A RUSTIC-STYLE WOODEN BED
By Matt Weber
PUBLISHED JANUARY 11, 2020
A few years ago I built my son a bed using reclaimed lumber from an old farmhouse owned by my grandparents.
I now have a second son and a two-year-old daughter, which means I'm on the hook to build two more beds. The bed shown in this article is one I made for my youngest son, combining the same old-growth pine with some new store-bought lumber to create an old-fashioned cabin-style headboard and heavy-duty bed frame. The only difference in design between this one and my oldest son's bed is the orientation of the reclaimed tongue-and-groove boards of the headboard—horizontal boards on the first bed and vertical boards on the second—a design detail you can customize for your own bed.
The following instructions pertain to a queen size bed, nominally 60-by-80 inches.
I used a 12-in. sliding miter saw to cut four 6×6 bed posts to 11 inches. For the bed frame, You’ll need seven 8-ft. 2x4s; four for the bed rails and three for the cross-members. The top of the frame is sheathed with 1/2-in. plywood flush with the edges.
Construction of the frame is fairly simple, with the exception of the notched posts that receive the rails. After cutting the posts to size and sanding them to an even height, mark the top ends with a Speed Square, allowing 3-1/2-in. of each 2x4 rail to set inside the corner posts flush with the outside edges of the bed.
[See photo for orientation of post notches to accept the bed rails.]
Use a circular saw to cut the notches (although you'll have to finish the cuts with a jigsaw, multi-tool or wood chisel).
Cut the 2x4 bed rails to length and insert them into the notches, using wood glue at all joints to help eliminate squeaking in the bed. Fasten the rails snugly using 3-in. wood screws. Use at least two offset screws driven through the face of each end into the posts.
The outside dimensions of the frame should approximate the size of bed you’re trying to build. This queen size frame measured 58-1/2 by 79 inches.
Fasten the cross-members by spacing them evenly between the end rails then driving long screws through the side rails and into their end grain. Use two screws at each connection. Make sure the top edge of the cross-members align flush with the top of the posts and bed rails.
Cover the bed frame with 1/2-in. plywood, butting the sheets together over the center cross-member. Screw the plywood down using 1-in. screws every 18 inches over the 2x4s and cut flush with the outer edges
of the frame.
I finished the bed frame with wood stain and two coats of polyurethane. However, I taped off its edges and left the interior plywood unfinished, since it would be concealed by a mattress.
PRESTAIN THE HEADBOARD
My first step was to lightly wash the old reclaimed 1x tongue-and-groove pine to remove loose dirt. I love the old, distressed wood, complete with pinholes and rich character, but didn't want the dirt.
Note that any 1x wood boards could be substituted for the reclaimed lumber I used.
Rip the rounded edges off the new 2×8’s. The 2x8 boards will composes a frame around the old reclaimed 1x boards. Cut the 2x8s to length, then rip 3x8-in. rabbets along the inside edges of the 2x8’s on a table saw. The grooves will conceal the butted ends of the 1x6 T&G boards.
I recommend pre-staining all visible headboard components prior to assembly. There are many options for finishing, but I wanted this bed to maintain the aged and weathered appearance of the reclaimed 1x6 boards. My plan was to combine the reclaimed wood with new store-bought lumber. To make the store-bought 2x8 lumber match the look of the old wood, I distressed the texture of the new boards. To achieve this effect, I beat up the surface, using a hammer, hex nuts and a trucker chain to dent and ding the wood. I even used a punch tool to add some characteristic termite holes that matched the reclaimed pine.
Because the new 2×8s had a much brighter color tone than the darker, weathered old boards, I applied a darker wood stain than I used on the 1x6 to achieve a close match between the old and new materials.
Assembly of the bed’s headboard begins with a 4×8 sheet of 1/2-in. plywood as a backerboard. All the other boards will be screwed onto the plywood backer. I used the sheet’s entire 48-in. height but trimmed its length to 59-1/2 inches.
Mount a 2x8 across the top of the plywood backer, cut flush with the edges. Screw it and glue it from the back with cabinet screws. Make sure the rabbet is oriented to the inside edge of the 2x8.
Install one of the headboard's legs, butting against the top 2x8 and aligning it flush with the edge of the backer. Screw it and glue it securely from behind. Make sure to orient the rabbet of the 2×8 legs facing inside. The legs extend beyond the bottom of the plywood the same distance as the height of the completed bed frame. In my case, the legs extended 11-1/2 inches (post height plus thickness of plywood sheathing). Clamps will help to hold the work-pieces steady while you fasten them together.
Note: When screwing from the back of the 1/2-in. ply, be sure to use screws short enough to avoid penetrating the face of the boards. Remember that although the 2x8s are 1-1/2-in. thick, the 1x boards only measure 3/4 inch, meaning any screw longer than 1-1/4 inch will penetrate the 1x board face.
At this point, I found it helpful to turn the entire headboard upside down and use gravity to help me keep the boards aligned. I laid out the old T&G boards loosely and adjusted their sequence to get the color and texture pattern I thought would look best to complete the field.
Once I was satisfied with the T&G board pattern, I applied glue to the plywood then re-clamped the boards on top using long pipe clamps to close the stubborn tongue-and-groove joints. I fastened them all by carefully screwing through the rear of the backer.
As I completed the T&G field, I installed the final leg, sandwiching the old boards between the two parallel 2x8s and squeezing the entire assembly tight with long clamps before screwing them in place. The next step of the headboard is to add the bottom 2x8 cut to fit flush between the legs.
I then flipped the headboard back upright to install the surrounding trim. To give the headboard some shadow lines and a more finished appearance, I installed 1x trim that I ripped from the old T&G. First, I ripped two trim boards wide enough to conceal the side edges of the headboard, plus a 3/4-in. reveal. I aligned the rear edge of these two side pieces with the back of the plywood.
The trim boards begin at the floor and end flush with the top of the plywood, fastened to the leg with wood glue and finish nails.
The final piece is the top trim board that creates a narrow mantle shelf on the headboard. The top shelf should be cut long enough to create a 3/4-in. reveal over the trim boards on each side. The shelf should also be ripped 3/4-in. wider than the side trim boards to create a 3/4-in. reveal along the top.
I used glue and a few trim-head screws to install the top trim piece. The trim screws have a small fastener head that is easy to conceal with wood filler and stain.
After the headboard was fully assembled, a few coats of polyurethane gave it a rich gloss that highlighted the distressed character of the wood.
The two sections of the bed will each be very heavy, so plan to move the completed headboard and bed frame separately. Recruit some help for the labor.
When you’re ready to assemble the bed, center the headboard along the back of the bed frame. Use an impact driver to drive a couple of offset 5-in. rugged structural screws through each 2x8 leg and into the 6x6 bed posts. Move the bed into place so the headboard rests against the wall.
Apply a mattress. Find a pillow. Take a nap.
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