Building a Cherry Queen Bed #4: Side Rails, Center Rail, and Slats

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Blog entry by jonah posted 07-05-2016 05:21 PM 2411 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: The Headboard Part 4 of Building a Cherry Queen Bed series Part 5: Finished the Bed and Lessons Learned »

After getting the headboard finished, I started on the side rails. I’d been thinking throughout the process about a way to get the mortises for the hardware into the end of the side rails, and I hadn’t come up with anything. I was trying to avoid routing sideways, which seemed absurdly dangerous, difficult, and generally a Bad Idea with my heavy router. If I had one of those lighter compact plunge routers I might have considered it, but my Ridgid router weighs a heck of a lot and it would be impossible to control sideways.

I was sanding one day recently when I had an idea to get the board in a position where I could safely use a router right side up:

We trucked everything outside, clamped the board to the railing on our back porch stairs, and I routed the mortises that way. It was even secure enough where I could chisel out the small amount of extra material I had to remove to get the hardware to fit. I’m not sure I have ever chiseled end grain before, but I was expecting it to be a lot hard than it was. It ended up being fairly easy to finesse the fit of the hardware. Unlike the post hardware, I went for a very snug fit in the end grain since I knew the screws wouldn’t bite well into it.

After getting the mortises done, I drilled holes and installed the hardware with 2 1/2” #8 square drive screws. It seems very solid. I even though about epoxying the hardware in place, but I figured that might be overkill and would prevent me from ever removing the hardware if I had to replace it for some reason.

With the hardware done, I milled and glued on the slat supports on the inside of each rail. They are just pieces of 5/4 material that is glued to the rail. I then started on the middle rail, which supports the slats in the middle. I’d intended to use a sort of a french cleat system to attach that rail. I glued and screwed this onto the headboard rail:

I then glued a couple more blocks onto the side to prevent the middle rail from slipping out of the cleat. That all went fine.

What didn’t go well is me forgetting to dimension the middle rail properly. Instead of measuring from the assembled bed, I went from my printout from the rough plan, which incorrectly had the middle rail as the same length as the side rails (~80 inches). Instead, because the middle rail attaches to the footboard and headboard rails, it needed to be longer, so it didn’t fit. All this after I’d cut and milled the rail, cut the cleat angles into the ends, and sanded it! The funny thing is that I went back to the sketchup file and the measurement from sketchup is nearly exactly what I ended up with on the actual bed, I’d just copied it down wrong when I made a spreadsheet of the parts I needed.

Fortunately, I had a spare piece of 8/4 maple lying around, so I cut that down and used it. I’m using maple for the slats, so I think it’ll look fine.

After finishing that, I jointed the edges of the slats (the maple I’d bought on my lumber-acquisition odyssey was already planed, though not as smooth as I wanted) and planed them with a light pass to smooth out rough spots. I cut the slats to 3 1/2 inches each, which I chose arbitrarily because it was close to half the width of the boards I had, leaving me a little room to joint and rip them. After all the milling of the 8/4 material for the posts, rails, and such, processing 4/4 material was a breeze.

As my wife said, “there’s a bed in our basement!”

Next is more sanding and finishing the parts, followed by applying finish. I decided to go with semi gloss Arm-R-Seal, which is my go-to finish. The wife definitely didn’t want a high gloss finish on the bed, even with a semi gloss coat on top of it to dull it.

6 comments so far

View JimYoung's profile


338 posts in 2192 days

#1 posted 07-07-2016 03:59 PM

Very nice work. I like the “French cleat” trick on the center rail.

How thick are your side rails?

-- -Jim, "Nothing says poor craftsmanship more than wrinkles in your duck tape"

View jonah's profile


2092 posts in 3904 days

#2 posted 07-08-2016 09:55 AM

They are 1 1/2 inches thick by 5 3/4 inches wide and ~80 inches long. They are heavy!

View MerylL's profile


73 posts in 1976 days

#3 posted 05-09-2017 04:14 AM

That bed will NEVER sag. Sheesh – you’ll need a crew every time you want to move it.

View jonah's profile


2092 posts in 3904 days

#4 posted 05-09-2017 05:58 PM

It’s actually not that heavy. The side rails are heavy but manageable. It’s a little heavier than your average bed, but not outrageously so.

View matthewaaronreed's profile


1 post in 830 days

#5 posted 10-14-2017 08:49 PM

I’ve made a very similar king bed out of southern yellow construction pine.

I used a similar cleat to support the center rail, and found it to be problematic. It’s definitely a small piece taking a large load.

I attached the cleat using a mortise and tenon, and that broke. I replaced it with a much more substantial one that was simply glued side grain to side grain. But then the center rail broke where it was thinner and sat on top of the cleat.

Of course, cherry is much stronger.

Did you have any problems like this?

View jonah's profile


2092 posts in 3904 days

#6 posted 10-14-2017 09:05 PM

I haven’t had any problems with it, no. It isn’t a huge part, so there’s limited glue surface available, but what glue surface there is is all long grain.

I did round all the corners, especially the cleat, rather heavily, figuring that if it broke, it would be where the angled cleat cut meets the rest of the cleat.

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