This is an over view on the making of a twin bed made from mahogany with cherry blossom inlay for my daughter.
If you want to see a more emotional version of the build video you can watch the video titled "A Gift For My Daughter."
Step 1: Choosing Material and Milling
As with any project, I start with the material choice. I decided to use mahogany for this bed because I wanted the bed to be a dark color after several years. Mahogany ages to a rich dark brownish red which I felt was a great choice for this bed.
After getting the material in the shop and letting it acclimate for a few weeks I laid out the parts in chalk and rough cut them out at the band saw and with a jig saw. Surfacing the parts begins with the jointer to establish a flat face and edge and the planer makes the opposite face parallel to the first and the table saw rips an edge parallel to the opposite edge making the material S4S. Cutting to length is the final step in part preparation.
Step 2: Make the Feet Blanks
Laminate the blanks to build the foot to 3" square. I like to glue up on wax paper to keep the mess contained
Step 3: Cut the Middle and Top Head/Foot Board Stretchers
I cut a T shape into 4 pieces of wood to make the stretchers for the feet in the head and foot board. The top stretchers were thicker than the lower ones. I started the T shape by making a rip cut at the table saw about halfway up the piece. A block plane cleaned up the corner and the burn marks from the table saw blade.
Step 4: Mortises, Bridle Joints, and Shaping
After the stretchers have been shaped I use an offcut to mark the shape on the feet for mortising and the bridle joint. Scribe the shape, drill the waste, and chop the rest. Go halfway through, flip it over and repeat. To cut the bridle joint I used a spacer to cut the first line at the band saw, then removed the spacer, and cut the other line. This gave me a proper sized joint for the top stretcher. Set-up was key. Measure twice.
I knew I wanted to use steel bed rail fasteners so I had to mortise for the foot bracket now while they were square. I did that with a straight bit in a router and then cut the shape in the feet.
Step 5: Cut the End Detail, the Center Notch, and Assemble
Layout the angle and step you want in the end of the two stretchers and cut them out with a hand saw. Cut a center stile to the length and trim the corners off making a sort of irregular octagon. Then mark out the center of both rails, use the stile to mark out the shape of the angled notch and cut the joint for the stile. Dry fit the whole thing and plan out the glue up. I used epoxy to glue the foot and head board parts.
Step 6: Create the Foot Board Inlay
This is a long process. I start with a drawing on tracing paper and use carbon paper to transfer the drawing to the work piece. Then I piece the stem parts out and cut them by hand using a fret saw on a birdsmouth fixture. Each piece is cut out, traced with an xacto knife, routed out with a small straight bit, and the piece is fit into the recess. Each piece is about 1/8" thick and the recess is just a bit shallower to allow for planing of the piece and final sanding. I used Ebony, Wenge, and Walnut for the stem pieces and Pink Ivory and Red Heart for the cherry blossoms. To add depth to the blossoms I darkened the centers by sand shading. You can see that in the video.
Step 7: Headboard Panel
This is the main feature of the bed so I spent a lot of time here I cut a piece of mahogany to the size I wanted the panel to be then beveled the edges. The inlay was created the same way as the foot rail. The pictures will speak volumes. It is necessary to mention this inlay took 63 hours to complete. The foot rail inlay took 25 hours.
Step 8: Make the Headboard Frame and Crest Rail
The crest rail has a long curve in it and a detail at the ends. Make a template. That is key to getting a symmetric crest rail. Roughly cut the work piece close to the template line, attach the template, and use a pattern bit to flush the work to the template.
Then mark locations for the end points for the groove for the panel. Bury a slot cutting bit in the router fence and make start and stop cuts.
The stiles which join the crest rail to the head board base need to be marked and cut by hand to fit the curve of the crest rail. Do this carefully with a marking knife and chisel. Once the proper fit is established dry fit all the pieces together for a test run before glue up. The stiles are joined to the crest rail and head board base with dowel joinery.
Use an 1/8" round over bit in the router to ease all the edges before finishing. Tip: sand all the parts to 180 grit, round over the edges, then sand with 220 grit paper. Finish with 320 by hand sanding with the grain.
Step 9: Make the Rails
Use a spacer for a pre-measured distance from the top to reference for the mattress support. Glue and screw the supports into place.
In the end grain of the rail mark the location for the bed rail hardware. Use a router and a edge guide to help keep the router in place as you make the mortise. Pre-drill holes for the screws and drive the screws snug. Do not over tighten.
Step 10: Make the Mattress Support System
I like to make the support slats from a secondary wood such as maple or poplar. For a kid, poplar is perfectly fine. In fact, my adult brother (in the 220 lbs range) has slept on a bed I made with poplar slats and none have been broken. Additionally, I like to dovetail the ends instead of having straight slats. The dovetails keep the rails pulled tight, in case someone decides to be funny and jump on the bed or move it by pulling on the rail. To match the dovetail with the "pin" I use a spacer to find the location for each slat, mark the location, and cut a spacer pin to match. I do this for every slat...all 28-32.
Step 11: Wipe on a Finish
After a finish sanding of 320 by hand (and a light rubbing with a $100 bill, for all you The Dusty Life listeners) I wipe on an oil finish to bring out the grain in the wood. Take note that the headboard panel was finished before assembly so when the seasons change and the wood moves there are no unfinished marks on the panel's perimeter.
Step 12: Assemble
Clean the location, put up the head board, use wood screw clamps to hold the rails up as you attach the foot board, and place the slats in their marked locations (I numbered each one).
Make the bed and kiss you daughter good night (or your son, grand child, who ever you made this for...if they are part of your family).