Beds revisited

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Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Location
Perth, Australia
Part I: Morticing made easy

Recently I built two beds, which I have just got back to. Having completed them, I discovered that they were 40mm too long and too wide! Duh ... after many measurement checks!

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Obviously this meant pulling them apart and shortening the lengths and widths.

The head-and foot board leg joinery is loose mortice-and-tenon. 110mm long x 10mm wide. This was made fairly easy with a Domino machine. The loose tenons were sized on a jointer/thickness-planer, and then rounded over on a router table. All wood is Jarrah. The aim was for an exact fit.

I am really appreciating the extra bench top space afforded by the new MFT table (yes, the Veritas hold down, although it is sized for a 19mm dog hole works very well on a 20mm dog hole) ...


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I made a small positioner to mark the centre of the domino, and plunged for the outer ends ...

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Then complete the mortice by nibbling away the centre section ..

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Tight fit in the rail ..

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Tight fit in the post ..

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This was taken during the earlier build, and how the legs are once again ...

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Part II: Construction

Rebuilding two single beds was a lot of work. To correct the oversizing, the beds were taken apart, and the rails shortened. Then the head- and foot boards were shortened, re-morticed, and re-glued. And finally, all the slats had to be shortened by 40mm, which was not a simple matter. More on this in a while.


About the beds and their design: One of the reasons I am posting the build details is that I hope it helps others in a similar position.


About 25 years ago I build a fantastic Jarrah King size double bed for my wife and myself. It was deliberately built 25mm over-width (which made it appear even wider) ...



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The reason for this is my wife is an incredibly light sleeper, especially since our son was born 3 decades ago, and will wake up if I even roll over in bed. We spent a small fortune on mattresses ... all those special ones which promised to smother any vibration. Well, all I can say is that I am lucky I was not smothered in my sleep! The solution for a while was the King size bed with two single mattresses, pushed together, but able to be pulled apart by 25mm if I was restless in sleep. The issue with a single bed is that vibration is transmitted by the bed frame. Consequently, I decided to build two beds which would actually become a double bed, but able to be separated if needed. I will explain this in a while.

As mentioned, these beds are done. Now I have a new headboard to build, which is for another time.

My wife stipulated no tail board for the beds as they make is far more work when making up a bed. My preference was for clean lines, which meant that I did not want visible bed bolts. Bed bolts are used, but they are hidden.

Here is the start of re-assembling the beds ..



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The head and tail ends are constructed with a mortice-and-tenon (this was the post made recently on morticing with a Domino). The side railed are connected with hidden bed bolts.

Here are the side rail connections. When the rails were shortened, so the bolts in these rails needed to be ..



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The bolts are fixed into inserted metal threads in the posts permanently with Loctite. The post and rail are locked with double loose mortice-and-tenons (no glue) and then bolted in the rail ...



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The slats for the beds are made in two parts ...



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They are a T-section, which makes for a very rigid structure ...



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... and screwed down for extra strength.


Now the secret to making a double bed out of two singles lies with the rails. The slats on the outer sides are lower by 6mm (1/4") to aid in preventing the mattress slipping off the base, but also low enough to make it easier to tuck in sheets, etc.



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The slats on the inside rails are flush with the top ...



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... enabling two mattresses to be placed alongside one another. Conversely, it is easy to pull them apart.


The Jarrah is finished in hard wax oil, and the result is quite stunning. Difficult to see in this light ..



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Now I am left with the headboard to make, which will be secured to the wall and not the beds. The wood will come from these ...



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Laminations and curves are planned.


Regards from Perth


Derek

 
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Laminating curved slats for a headboard

It was a bitter-sweet task to pull apart the old headboard ...



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I recall making this, 25 years ago, in the 10 days my wife was away visiting her mother. I wanted it to be a surprise on her return. I got it done the night before her return ... sweating and swearing as I struggled to fit the slats into their mortices, align all, and pull together the glued mortice-and-tenon joints in this impossibly-heavy-for-one-person Jarrah beast. But there is no point in keeping it, and a lot of good Jarrah to re-use.



There are 13 x 12mm thick and 50mm wide slats ..

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The plan was to re-saw them into three equal slices and then laminate them into a curve for the headboard ..

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Each slice came out at a smidgeon over 3mm. This should end up about 9.5mm or 3/8".



The headboard is to be attached to the wall. It will have a mortice-and-tenon frame, with curved vertical slats. Where previously the slats were 50mm wide (for a Mission-style bed), these will each be re-sawn into two, making them around 24mm wide. There will be 26 slats in all, with the thinner slats now offering a more modern look.



The frame will be cut from the 100x100mm bed posts. The profile from the side is something like this (will be tweaked) ...

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Making templates for bending ...

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Each of the templates - there are 6 in all - are covered in packing tape for release, and screwed to a backing board to keep all square ...

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Even with 3mm sections, the combination is pretty stiff, but responds to clamping ...

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The plan is to glue using two-part West Systems epoxy. I think that epoxy is a better choice here than a glue such as Titebond as it will create a rigid setting, one with minimal springback. I am using the fast setting (8 hour) hardener as I have no desire to be doing this all for many days on end.

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Now a question I have is in regard to the re-sawn slats: these are straight off the bandsaw and have not been planed or sanded. The leaves are too thin to send through a thickness-planer, and I do not have a thickness sander. The finish I have is decent insofar as the leaves are even in thickness and all appears straight. My plan is to add a dark brown tint to the epoxy, which should hide anything showing at the edges ...



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Your thoughts on this? Is the tinted epoxy going to create a good finished section, or must the leaves be sanded?



Ready to go tomorrow ..

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Regards from Perth

Derek
 
There were some concerned comments (on WoodCentral forum) when I planned to laminate 6 of the slats without a test run. I reasoned that the slats had already been re-sawn (into three leaves, and at 3mm was the thinnest I was prepared to go), and this would either work, or not. If it did not - too much springback - then I would just start again.

There was also concern that I chosen the 205 "fast" hardener but, as I mentioned to Keith and William (below), I was after a faster cure time. I felt that I could work with the pot life time.

There were a few preparations, such as creating the formers, getting all the small clamps together, and readying the epoxy. One last tactic was to add packing tape to the front and back of the slats ...

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The pump is useful for small amounts, and it went smoothly. After a thorough mixing, I added a tiny amount of brown oxide to colour the mixture. The epoxy was rolled on thinly to all inner surfaces. The work area ...

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Originally, the plan called for cauls, but in the end I found that they did not exert sufficient even pressure, and wound up using many small clamps ...

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Six was the maximum it was possible to laminate as I ran out of work surfaces ...

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I began mid-morning (I am still on leave), and by late afternoon I decided to remove 4 of the slats as the epoxy was hard. The first two ...

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There was 1mm, at the very most 2mm springback at the tightest section of the curve. Very happy with this.

Here are two slats on top of one another ...

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All went in square and has come out square ...

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Four slats alongside each other. Any variation is likely due to the sections being set in the formers slightly differently ...

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There are 4 more slats to add to these, and 5 left to lay up.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 
How did the slats turn out?

Out of the formers, the edges are planed with a block plane to remove the excess epoxy ...

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The edges were then jointed and thicknessed. The resulting edges show few signs of laminations and are straight and square edged.

Then returned to the former to mark off the dimensions ...

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The aim here was to centralise around the deepest part of the bend. What is important .. vital ... is that the curve of each slat matches up.



The ends are cut off ..

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I thought I would try and line them up vertically to check whether the curves matched ...

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But this kept falling over. So here they are lying down (where they cannot fall over) ...

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Good enough?

Regards from Perth

Derek
 
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It's beginning to look like a Headboard!

We left off with 17 curved slats for the headboard build ..

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The goal is to build a kingsize headboard, which will be attached to the wall. I shall come back to this at the end.

The Jarrah is salvaged from the previous headboard, and two side posts (55x55mm) and and an upper- and lower rails (55x30mm) have been cut to size. The rails are to be morticed to fit the curved slats.

The Gods were smiling on me as the laminated slats come in at as close to dammit to 10mm in thickness. This makes it possible to use the Domino as a morticer once again .... which is a win as this Jarrah is particularly hard stuff.


I decided to work on my bench, rather than the MFT, as the light was better to see the fine joinery lines.

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I have hooks attached to the ceiling to keep hoses and cords out of the way ...

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Careful marking out creates 17 x 50mm wide mortices on each rail ...

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A close up of one mortice. Note that the scribed outline is important. Also is the morticing just inside these lines ...

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I purchased cheap hollow mortice chisels in different sizes. This one is 10mm, a perfect match for the 10mm Domino-made mortice ...

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The side posts are shaped to match the profile of the slats. First cut out on the bandsaw, then shaped with a handplane ...

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A dry fit of the slats into the rails ...

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Now I decided that the curve at the lower end of the rails was too extreme, and shortened the slats at that end. This created a more gentle curve. See the profile of the post below ...

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This is the amount of curve now ...

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Back to work tomorrow, so the remainder will get done on the weekend: morticing the rails into the posts, and blending the profiles with hand planes. Then planing slight chamfers, breaking edges, and adding a finish.


Question for all: how to attach the headboard to the wall? Would you use a french cleat, or key holes? Or something else?


Regards from Perth

Derek
 
Final photos

It started with a King size Mission-style bed I built 25 years ago ...

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Lynndy had two complaints: firstly, she is an extremely light sleeper and would wake if I so much as twitched or rolled over. I had attempted to deal with this by including twin mattresses, which could be pulled apart (by an inch), if she felt disturbed. (As an aside, it is amazing the number of friends of ours who complain of the exact situation. Their solution is to play musical beds in separate bedrooms. They are not happy. This is a big reason I have posted this build). Secondly, Lynndy is the main bed-maker (I do make it as well. I promise). The high tailboard makes this a difficult and extra-physical process. She wanted a bed without a tail board.



What did I want? A happy wife? Okay, and a more modern-looking bed. I was over the heavy Mission style.



I built two single beds, which could be used as a single, kingsize bed. Here is one ..

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The key feature was the absence of any lips on the inside edges which would impede the mattresses. They slide together and feel like one. They can be pulled away, again by an inch, and this isolates vibrations (= happy wife).

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In line with isolating vibration, the bedhead could not be connected to the beds. It needed to be, instead, attached to the wall behind the beds.



My design choices were, firstly, to have a slim, clean built, and to do this I hid the bench bolts inside the rails.

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Secondly, to have a modern version of a Mission-style bed for the bedhead. The old slats were re-sawn and laminated to created a slight curve ...

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We left off last time at this stage. Now to complete the build ....



As the straight rails connected to curved posts, there was shaping to do to blend them together ..

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The bedhead was also to be hung using French Cleats. It was important, when all was said and done, that the posts lay flat against the wall. The top rail at the rear of the bedhead was lower, and the French Cleat would fit here ...

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One complication here is that the cleat needed to be shaped to fit the taper of the rails ..

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The cleat ran from 150mm inside the posts to provide some positioning options, if needed (cleat seen at top - the bottom piece is for the wall) ..

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It is difficult to photograph the bedhead and capture the angles and detail as the wood is dark, and the lighting in my workshop is not great. But here is the bedhead on the bench ...

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The curve is gentle but more evident in person. Not so evident here ...

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The slats look like a one-piece. The laminations are not evident ...

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On the bedroom wall ...

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Here can be seen the French Cleat, but also some of the fine details not evident before: the surround has a 6mm chamfer; all the other edges had the edges broken with a block plane (i.e. very fine) to retain the clean lines internally.

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The bedhead closer up ...

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... and the complete build ...

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Happy wife. Happy life. :)



Regards from Perth

Derek
 
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