So here is the result from my latest project, building a bed for my nephew, Caden. My sister-in-law found a bed at Pottery Barn that had drawers underneath that she thought would be a nice first big bed for her son. My helpful wife told her “don’t spend that kind of money on the bed, Paul can build that”.
While I appreciate the confidence, I prefer choosing my own projects. 🙂
Anyway, I set about designing the bed based on the picture in the PB catalog.
Here is how it turned out:
Caden just loves his new “big boy” bed!
Building a Bed
This was the first bed I’ve built, so I learned a bit along the way. First thing I needed to do was figure out the dimensions based on a twin mattress size. I then figured out what I wanted the headboard and footboard to look like and how to build the base.
For the overall “parts”, the headboard and footboard would be detachable and the drawers would be made up of two sections, one on each side. So while it would be difficult to move the bed around while assembled, it is easy to disassemble into the four components to move or transport the bed.
The headboard and footboard would be made up of posts for the legs with two “rails” along the top and bottom. In between the rails would be a series of 1/4” panels and 1×2 boards for some “depth”.
Next, I walked around the house with a measuring tape looking at various drawers to determine how big I wanted to make the bed drawers. I ultimately decided that three drawers on each side would be a good size.
Once the design was complete (and a rough cost of materials created and “approved” by my sister-in-law), it was time to start building!
Building the Parts
I get my lumber from Lowes and/or Home Depot, so I can’t really get boards thicker than 3/4 inch (i.e., 1 x dimensional lumber). This is fine for most projects, but for this one, I wanted the headboard and footboard to be thicker and sturdier.
So I bought poplar boards from Lowes and glued up three 1×3 boards (3/4” x 2.5” nominal) in a stack to create 2.5” x 2.25” posts for the head and foot boards. I also glued together two 1×4 boards to create the two rails of the headboard and one of the rails for the footboard. The other rail for the footboard was made with two 1×6 boards. This would match the 1×6 board I was going to use for the top of the drawer frame.
Here’s a shot of the glue-up of two of the posts.
Building the Head and Foot Boards
Since I needed the bed to be sturdy, I attached the rails of the head and footboards to the posts with mortise and tenon joints. I cut the tenons into the rails with the table saw fitted with a dado blade. I used a spiral bit in my router and a straight edge to cut out the mortises in the posts and then used my chisel to cut off the corners of the tenons to fit the rounded corners of the mortise. For my very first mortise and tenon joints, it was surprisingly easy and they fit together great!
Here is a picture of one of the mortise and tenon joints:
To create the head and foot board “fields”, I used 1/4 inch plywood for the panels and 1×2 boards in between (to provide depth and rigidity). I cut a groove in the bottom of the top rail (and the top of the bottom rail) and along each both edges of the 1×2 boards. This way, each 1/4” panel slides into the top, bottom, and sides like a picture in a frame.
One design “decision” I made was to not put a groove in the posts. This was mostly laziness since I didn’t know of a good way to cut the groove into the posts between the mortises at the top and bottom. I probably could have done a stopped dado on the tablesaw, but it seemed more work than was needed. Of course, this decision meant I needed to cut the two end panels 1/4” shorter than the rest (and made sure I paid very close attention during assembly to put them in the correct spot).
Here is a picture of the completed head and footboards:
Building the Drawer Frames
Next up was creating the drawer frames. First step was to create the face frames. For this, I used a 1×6 board across the top, 1×4 across the bottom, 1×4 for each end, and 1×2 in between the drawers. The boards were quickly assembled with glue and pocket screws since the screw holes would be behind the frame and unseen.
Here is a close-up of the back of the frame showing one of the joints:
And here is a shot of one of the completed frames:
To complete the drawer frames, I added 3/4” plywood for the “separators” between the drawers (and to hold the drawer glide hardware and attached 1/2” plywood for the top and 1/4” plywood on the back (which would end up between the two sets of drawers that make up the bed). I did not include a bottom as it wasn’t necessary and would only make the drawer frames heavier and more expensive.
So here is a picture of the two drawer frames (and me!) during assembly with the sides added:
And here is a picture of the completed drawer frames slid together to form the bed with the headboard and footboard placed next to it. I made one of the top panels slightly overlap the back panel and the other side slightly underlap the edge. So when the two are assembled, one side sits slightly on top of the other for a flush, clean look. It looks like a bed now!
Building the drawers was pretty straight-forward: I used 1/2” plywood for the four sides which were about 8 inches tall. I cut a dado groove around the bottom of all four sides and inserted a floating 1/4 inch plywood panel for the bottom. The sides were glued and nailed.
The front of the drawers would be 1×10 boards attached to the front of the drawer “boxes”. To fit these, I first just cut the boards to fit the holes in the frame. I wouldn’t attach the fronts until I had the drawer hardware in place which proved difficult (but more on that below!).
I didn’t take any pictures of the drawers during assembly, but here is a shot with the drawers in place so you can see how the drawers were built.
As I stated above, building the drawers was straight-forward, but fitting the drawers was another issue altogether and probably the hardest part of the whole project!
I naively decided to make the drawers inset (so they would be flush with the frame) which I had never done before. To get them to fit just right, I first added the drawer hardware to the drawer “boxes” (without the drawer front), and fitted them in place. With the drawer in the frame, I then used double-sided tape to attach the drawer front to the drawer box while ensuring it was flush within the drawer frame. I then carefully slid out the drawer and attached the drawer front to the drawer box with screws (from the inside into the drawer front).
Unfortunately, once I did that and then put the drawer back into the frame, they generally didn’t fit correctly and were a little off at the top and/or bottom and/or sides. In some cases, I had to cut off a 1/16” of an inch from the edge and in others I had to unscrew and reposition the front (and in some cases, both). What a pain!
Anyway, after spending several hours fiddling around with it, I got all the drawers flush and the results were well worth all the effort.
Here is a shot of one side (and I’m sure the other side looks even better 😉
Now that the assembly was completed, it was off to the finishing room (errr, basement) for priming, painting, and poly-urethaning!
Laura helped with the finishing of the bed (as she does on almost all of my projects). And by “help”, I mean that she does 99% of the work and I provide moral support! 😉
To make sure the headboard and footboard panels were completely covered with paint (since their edges fit into grooves in the rails and boards), we took them out and painted them separately, first.
So here is a picture of them being painted (with a view of the two drawer frames painted on the sides.
And here are two shots of the headboard: One partially painted and one completely painted (I’ll let you can guess which is which 😉
Each piece received one coat of primer, three coats of paint, and two coats (in some cases more) of poly-urethane (clear satin).
Here is the bed completely painted and assembled:
Note that we didn’t paint the top of the bed since it would be covered by the mattress. Unfortunately, I left about one inch around all four sides (bigger than the mattress size) and the top of the bed is visible with the mattress in place. We should have at least painted around the border of the top and it wouldn’t be as noticeable. Ah well, live and learn.
I would be interested in knowing from those people who have built beds; “Do you generally build the bed to the same size as the mattress dimension? For example, the twin mattress standard size is 39″ by 75″, so I made the bed a little bit bigger. In hindsight, I probably should have just made it the same size as the mattress
Caden loves the bed and once he’s used to his “big boy” bed, he won’t need the side rails and the comforter will cover up the white “top”, so it ultimately won’t be seen.
The headboard and footboard are attached with bed hardware from Rockler. The hardware consists of two pieces for each post (two on the headboard and two on the footboard). One piece is a plate that sits flat on the post and the other is a plate that fits perpendicular on the ends of the bed frame (screwed into the back of the face frame) which has two “claws” that fit into the plate on the post and slide down to hold the two pieces together. It took a little extra work to put the plates on the posts in the correct place and then I had to chisel out behind them so the “claws” could fit into the plate and lock in place. Once the hardware was in place, though, the headboard and footboards are “locked” and very, very solid. I was very happy with those fasteners.
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think in the comments!