Building the Marriage Bed

Barely one year ago, I shared a post entitled “One Last Bedstead,” in which I showed how I made a bedframe for my son.  I ended that post with these words: “that should be the last bed frame I have to make for quite a while.”

I now have to retract that claim.

This spring, my oldest daughter (whom we adopted only five years ago) got married.  She and her fiance had been planning a wedding late this summer. But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, they opted for an earlier wedding in the spring instead.  They held a very small ceremony with only the immediate family members who live nearby.

But more to the point for this blog, I had promised to build them a bedstead as a wedding present.  So when they announced to us that, instead of getting married in a few months, they would be tying the knot in a matter of weeks, the pressure was on for me to have the bed built, finished, and installed before the wedding.

I talked over design options with the bride.  She said she wanted a three-panel headboard, much like the one that my wife and I have.  But she said she planned to paint it instead of putting on a clear finish.  That was a relief to hear.  Preparing a wooden surface for paint is much simpler than preparing it for a clear finish.  The surface just has to be level.  It doesn’t have to be free of color blemishes, nor does it have to be sanded to a high grit.  Even little bits of tearout that would be accentuated by a clear coat can be painted over easily.

I didn’t take a lot of process pictures, but here are a few moments I did capture.

Like most of my recent projects, this bed was made from southern yellow pine, all cut down from construction-grade 2X stock from the local home centers.

Bed for N and J April 2020

This is a queen bed, so many of the workpieces are between 5′ and 7′ in length.  My jointer plane got a lot of use, both in straightening edges and faces and in preparing narrow stock to be glued up into panels.

Bed for N and J April 2020

Shaping the panels on the headboard was one of the really fun parts.  Each panel is beveled freehand with a series of handplanes.  The jack plane removes most of the waste.  The jointer plane establishes a straight line.  And the smoothing plane makes the final passes, leaving a perfectly smooth surface that’s ready to paint.  The beveled edges will fit into grooves plowed into the frames.

Bed for N and J April 2020

Gluing up large, complex pieces always requires some planning and forethought.  As you can see, the top and bottom rails are mortised into the posts and secured with drawbore pegs.  That means I didn’t have to clamp the assembly horizontally.  The drawbore pegs pull the joints up tight.  I just had to clamp up two of the dividers between the panels, which are tenoned into the top and bottom rails.

Bed for N and J April 2020

My daughter N painted the whole assembly herself–in the middle of our dining room, because it was raining outside and we were just about out of time.

Connecting the side rails to the headboard and the footboard was something of a challenge.  The rails have stub tenons on the headboard end, but those are mostly for alignment.  The real connection is done with Veritas bed bolts from Lee Valley.  As it happened, when I was building my own beadstead, I had bought a set of bed bolts, which come in a package of four.  I had used only two on my own bed and squirreled the other two away.  So I used them on my daughter’s bed.

Bed for N and J April 2020

The footboard connection was a little more problematic in execution, though in theory it was a good idea.  I cut long tenons on the rails, and mortised them into the legs on the footboard.  But because the footboard is also tenoned into the legs, I had to lay them out carefully so the tenons didn’t collide in the middle of each leg.  I secured each side with an unglued drawbore peg.  To disassemble the bed, just hammer the drawbore peg back out from the inside.

But herein lay the problem: The drawbore peg ought to have gone straight into the horizontal footboard.  So in order to allow for it to be tapped back out, I had to cut a large, rough trench in the backside of the footboard to allow clearance for a small hammer head.  Or, I THOUGHT I had cut the trench on the backside.  Once I had cut them, to my horror I realized I had cut them on the show side instead!  My daughter and I weighted options, and she finally suggested that I just lay a patch over the mis-cut holes.  See that horizontal panel running the length of the footboard?  Yeah, there are some ugly holes under that.

All that to say this: we got the bed built, painted, and installed in my daughter’s new place just a day or two before the wedding.

Congratulations, N & J.  May your marriage be long and good.

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1 Response to Building the Marriage Bed

  1. Joe W says:

    I actually like the strip of wood covering the hole. I think it gives a nice shadow line! Plus it’s a story that comes with the bed. Those things are of an enormous value!
    Thanks for sharing this, and three cheers for the bride and groom!

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