Wenge and Sapele raised platform bed and wall mounted bedside tables with Zebrawood drawers 4.0

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Project by Jamie McDonald posted 10-01-2014 10:34 PM 6083 views 15 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been working on this masterbedroom furniture for about 1.5 years. I designed everything starting with the headboard. I specifically wanted a very large long piece of Wenge that still had sapwood attached. My design goal was to bring 2 sapwood edges together to create a contrasting abstract center line.

The headboard is mounted on an 8ft long cleat. The cleat is screwed into the wall at studs… and then it is screwed directly to the wall studs along the bottom length of the headboard. I made a lap jointed web frame out of quarter sawn sapele to mount the wenge on. I was almost ready to glue it all up when I decided that I would rather screw it together so it could be completely taken apart later for easy moving or shipping etc… The headboard sits a total of 4.75 inches off the wall and weighs roughly 160 pounds. Anybody who has ever picked up a realtively large piece of wenge knows how heavy it is compared to most other hardwoods. The headboard measures 11 feet long by 32 inches tall. I wanted to make it longer, but it would have been too close to the windows and corners on both ends of the room.

Bed frame:
I’ve talked too much about the headboard, so it is now worth talking about the the 2 Sapele footboards. I say 2 footboards, because that is basically what they are. The headboard is a completely separate entity. The footboards are identical to each other in design. The entire bed frame could be rotated 180 degrees and it would look exactly the same except for the slight differences in grain. One footboard is rift sawn and slightly darker in color. The other footboard is extremely quarter sawn and on the flatsawn faces are pommele sapele (which are really the 2 1/8” edges). It is hard to capture it on photo though. You have to see it in person just to see how intense the pommele figure really is. I mitred the top corners and joined them 2 ways for ultimate stability. I used a festool domino joiner and installed 4 dominoes in each corner. I also used long Wenge splines for further alignment. I would say that the corners are rock solid.

The lower rail of both footboards is actually 2 pieces. 1 single board was ripped in half and I then screwed those 2 boards back together from the back side. This will allow me to service the woven panel if it is ever necessary. I was thinking about long term serviceability when I did that. I’m not sure if it will ever be necessary, but it allowed me to use the actual footboard frame as a useable template when I wove the 1/8” floating panel together.

The bedside rails just didn’t look right to me until I added the curve at the end close the headboard. Once I made that curve it was required that I learn how to do a bent lamination of wenge to the lower rails to keep the wenge flowing from the headboard to the footboard splines. The bent lamination consisted of three indivudal 1/8” thick pieces that were all glued together at once.

Bedside tables:
The bedside tables mount to the wall with a similiar cleat as the headboard and is also screwed in at a single stud location. A combination of resting on a cleat and utilizing a screw keeps it from moving, jiggling or wobbling. From the back inboard side of the bedside tables I have made room to run wires into the drawer for charging phones, iPads, kindles etc… Also, I really like the surprise of zebrawood that comes when you open the drawer. It was an expensive choice, but makes me really enjoy opening the drawer. I didn’t glue any of my dovetails together and i don’t think I will. Dovetails are historically supposed to be one of the oldest time tested joints that is supposed to survive… I guess we will see? Not glueing the dovetails also makes the drawer extremely serviceable.

I used Blum 15” drawer slides that have the Blumotion. They mount on the inside side of the cabinet and on the bottom of the drawer…. hence no looking at drawer slides and positively the sweetest feeling I have ever experienced opening and closing a drawer.

Bare wood was sanded to 220 grit and the finish was sanded between coats with 320 grit. The final finish is 8 thinned coats of Waterlox at roughly 65-70% of original strength.This made it extremely easy to apply all of the finish by hand and also allowed it to dry very quickly without blemishes. I couldn’t believe how simple and amazing this finish was to work with!

This project was a first for me in that I designed it as I built it. I focused on a large number of general design ideas throughout the entire project that I wanted to incorporate and use to tie everything together: wall mounted headboard, floating bedside tables, a large variety of angles, chamfers, roundovers, a few curves and radiuses in the right places, a substantial use of negative space, and finally woven panels to lighten and soften the overall feel.

The headboard was originally designed completely, but I changed that design as I was building it. Once completed, I had to get the headboard out of the garage to make room… and I wanted to put it somewhere safe…. so I installed it on the master bedroom wall. Next, I was going to build the bedframe, but decided that it made more sense to build the bedside tables first. I was afraid that I would loose steam and motivation if I built the bedframe first. I’m pretty sure that I was right about this so it was a good decision. Then finally, I made the bedframe. With the exception of the headboard, all of it was designed quickly. In most of these design situations an idea would instantly come to me or wake me up while I was sleeping….and then I would have to get a sheet of paper and not stop drawing until it was out of my head. I actually prefer it this way. I have started to trust my instincts when it comes to this method of design. Not every idea gets built; some ideas I discard or save for later projects.

I’d like to believe that I achieved all of my goals for this project. Every joint was considered intensively for long term strength, durability, and visual appeal. The Wenge, Sapele, and Zebrawood are all somewhere between quarter sawn and rift sawn for long term movement stability and also largely because I like tight visual grain patterns. The only exception are the two long 11.5 inch wide central wenge boards that are flat sawn.

The reason I started woodworking to begin with was to create furniture that has never been seen before in a store that I could tailor its design and usefulness to my own specific needs. This project solidly validated my initial woodworking intentions. If you read all of this, thanks for taking the time! I hope you found it worthwhile and get a feel for the level of passion and inspiration that seems to never stop driving me. I just have to build an Armoire and a bookshelf for the opposite wall… and they will look like very large versions of the bedside tables. They will mount on the wall also and have tall vertical doors. I can’t wait to get started, but I need a short break from all the long hours and intensity of focus that this project required. I still have a regular job to go to everyday….

-- "The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes - ah, that is where the art resides!" --Artur Schnabel

15 comments so far

View BoardCop's profile


191 posts in 2609 days

#1 posted 10-01-2014 11:12 PM

Very nice!

-- Angie, If dogs don't go to heaven, then when I die I want to go where they go!

View sras's profile


6131 posts in 4217 days

#2 posted 10-02-2014 01:44 AM

The design is very creative, the materials are beautiful and the result is fantastic!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View widdle's profile


2073 posts in 4086 days

#3 posted 10-02-2014 03:35 AM


View Hawaiilad's profile


3378 posts in 4108 days

#4 posted 10-02-2014 08:32 AM

I would say you nailed it…what a beautiful bedroom set thanks for shairing

-- Larry in Hawaii,

View bygrace's profile


198 posts in 3057 days

#5 posted 10-02-2014 03:08 PM

Those are some of my favorite wood combinations when building boxes. It looks spectacular on a larger scale. Great unique design.

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

View drewpy's profile


1046 posts in 2444 days

#6 posted 10-02-2014 03:10 PM

Unique and cool. Great job leaving an opening for straps on the headboard. I don’t see any points to secure them on the foot board though?

-- Drew -- "The greatest wealth is health".

View ezek1el's profile


66 posts in 3480 days

#7 posted 10-02-2014 04:06 PM

Thats probably the nicest piece i have seen so far, great job on the design.

View Ken90712's profile


18001 posts in 4276 days

#8 posted 10-02-2014 05:23 PM

Boom!!!! Home run. What a cool design. Love the wood choice. Very Nice.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View mbs's profile


1692 posts in 4027 days

#9 posted 10-03-2014 11:56 PM

You did a great job on the bed. Hope you didn’t get too many splinters from the wenge. It can be nasty to work with but it looks great.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View Jamie McDonald's profile

Jamie McDonald

187 posts in 3368 days

#10 posted 10-04-2014 09:02 PM

yup…. plenty of splinters from the Wenge….its the most bloody splintery wood I’ve every worked with for sure….

-- "The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes - ah, that is where the art resides!" --Artur Schnabel

View gorilla's profile


6 posts in 2346 days

#11 posted 08-11-2015 09:03 PM

huge amount of work, well worth it looks great

View DMC1903's profile


285 posts in 3415 days

#12 posted 08-11-2015 11:31 PM

That’s a very impressive project, I like the wood combination.
Which model of Domino did you use on your joints, 500 or xl 700?

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 3449 days

#13 posted 09-06-2015 05:41 PM

Superb design and build. Most creative.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Steve Littlewood's profile

Steve Littlewood

8 posts in 84 days

#14 posted 02-24-2021 05:49 AM

Gorgeous, I am in awe. Beautiful wood and design.

-- Steve LittleWood

View Bstrom's profile


359 posts in 261 days

#15 posted 02-24-2021 06:22 PM

I agree with your impression of using Waterlox – it’s my fav finish…your efforts were highly successful! Kudos!

-- Bstrom

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