Many styles of beds are united by similar post-and-rail construction. By changing a few details, you can change the look of a bed to suit your taste. Shaker beds typically feature slab headboards and foot rails. Arts and Crafts beds have both a headboard and footboard made of slats or square spindles. Sleigh beds introduce a curve to their frame-and-panel construction. To keep the lines clean, most designs use concealed hardware. Because of their height, four-poster beds must disassemble completely. All four rails are connected by bed bolts, and the headboard floats in mortises in the posts.
Bed designs may vaiy widely, but sound constaiction is a critical part of any design's success. Fortunately, there aren't too many structural issues to deal with. First, you have to figure out the best way to support the mattress and box spring. Also, because most beds need to be transportable, they must come apart quickly and easily, and when put back together be rigid and silent. That means you must choose the best systems for joining the rails to the posts and the posts to the headboard. I've built countless beds during my woodworking career. Using the techniques I've learned, you can make any style of bed.
Beds come in a variety of standard sizes, but these standards are not absolutes. If your mattress is larger than standard, you'll have to adjust the frame size; if it is smaller, you should size the frame for a standard mattress so when the time comes to replace it, a new mattress will fit. In general, plan to leave Vi in. to V2 in. of space on the sides to allow room for the bedding. I sometimes leave a little more room at the end, with a footboard that rises above the mattress, so there is some space to hang your toes off the end of the bed or to make room for the cord of an electric blanket.
Jeff Miller is a furniture maker in Chicago and the author of Beds (The Taunton Press, 1999).
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