bed legs.

WHILE the legs were clamped up with the glue drying I also glued up two pieces to make the larger piece of the headboard. I don't show it, but I first cut two chunks from one of the nicer 2x10 boards, and then planed it a bit to take off the milling marks. Final thickness was a bit over 1-1/4" thick. (The exact thickness is not really that important)

If you watch the video above, I did NOT do this, but I SHOULD have also prepared the footboard and the lower headboard planks at the same time, since they need to be planed to the same thickness. These do not require any gluing, just cutting an appropriate sized piece out of the 2x10 stock.

(actually, if they're not planed to absolutely perfectly the same thickness, no one will ever notice.)

I used my Dowelmax jig to drill 3/8" dowel holes into the headboard, the lower headboard, and the footboard.

For the legs, I added spacers to the jig to offset the holes. (The dowel max jig references off of the side. If you use a jig that self-centers then you don't need to worry about this.)

Holes were drilled and then I confirmed that they all lined up with the holes in the headboard.

I popped in some 2" long dowels and dry fit the footboard and headboard assemblies to ensure everything was correct.

I then marked the legs for an inside taper. I prefer to cut the taper AFTER I have drilled all the joinery on the legs, as it is easier to work with the stock when it is square. Now that I have the joinery drilled and have completed a test fit, I can cut the tapers. These are tapered on the two inside edges. So I need to be careful and mark the orientation of all the boards so that I am putting the taper on the correct sides. Note the pencil marks on the bottom showing the size of the foot. In my Sketchup plan I had planned on a 1-1/2" foot, but when I drew it out it seemed a bit small, so I changed things to taper down to 1-5/8". It's not a big change but I liked it.

The tapers start 11-1/2" up from the bottom -- which corresponds to 1/2" below the lower edge of the lower front headboard. I cut the tapers on the bandsaw freehand. I have never built/bought a dedicated tapering jig. I find cutting freehand works well enough. I then smoothed out the tapers using a handplane and the stationary belt sander.

I rounded over all edges with a 1/8" roundover bit in the palm router, sanded the pieces, and then glued and clamped the headboard and footboard assemblies. IMPORTANT: you will need some long clamps for this. I had only TWO clamps that were long enough to clamp these. I needed something that could clamp 45".

I could then move on to the side rails. I took my final two 2x10 boards and cut them down to the 75" length needed, planed them a bit to remove the milling marks. Final thickness was about 1-3/8". I then ripped them on the tablesaw at 7". The seven inch part is the side rail, and the offcut -- which is about 2-1/2" -- would provide support for the mattress support slats.

These boards were pretty straight, but I still glued them together by clamping them to my assembly table, which IS flat. The fact that they are glued together in an L-shape will help keep them flat, but clamping them to a flat surface while they are glued also helps.

After the glue dried I rounded over all the long edges with a roundover bit. (ie: NOT the ends of the side rails, as that is where it will butt up against the headboard and footboard). And then I also sanded the piece to 150 grit.

I will be using bed bolts to attach the side rails to the headboard and footboard. I've used these on other beds, and I find that they give a strong and solid joint, which does not squeak, and can be easily taken apart for moving.

I borrowed this image from the Lee Valley website, which is where I buy my bed bolts. It gives a cutaway view of how bed bolts are used

In addition to the bed bolts I will use two dowels in the joint. These will NOT be glued. There are just there for alignment and a bit of extra support, but mostly to keep the side rail from twisting.

The side rails are 7" tall, and we want the top of the side rails to be 22" above the floor. Therefore I measured up 15" from the bottom of the headboard/footboard legs (22-17=15) and made a mark to indicate the bottom of the side rail butt joint. I then brought this mark around to both the back and the front of the legs.

On the outside of the leg we need a larger countersunk hole, to receive the head of the bolt. On the inside of the leg we will need three 3/8" holes -- two for dowels, and one for the bed bolt.

The headboard/footboard assemblies could definitely be drilled on the drillpress, but the side rails are far too long for that. So we need some sort of a drilling jig to guide the holes that we need to drill. I am using my dowelmax jig for this, but you could also just make a jig using a piece of wood that is the same thickness as the side rails. Just measure carefully and drill the guide holes using the drillpress, and then use the jig for drilling in the pieces.

I reconfigured my Dowelmax jig to clamp from below, instead of from the side, and positioned it on the outside of the leg. I then inserted a 3/8" brad-point drillbit and tapped on it with a hammer to mark the point in the wood. We are just marking the location for the center hole -- the one for the bed bolt.

I then removed the dowelling jig, and used a forstner bit to drill a countersink hole for the head of the bed bolt.

I then flipped the leg over, reattached the dowelmax jig, indexing it off the line we had marked at the 15" point, and drilled the three holes we need. The two outer holes were just the regular depth, for the dowels. But the center hole I drilled all the way through the leg.

I was pleased to see that it lined up exactly with the center of the countersunk hole I drilled on the other side of the leg.

I then reconfigured the dowel jig again so that I could clamp it to the side of the side rails, and use it to drill the matching holes in the side rails. (In the background of this photo you can see the footboard with the three holes in it). Again the two outer holes -- the top and bottom ones -- are regular depth for receiving a dowel. The center one needs to be deeper, which we now will determine.

I placed the bed bolt in the leg, and then measured how much protrudes from the other side. I added a bit for insurance, and so I need to drill the center hole to a depth of three inches.

I put some green tape on the drillbit to mark three inches of depth and then drilled out the center hole in the side rails. I moved up one size of drillbit from 3/8" to 13/32" in diameter, so there would be just a LITTLE bit more wiggle room for fitting the bed bolts.

I then drilled side access holes into the INSIDE face of the side rails to hold the barrel nut which the bed bolts attach to. This required some careful drilling as I wanted to drill deep enough for the bolt to easily engage the barrel nut, but NOT drill all the way through the side rail. This way these holes are hidden from the outside face of the bed.

Here I am fitting a side rail into place. There are alignment dowels in the top and bottom hole, and the bed bolt in the middle.

Next step was to make some mattress support slats. I didn't want to buy more wood, so I just looked through my stacks for uglier boards, as these don't need to look nice, they just need to support the mattress. Note the top board on the pile has a lot of wane (the edge of the tree) in it, but this will be flipped down, so it won't matter. I ended up with one spruce, several maple, and three that were glued up from thinner boards of ash and cherry.

I made slats that were 4-1/2" wide as that suited the stock I had on hand. I've seen slats as narrow as 3", so there are lots of options here. You just would need more total slats if you made them narrower. With my boards I spaced things out and with 11 boards I had a gap of just a tiny bit more than 2-1/2" between each slat. (The slats are 4-1/2" by 1" thick, by 40" long).

I cut a bunch of 2-1/2" long spacers and glued and nailed them into place along the inside of the side rails. (They're 3/4" thick, by about 2" wide, but none of those are critical measurements. They just need to be no thicker than the mattess slats, and no wider than the supporting part of the side rail.) I sanded them and rounded over their upper edges before fastening them into place.

Here is a look at one of my dryfit assemblies of the almost completed bed. At this point the bed slats were all made, but not all the spacers had been finished.

I then spent several evenings painting the bed.

(This skips over a lot: I filled a few knot holes with CA glue, I also filled some with epoxy. There was a lot of sanding. There were several coats of black paint. I had to sand back and prime one face as the epoxy was showing through. If I were to do this again, I would sand more thoroughly, and prime the whole thing with good quality primer before applying the black paint.)

But in addition to all that, I also took the bed bolts and spraypainted the heads black, so that they would blend in better when they were installed into the bed.

And here is a look at the finished bed, assembled, with all the slats in place, ready to be delivered and installed.

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

Lee Valley - Bed Bolts
Irwin Quick Grip XP600 Clamps
Painter's Pyramids
Dowelmax Company
NOTE: at the time of publishing (May 2023) Dowelmax is not currently available on amazon. It has been in the past, so I am keeping the following links, but right now only the link above to "" is known to work.
Dowelmax Dowel Joinery Kit
Dowelmax Drill Guides for 1/4" Dowels
Dowelmax Dowels

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See Also:

Double Decker Nightstand

Shaker Style Bed

Installing Bed Bolts