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Other bed asssembly hardware

Other bed asssembly hardware


The side rails

There usually isn’t a whole lot to the side rails, beyond holding everything together. On most beds, they are simply rectangular boards. One reason that the side rails don’t get all that much attention is that the sheets and /or blankets will often cover them. However, there are plenty of ways to dress them up. expeciallyon beds with curves, the side rails can echo and complement the desin.

Structurally, the side rails connect the headboard and the footboard and support the mattress. This is accomplished most often with some sort of knockdown hardware so the bed doesn’t have to be moved in one piece.

Mattress supports

The last major component of a bed is something to support the mattress. This can be either a box spring-a wooden frame containing springs-or a platform foundation

Box-spring supports

Many beds have a box pring as well as a mattress. According to the International Sleep Products Association(ISPA), a box spring is sold along with about 80 percent of the mattresses in this country. Box springs are designed as a semi-rigid support. They can absorb some of the impact of a person sitting, lying, or even jumoing on a bed, which prolongs the life of the mattress. Many people find the springy support of a box spring more comfortable than wooden mattress supports.

From a bed builder’s viewpoint, it is easier to build a wooden frame bed for a box spring. While a simple mattress needs slats or a platform to support it, a box spring is supported around the edges. On all but a king-size bed, a simple wooden cleat or even a series of mattress hanger irons screwed in place around the inside of the bed rails is enough. On a king-size bed, which used two twin-size box spring side by side as the foundation, you need a support running from headboard to footboard down the middle of the bed and fifth leg in the middle of this support.

For years, i just attached this center support with small angle brackets. This functioned well but had to be brackets. This funtioned well but had to be screwed into place when setting up the bed. Now there is a specific piece of knockdown harware available just for this purpose. Its a little harder to install in the shop than the angle brackets, but when setting up the bed, you can just drop the support into place.

Platform foundations:

The alternative to th box spring is the platform foundation, which can support mattressses without a box spring. There are two common types of platform support: slatted and solid, which is made with plywood. In Europe, slatted foundations, often using laminated slats instead of solid wood ones, are very common. In this country, th term platform bed usually means a plywood support surface.

I much prefer slates for mattress support. Slats have some give and so act like wooden springs with each slat moving and flexing independently of the others. This makes for firmer support than a box spring, but one that is still flexibale. Although individual slats may not look stong enough to support people without breaking, once weight is distributed across them, they hold up very well and their support is quite good. Slats also allow the mattress to breathe through the spaces, for whatever that’s worth.

Slats are a bit more work to make than a simple plywood platform. They also will move around over time, leaving parts of the mattress usnsupported, unless you provide some form of alignment or attachment. Slats are also better at a different kind of moving around: they are very portable, especially if they’re piled together and strapped into two bundles, which are much easier to move than either a box spring or a sheet of plywood.

Plywood platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. A plywood platform is less trouble to make;but without significant support underneath, even a 3/4-in.-thick plywood platform will sag. Unlike the slats, the entire piece of plywood tends to sag as a unit.

Sagging plywood is definitly not comfortable to sleep on because you spine will match the sag. However, a recesssed box resting on the floor can easily support a platform on all bed sizes except the king. There, you can add additional structure inside the box. You can also use wooden or metal stuts underneath to support a platform without a box.

A well-supported plywood platform is fime to sleep on, although still firmer than a slatted platform. Utimately, this added firmness can shorten the life of a mattress, unless the mattress is specially designed for platform use.

A very different support problem is created by waterbed mattresses. These should have plywood platforms, but they must be reinforced with a more extensive grid structure underneath to help distribute the weight of the water over a greater area of the floor. Almost any bed design can be turned into waterbed by adding a support grid underneath the platform. There are commercially available metal frames that do the same thing.

Sizing a bed

To the sleeper, the most important part of the bed is the mattress. If the bed and platform are structurally sound, the mattress determines the comfort of the bed. To the wood-worker, however, nont of this is of much interest. The most important thing a wood-worker needs to know about a mattress is its size, and this is a big deal indeed.

Mattresses vary in size more than enough to cause big problems for the woodworker. The standard mattress sizes I’ve encountered are listed in the chart on p.10. I use them as a rule of thumb because variations in size are quite common. I’ve come across mattresses that were as much as 1 in. Wider or narrower than standard. The lesson here is that it’s very important that you measure the length and the width of the mattress you’ll be using with the bed. But don’t make a wooden bed to fit a slightly undersized mattress because a bed should outlast any particular mattress. It could become difficult later on to find another undersized mattress.

Mattress thicknesses vary far more than their width and length-up to 9 in. Many mattresses are still made roughly 6 in. To 7 in. Thick. But the trend in the industry is to make thicker and thicker mattresses. Some can be around 14 in. Or 15 in. Thick. This can realy cause problems on a bed designed for a 6-in.-to 7-in.-thick mattress by covering all or most of a headboard and footboard. If you want to use a thick mattress, adjust the proprtions of the bed to accomodate te added bulk.

Determining correct headboard and footboard rail lengths

It’s easy enogh to know you want the distance between side rails to be about 1/8 in. To 1/4 in. Greater than the mattress is wie. It’s anther matter, however, to translate hat measurement into the exact length of the headboard and footboard rails. This length depends on a combination of the space between the rails, the width of the legs, and the side rail thickness. A scale or full-size drawing will do the job. But I’ve devised two formulas described in “ Determining Rail Lengths.”

Bed Hardware

The real trick to bed building si putting all of these parts together. And you have to do it in a way that is very rigid and durable when the bed is together but still easy to take apart for moving or storage. There are many ways to address this problem but few taht really solve it well.

Bed bolts

The best solution that I’ve found is sitll a compromise: bed bolts. I rely on these in one form or another on almost all of my beds. No other fastener has the same reliability. The joint is very solid over long periods of time and can be easily tightened if necessary. There are drawbacks, however. Its not the easiest way to assemble a bed. You have to have the neccessay wrench in order to set up or disassemble the bed, and you have to keep track of both the wrench and the bolts when the bed is moved or stored. And bed bolts usually require holes in the outside faces of the legs- some people find the holes visually distracting.

Bed bolts come in several styles. You can still buy the traditional-style iron bed bolt, some form of which has been used in beds for centuries. These bolts have square head, a wide flange to seat securely against he bottom of the hole into which they’re recessed, and a pointed end to help thread easily into the nut that is embedded in the rail. They also require a special bed bolt wrench. Many woodworking and specialty period hardware catalog carry boh the bolts and the wreches.

You can also use simple hex-head bolts with nuts and washes from a hardware store. These are convenient to buy and a little easier to use because you don’t have to embed the nuts carefully into the rails.

They are slightly harder to work with during assembly, however, with the loose washers and nuts.

To solve the problem of safe storage of the less common assembly tool, I’ve also used socket-head bolts, which need an Allen wrech to tighten. You can easily make a notch for the Allen wrench on one of th side rail cleats, so its always available. However, long socket head bolts are not easy to find.

Using bed bolts

Whatever typle of bed bolt you use, it will not make a complete joint by itself. It holds the rail tightly against the leg but doesn’t prevent the rail from rotating or shifting up, down, or side to side. Bed bolts must be used in conjunction with a locating system that prevents this motion and ensures proper alignment.

On traditional beds, a very short tenon on the end of the rail is the most common solution. This tenon plugs into a shallow mortise on the leg that should be only about 1/4 in. To 1/2 in. Deep to avoid weakening the leg. The bolt runs through the middle of the mortise- and-tenon joint and secures it.

An alternative is to use two 5/16-in.-diameter dowels, one on either side of the bolt. They are not necessarily as strong as a mortise-and-tenon joint, but they’re still more than strong enough. Don’t forget that the bolt and nut hold the joint together. The mortise and tenon or the dowel is not glued.

Barrel nuts

A simple variation of the bed bolt and nut is the bolt and barrel nut. The only differenct is in the nut, which is a section of metal rod with a threaded hole running through it cross-wise. This makes it a litter easier to install the nut: you just drill a hole. However, this works better in concept than in reality. Barrel nuts don’t. For example, they only work on rails that are at least 1-5/16 in. Thick. Plus there is a need for either considerable accuracy or a fair amount of fussing to get the nuts to work properly.

Hidden Bolts

There are ways to use bed bolts without leaving holes on the ourside of the leg. You just switch the orientation of the bolt and nut so that the nut is embedded in the leg and he bolt is inserted through a T-shaped recess on the inside face of the side rail. The wide part of the recess allows you to tighten the bolt once it is fully in its hole. You’ll find this variation on the Craftsman-Style bed.

Other bed asssembly hardware

There are many other types of commercial mechanical fasteners available for assembling bed, incorporating various kinds of hooks, wedges, cams, and screws. The attaction of most of these is tat they are invisible from the outside of the bed. Most are quite convenient because they don’t require tools to assemble the bed- you just slip one part into the other and push down. Unfortunately, most of them fail to make a joint that is either rigid enough or durable enough over time.

There are a few things to consider when judging the potential of a particular fastener. First, do you hav to screw into end grain to attach the fastener to the bed rail? This is a potentially serious problem since screws will eventually pull out of end grain. To help solve this problem, you can drill holes in the rail and insert dowels perpendicular to the screw hole. This way the screws will pass through the long grain of the dowels.

Next, is the hardware itself well made?look for the sturdiest hardware you can find. Does it incorporat some form of a wedge to tighten the joint fully? The wedging action that comes from a tapered prong or hook allows you to tighten the joint simply by tapping down on the rail if it loosens over time.

If the hardware passes these tests, I like to try out the fastener in a mock-up joint to see if its easy to install and use, if there are any unusual dimensional requirements, and if it makes a rigid enough connection. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any perfect soluions-at least not yet.

Wooden knockdown joints

There are ways to make abed using wooden knockdown joints, too. These are not very common, but they can make solid connections and interesting additions to bed designs. There is a common problem with these joints: one part(either the side rail or the headboard or footboard rail) needs to protrude out from the bed edge so that there is enough wood for a solid joint. This can be brutal on shins. You can train youself to walk around, but I still have acars from my “training period” I don’t use these joints any more.

Storage under the bed:

Under-the-bed storage is a great way to use a large and otherwise space. After experimenting with all kinds of methods for hanging drawer off the bed frame, I’ve decided that having a drawer box rill on the ground works best. My design is very straightforward. Its just a box with casters-the fixed kind, not the swiveling ones-and the box pulls out almost straight as if it was on drawer slides you can pull the box all the way out from under the bed, which is a big advantage over drawers mounted to the frame. There are other, less complicated ways to make the storage box roll. You can get very low profile casters and also special bed box wheels that screw to the outside of the box. But I like the feel of the 2-in. Rubber-wheel casters, and they roll well on most surfaces though I wouldn’t go so far as to include shag carpeting.