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bed frame

The slow surfaces of the headboard are supported by five internal frames, consisting of a ¾-in.-thick plywood rib and a ledger laminated from three layers of 1/8-in.-thick plywood. The frames are spaced evenly across the width of the headboard and span from the crest rail to the top of the end rail. Again, I used patterns taken from my full-scale drawings to lay out and cut the five ribs. The ledgers were then glued and screwed to the rib’s edge to from the frames. The two outer frames were screwed to the inside face of the upright post, while the other frames were positioned and then screwed into the bottom of the crest rail. Although the bottoms of the frames are not secured at this time, once the outer face panel and the inner rosewood tambours are screwed in place, the entire structure becomes extremely rigid.


Rosewood tambours, curved laminated panels and some easier alternatives

With the framework complete, the next steps were to form the curved veneered panel for the outer face of the headboard and to apply the rosewood tambours on its inner face.

Bending, laminating and veneering the panel was a complicated and involved procedure that required gluing together three layers of 1/8-in.-thick plywood clamped between a male and a female form to shape the panel to the appropriate curve. As a way to avoid this process and simplify the construction, recommend the same straightforward technique that I used on the inner face of the headboard to apply the rosewood tambours; this procedure screwing through a tongue on each tambour into the ribs of the internal frame- is much the same as installing tongue-and-groove flooring. You might also try sliding canvas-backed tambour panels into grooves routed into the upright posts, in the same manner that tambour roll-top desks are made. However, the fit between the tambour won’t be nearly as good as the method I used due to the changing radii of the various curves.


As a way of highlighting the rosewood tambours inside, I chose a smooth veneered panel for the outer surfaces of the headboard and footboard. I glued up these core panels with phenolic resin adhesive because of its extended drying time. The cores were shaped by clamping the laminated (three pieces of 1/8-in.-thick plywood) in the vacuum bag between a two-part form. This gave the panels the necessary curvature, which was shaped using spring poles off the ceiling of my shop. Once the cores were pressed into their corresponding shapes between the two forms, the vacuum pump was turned on. Pressure was maintained throughout the approximately nine-hour set-up period. When the glued dried, the lamination was removed from the press, and the curved surfaces were scraped and faired. Although there was some springback, it proved manageable. Then I repeated the entire process to apply the fiddleback mahogany veneer to the core. After cutting and planning the finished panel so that it fit between the posts, I fit its top to the routed groove in the crest rail and its bottom flush to the head rail.


The rosewood tambours that I used on the inside surface of the headboard are made up of 5/8-in.-thick by 1 ¼-in.-wide strips, each lightly radiused, scraped and finish-sanded to 600-grit. Fitting and fastening these tambours was the last major procedure in making the headboard. I used splines instead of standard tongue-and-groove joints to allow me to plane both edge of the tambours for a precise fit and to conserve the precious rosewood. I first jointed the approximate edge angle needed for each tambour and then fine-turned the fit with a bench plane. A 1/6-in.gap between tambours accommodates normal wood movement. After fitting each tambour, I grooved its edges with a slot cutter on my router table.


To install the tambours, assembled and leveled the bed rails on sawhorses, and then attached the headboard and footboard units. The first tambour, which fit into the recess routed in the crest rail, has a groove in one edge and a lap joint along the other edge that fits the crest rail’s routed groove. I epoxied a spline into the groove of this fist tambour, forming a tongue, and then predrilled for and fastened “trim-head,” square-drive screws through this tongue and into the internal frames. All subsequent tambours were grooved on both edges. The groove on the top edge slipped onto the tongue of the preceding tambour, and, working from the top down, each tambour was in turn fastened to the internal frames through the tongue formed by a spline epoxied into the bottom groove. The tambours continue down below the level of the mattress and terminate just above the head rail.

Final touches: carved sunflowers and preparation for finishing

The final details of the headboard were the carved sunflowers that fit into the recesses at the top of the upright posts. The petals were first carved in the endgrain blanks parted from the ends of the mahogany crest rails. Next, the carved blanks were mounted into their recesses with screws that were in turn concealed by chip-carved rosewood seed pods that fit into mortise in the center of the sunflower carvings. To carve the seed pod, I photocopied the pattern and then glued copies to preturned and fitted blanks with spay-on contact adhesive. Paper patterns not only save time when caring multiples, but also eliminate trying to see pencil lines drawn on dark wood, like the rosewood. By turning the seed pods with slightly tapered sides, I could press-fit and spot-glue them into the recesses in the centers of the sunflowers. This way, I could pry out the seed pods to gain access to the screws for disassembling or reparing the headboard if necessary.


I used different techniques to prepare the various materials of the bed for finishing. I sealed the veneered surfaces with a washcoat of 1 ½-lb.cut shellac before sanding, working up to a final sanding with 600-grit. I sanded the rosewood to 600-grit and buffed it with a soft brush to draw out the natural oils and give it luster. All the other surfaces were wet-sanded to 600-grit. I finished the bed with eight coats of Livos Kaldet Oil, a non-toxic, citrus-bas oil finish. Each coat was applied with a soft cloth, allowed to sit for up to two hours and then wiped dry. I light rubbed down each coat with 0000 steel wool.