Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 3
   January 2012
   Shaker-Style Bed

Years ago, I built a backyard ice rink for our children to skate on in the winter. Eventually the kids outgrew it and after disassembly I was left with a stack of 2" x 8" boards that needed a new purpose. Building a bed for my daughter seemed like a good project. The design was based on the classic lines of various Shaker beds, but the legs were redesigned to be square, instead of turned, eliminating the need for a lathe. This, along with a few other design choices, makes it a project anyone with some basic woodworking tools and abilities should be able to complete.

Stock Selection
Material used for furniture making should be kiln dried; still, you will likely need to stack the lumber for a few weeks until it's at the desired dryness. Also, look for the widest boards with the least number of knots and flaws. These come from larger trees, which produce boards that are usually close to straight grained. I used 2" x 8" boards, since that was what I had on hand. If I were buying new, I would look at 2" x 10" or even 2" x 12" boards. Above all, don't use wood from the pith (center) of the tree since it's unstable.

When my wood was dry and ready to use, I selected the stock with the straightest grain and the fewest flaws to use for the headboard and the footboard, since those are the most visible sections of the bed. The legs are shorter and narrower than the other pieces, so you can likely find suitable lengths by working around knots in boards that you might otherwise reject. I selected the two side rails last, since they are mostly hidden by bedclothes.

Headboard and Footboard Assemblies
  Footboard assembly
  Assembling the footboard
Start by gluing up the pieces to make the leg blanks. While those are drying, work on dressing and gluing up the headboard and footboard blanks. Once dry, these assemblies should be jointed and planed to final thickness and cut to length. The plan shows the legs at 2-1/2" square and the headboard, footboard and rails at 1-1/8" thickness. Adjust the dimensions to suit the bed's mattress; however, I recommend the side rails be no thinner than 1-1/8" to avoid trouble with the bed bolts later.

Lay out the legs, headboard and footboard and mark the pieces accordingly. I used dowels to attach the headboard and footboard to the legs. Mortise and tenon joints would also be a good choice. Drill or cut the mortise in the legs before tapering them. At 21" tall, the headboard might give you problems with wood movement. The traditional solution is to use a divided tenon to allow for some movement. I confined my dowels to the middle third of the headboard for the same reason.
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