Mortising Jig #1: Mortising Jig for Bed Hardware

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Blog entry by Phil277 posted 01-24-2012 03:24 PM 10774 reads 4 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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The design of this came about when we decided to update our mattress for out bed. We’ve had a water bed for a long time and decided to buy a standard mattress. We didn’t want to change the headboard and foot board that I made a few years ago as it matches out bedroom furniture nicely. The waterboard had box frame that couldn’t be used with the new mattress I had to make standard bed rails. I bought steel bed rail fasteners to attach the rails to the headboard and footboard.
Now the fun begins. How do I mortise the ends of the rails and the legs of the head and foot boards to accept the hardware?

I decided the best way was to make a router jig to control the movement of the router. I could have bought bushings but like a lot of woodworkers I know I don’t like to buy things I may only use once. I decided to make a base with stops that will limit the movement of the router.

The block on the bottom is located to center the jig on the thickness of the material and provide a way to clamp the jig to the material.

-- The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. From a sign on a surfer bar in So. Calif.

5 comments so far

View bkap's profile


343 posts in 5505 days

#1 posted 01-24-2012 04:01 PM

Let us know if the three screws hold. A bed can have a lot of movement.

-- Rocking Chair Guy

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 4485 days

#2 posted 01-24-2012 04:18 PM

For only 4 shallow mortises, I’d place the metal where I want it, cut around it with a marking knife to get a sharp edge on the wood. Then I’d use my chisels to cut the mortise. As long as you don’t cut past the sharp line you’ve cut, even a first time woodworker can make a neat mortise. If you chop too deep, just fill the mortise with epoxy and push the metal in till it’s flush and wipe off the excess before it hardens. If you are careful, you won’t need the epoxy. To get the screws to hold in end grain bed rails, I’d cut the mortise 3/4” deeper and inlay a piece of hardwood with the grain running lengthwise and glue it in while bedding the metal. As bkap pointed out, there is a lot of stress on a bed frame. Or could be if you get a proper reward for your woodworking skills.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View Phil277's profile


300 posts in 3571 days

#3 posted 01-25-2012 03:04 PM

I appreciate your input.

Rocking chair guy – I understand the concern of bed movement but at 62 years old it’s not as much of an issue as it was in my 20’s. Seriously, the headboard and rail are made of oak and I will be using #10×2” wood screws from McFeeleys with deep threads.

Hal – if I only had to do 1 or 2 mortises I would consider the hand cut method. However I have 8 to do, 1 in each of the 4 legs and 1 in each end of the 2 rails. It’s the end grain of the rails that concern me the most. Also the rails are 3/4” thick and the hardware is 5/8” wide. That leaves only 1/16” on either side of the mortise. I think my chances of breaking through are higher than I am comfortable with.

-- The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. From a sign on a surfer bar in So. Calif.

View woodjunkie's profile


35 posts in 3916 days

#4 posted 01-25-2012 03:16 PM

I deal with the end grain issue by using a forstner bit to drill a 3\4 inch hole 1 1/4 inch from the end of the rail and inserting a 3\4 inch hardwood dowel with glue. Then I use longer screws to attach the bracket. Since my rails were 1 1/2 thick and yours are 3\4 you will probably want to use a 1/2 dowel. What ever method you use make sure to address the end grain issue.

-- He: Can I get the plans for that? Me: Plans???

View Phil277's profile


300 posts in 3571 days

#5 posted 01-26-2012 05:16 PM

The suggestions for dealing with screws in end grain are definitely helpful. I will definitely use one of the methods when I am ready.
I built the mortising jig that I posted when I began this blog. It worked very well when I tested it on scrap material. It was easy to clamp to the end of the board and stayed where I wanted it to. I am using a plunge router which makes it very easy to remove the wood in layers and get a nicely controlled cut. What I didn’t like about the jig was that it is not easy to make adjustments. When I clamp it to the stock, if it’s not centered on the thickness I remove more on one side than the other. I need it accurately centered centered.
I decided to revise the jig and add some adjustability to it.
This Sketchup drawing shows that I added slots to allow me to adjust the jig in all three axis.

The guides labeled Stop A control the length of the mortise, they are short because the part of the base of the plunge router has to ride over them. The guides labeled Stop B control the width of the mortise. The slots for the clamp block allow adjustment to control how the material is centered within the jig. The clamp block slots are counterbored to accept the head of T-bolts which will be used to secure the clamp block.
I have a Shopbot CNC router to cut out the base plate for the jig. I also plan to cut lines parallel to each guide block for reference when making adjustments so that I can easily keep the jig and guides parallel and square to the material.

-- The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. From a sign on a surfer bar in So. Calif.

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