Traditional bed bolts are forged to have a square-drive head that flares out, creating a broad bearing surface on the wood. Regular bolts employ a washer for the same effect. To install both types of bolt, drill a counterbored hole through the bedpost and into the rail, where it meets either a nut embedded in the rail (for the traditional bed bolt) or a nut and washer in a recess. The bolt alone is not enough to hold the rail securely and to prevent rotation, so either a shallow mortise and tenon or a pair of dowels is needed to complete the glueless joint.
A modern approach is to use bolts and washers with barrel nuts. This approach does not require a special wrench. Alignment of the drilled holes, however, is critical, and barrel nuts that are large enough to use with %6-in. or 3/s-in. bolts often require IVi-in.-thick rails. There are many approaches to dealing with the bolt hole in the post: The simplest is to treat it as part of a quality joint and to leave it exposed. More likely, you'll want to conceal it, either with a brass cover screwed to the bedpost above the bolt hole or with a simple mushroom-shaped wooden plug, although the latter tends to work its way loose.
A new bed bolt. Traditional bed bolts (rear) have stood the test of time, but newer bolts with barrel nuts (front) are easier to install. Simply drill a hole on the inside face of the rail and drop in the barrel nut.
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