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Solid Walnut Bedframe

Another build for a friend! This time I made a solid walnut bedframe for a pal.

Time for a new build! It’s a pretty big one too, at least by my standards!

My friend just bought a new place and was looking spruce up his bedroom with a new bed frame. After checking a few stores he was having a hard time finding something that he really liked, so naturally, he turned to me, his friend who runs a DIY website, to help him build a custom bed frame. He plied me with compliments and offers of free food.

I caved pretty quickly because I needed new photos for my Instagram and content for the site. My only condition was that he had to join me in the shop and help me build it, which he begrudgingly accepted….. Just kidding, he really wanted to help from the start.

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So let’s start with the finished photo, here it is:

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We went back and forth and came up a few times and eventually came up with the design you see above. It was a fun process to design something with someone else. Usually, I have complete creative control but because I was building this for someone else it was more of a collaborative process.

Alright, let’s get into how we made this beautiful beast.

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We started our project with a very expensive trip to the lumber mill. We tried to economize as much as possible, but in the end, it cost us almost $800 in lumber alone.

The majority of the lumber you see here is 6/4 Walnut and a couple of piece of 4/4 walnut too. The widths vary from piece to piece but most are in the range of 6-8″ wide. Most pieces were 6-7′ long.

We also used some regular spruce 2x4s and a single 2×8, but they aren’t pictured here because spruce is boring and no one wants to see that.

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Step one was to use my planer to plane the surface of all the walnut. The planing process removes thin layers of the wood for it’s highest points thereby flattening and removing any cupping from the wood.

Each piece of wood had to be run through the planer 10-12 times, so this took a couple of hours. This walnut was pretty rough and needed a lot of planing before it was usable. It really helped to have another person to do this though. I’d grab a piece of wood, feed it run it into the machine and he’d receive it on the other side. If I had been working alone this would’ve taken me a lot longer.

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Here’s an example of what the wood looks like after being planed. What a difference right?! It’s awesome to see all of the patterns and colours start to emerge as you remove a couple of layers of rough surface wood.

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With both sides of the wood planed we had 2 of the 6 sides prepped and ready to go, but we still had 4 sides to go. As you can see from this picture the pieces of walnut were still far from straight. Most of them had pretty significant curves to them.

How did we deal with that? Glad you asked.

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Using a simple plywood straight edge jig I pushed each piece of wood through my table saw. The straight edge jig ensured that I made a single straight cut through the piece of wood. Once I knew I had one straight side I could ditch the jig, flip the piece of wood over and run it through the table saw again to straighten out the opposite sides.

Again this took a little bit of time but it was an important step.

By the time I was done, most of our piece of walnut were between 5.5″ and 7″ wide. The name of the game here is to remove as little wood as possible while still straightening out the wood. Keep in mind just how expensive this walnut was, you want to waste as little as possible!

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Using a jointer is more fun with a friend! This step removed any small imperfections that were left over after the table saw.

After jointing each piece of wood we laid them onto a table and test fit them against our last completed piece to make sure they made good contact with each other. Anything bigger than a 1/32″ gap meant it had to get another run through the jointer.

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Whewwwww, all the prep work is over. It took us the better part of a day but all of our wood was planed, straightened and ready to glue together.

The pieces in the foreground make up the head board and the piece in the background make up the foot board. We spent a lot of time picking our favourite pieces of wood and planning where they would go so as to be as visible as possible. The boring pieces were relegated to the bottom of the headboard. The best pieces went to the top of the headboard and to the foot board.

All of the pieces were approximately 72″ long at this point. A little longer than we needed for either the headboard or the foot board but we’ll cut them to exact size once they are all glued together.

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Once our layout was finalized I took a T-square and made 5 vertical lines. These vertical lines would mark the location of the biscuits that would help to hold the head board together and keep all the pieces of wood aligned.

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What’s a biscuit you might ask? Glad you asked. Biscuits are wooden ovals, usually made of compressed wood pulp and glue or beech wood.

I used a biscuit joiner to cut grooves in each piece of wood and then inserted the biscuits into them. I then cut the corresponding grove on the next piece of walnut, lined them up and slotted them together.

When properly glued this makes for a very strong connection.

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Glue time! We applied a copious amount of glue to each piece of wood. Each biscuit grove was filled with glue, then the biscuit was pressed into it and then covered in glue again. We also liberally applied glue along the whole length of each piece of wood.

Each of the 5 pieces of walnut got the same treatment. After we finished each piece we attached it to the last until we had something that was starting to resemble a headboard.

Not sure what we’re laughing about in this picture, but if I had to guess one of us probably made a bukaki joke while applying the glue. We’re not exactly the most mature people, especially together.

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Once the glue was applied and the wood was loosely fit together it was time to bring out the clamps! Normally its a little bit of a race against time to get the clamps on before the glue sets up, but having a helper really made this a lot easier.

Of course, because it’s good practice, I still pre-set all of my clamps to the right width before we started gluing. When you’re working alone doing this can save you precocious seconds and make the difference between a good glue up and a sticky mess.

Walnut Bedframe (11 of 57).jpgDon’t worry, I’m not so irresponsible that I would just clamp the headboard like that and leave it.

In this photo, you can see that I also clamped it around its perimeter to the table below (which I know is very flat). We also biscuited, glued, and clamped the foot board at the same time.

I’m pretty sure captured in this one photo is every single clamp I own!

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Once we had de-clamped the headboard and footboard I used my track saw to ends off of the headboard. Once it was all said and done we were left with a headboard that was 36″ high and 68″ wide.

The footboard, on the other hand, was 16″ high and 64″ wide.

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Right, now that that’s all sorted I wanted to add some structural support to the headboard. I was a little worried that over time the wood might have a tendency to warp and twist.

To counteract this I decided we should add some 3/16″ thick 1×1 angle iron to the backside of the headboard. Queue the sparks! I cut two pieces of the angle iron to 32″ inches long using my abrasive chop saw.

Disclaimer: I should’ve been wearing more protective gear here, I have some tiny burns on my forearms to prove it 🙂

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After I cut the angle irons to length I had to tap some holes into them so I could screw them to the headboard.

I made sure that I tapped 2 holes per piece of wood on the headboard, 12 in total. That way the steel would help to prevent the whole headboard from cupping, as well as each individual piece of walnut.

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How’s that for a cinematic shot? I’ve gotta have some fun with the camera work when I do these projects, otherwise, I’d go crazy.

To attach the angle irons to the back of the I used some big #12 1″ wood screws. Of course, I pre-drilled each hole in order to avoid snapping any of the screws. Also, I was careful to set the angle irons back from the edge of the headboard, both along the sides and at the top and bottom. I did this to minimize the appearance of the angle irons. Out of sight, out of mind.

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With our headboard now fully assembled it was time to do some serious sanding. No matter how good your glue-up is there will always be some sanding. It was right about this point when I was wishing I had a giant planer I could run the whole headboard through. Guess I’ll just settle for a belt sander 🙂

Again having someone else working with me really helped to speed this process up.

We sanded until the whole headboard was silky smooth.

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Headboard done. Footboard done. Side boards? Let’s get into it!

The 4/4 walnut we bought was for the sideboards. We planed it earlier with the rest of the wood so all I had to was table saw it down into usable sizes.

I cut 4 pieces that were 4.5″ x 1″ x 80″.

The side boards are what link the headboard and the foot board together and determine the length of the bed frame. Since we were making the bed frame for a queen bed our side boards needed to be 80″ long.

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I wanted to add a little bit of reinforcement to the sideboards as well so I got 2 pieces of 2×4 spruce and cut them to 80″ long.

Once that was done I then cut a 3/4 x 1″ grove into each of the pieces of spruce.

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These grooves will end up being what support the slats that the mattress will rest on when everything is all assembled.

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To assemble the side boards I both glue and screwed the walnut 4/4 boards to the spruce 2x4s.

No glue was spared in this build. I really hope they don’t still make glue from horses…

On a brighter note if this whole carpentry thing doesn’t work out for me I think I have a bright future as a Subway sandwich artist. Just replace the glue with mayo and I’m 90% of the way there.

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Once the glue was laid down I clamped the spruce to the 4/4 walnut and screwed them together using #8 2″ wood screws. I also took my time and pre-drilled each screw hole to make sure I didn’t split the walnut or snap any screws.

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Then I glued and screwed another layer of walnut 4/4 onto the sideboard I had just made and ended up with this monstrosity.

I know it’s a little weird looking, but it works and it’s very strong.

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These mating plates are what we used to attach the side boards to the headboard and the footboard. The side with the teeth, the male side, gets attached to headboard and foot board and the female side gets attached to the side boards.

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I started by screwing the female plates to the side boards. Unfortunately, I quickly realized I was going to have to mortise out some pockets behind the plate to make some room for the teeth of the male plates.

I grabbed a sharpie, traced out the area that would need mortising and then removed the plates.

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I used a 1/4″ drill bit to do most of the dirty work, then I cleaned it up what was left with a hammer and chisel. Lucky for me the mating plate covers up most of ugly work 🙂

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See! Almost looks like I know what I’m doing when you throw a plate on top of it.

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Ok cool, but what about the male plates? I’m getting to it, chill!

I figured out the locations of my male plates and then traced them with a black sharpie (not sure where I put that red sharpie from a couple pictures ago). Anything that was inside the sharpie lines had to go.

I grabbed my plunge router and got to work. I wasn’t sure exactly how deep I needed this mortise to be so I did it 1/16th of an inch at a time. After every pass with the router I would test fit the side boards. Eventually I got a nice flush fit.

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Again not a picture perfect mortise but it was serviceable and would be covered up by the sideboards once they were installed.

And just to preempt all the internet critics that space above the plate is actually functional, it provides clearance for the female plate to latch onto the male plate.

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With all of the cutting, drilling, and sanding out of the way it was time to start finishing. I used a satin hybrid oil and water varnish to clear coat the bedframe.

This is my standard finish that I like to use on a lot of furniture. It’s tough (because it’s meant to be used as a floor varnish) and gives a nice easy to clean finish that has just a hint of gloss. It also adds a nice warm tone to the wood.

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Sanding between coats is very important to get a good finish. We did 3 coats on every piece. Between the first and the second coat, we sanded with 120 grit sandpaper. Between the second and third we sanded with 220 grit sandpaper.

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Probably should’ve done this earlier, but, oh well.

In the center bottom of the headboard, I installed 2 angle brackets that would hold a center beam that would help to transfer some of the load to the bed to the floor.

The center beam is just a 2×8 that I cut to 80″ long.

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Sorry for the crap quality picture here. Must not have focused the camera right before I hit record.

One last thing I had to cut before assembling the bed frame was some 1×6 spruce slats to go between the two side boards. The slats will support the mattress and rest on the center beam. Each slat was 57″ long and there was 12 in total.

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Hope you guys like fisheye! I needed to bust out my super wide angle lens for this part of the build.

Here we are back in my friend’s new condo and assembling the bed frame.

The sideboards simply click into the headboard and footboard, so this part was pretty much just plug and play.

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Quick break for some yoga.

Ok just kidding, I was putting the center beam in position.

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And then I used some big #12 1″ wood screws to attach the center beam to the angle brackets on the headboard and footboard.

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Sorry to disappoint, but no plumber crack here ladies and gentlemen. I didn’t really consider the fact that I’d basically be mooning the camera while assembling the bed when I was setting up the camera.

Last part of the assembly was installing the slats between the sideboards. Each 1×6 slat got 6 screws in it. 2 per side board, and 2 into the center beam. Probably overkill but I wanted to build this thing to last.

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Hey, that’s it! It’s all assembled. Guess it’s time for my friend to make his bed. Let’s take some finished photos 🙂

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Mattress: Check
Duvet: Check
End of bed extra blanket: Check
Lights: Check
Background Plant: Check

Ahhh that’s better. Looks more like a real bedroom now.

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The bed actually has a little bit of storage that’s easily accessible underneath it. Enough spaces for a couple of pairs of shoes or some spare blankets.

Originally I wanted the sideboards to go all the way down to the floor but my friend insisted we keep them up to avoid having a dust catch. In the end, I think he was right, but I’d never tell him that.

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There a few places with slight “defects” like this in the wood.

I offered to fill them with a colour matched wood filler, but my friend liked the look of them and wanted me to leave them as is.

I think they really help to drive home the idea that we used real solid walnut to make this bed. Had we used a walnut veneer ply or something similar every surface would’ve been perfect, and frankly, a bit boring.

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Here’s a (semi) detail shot of how the sideboards connect to the headboards. Nice and flush and you can’t see any of the mounting hardware. It’s a really secure connection too, no wobble or rattle.

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You can slightly see the metal angle irons that reinforce the headboard if you look at it directly from the side or above, but practically they are invisible. I offered to paint these for my friend, but he wanted to leave them as raw steel.

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Like I said earlier in the build we spent a lot of time trying to figure out which piece of wood was going to go where. We tried to put the most “interesting” looking pieces at the top of the headboard and on the footboard because those were the most visible spots.

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This little knot actually came out while we were finishing the wood. Nothing a little wood glue and quick clamping couldn’t fix.

Again I really like that we left details like this one because it shows that we actually used real wood.

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Originally we had planned to do this build with two different types of woods, but my friend really fell in love with walnut at the lumber mill. We decided to make the whole thing out of walnut, but there’s so much variation in the different piece of wood that it almost looks like 2 different types of wood!

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All in this project cost close to $1,000 dollars in materials, and probably closer to $1,100 when you properly account for all the snacks we consumed while making it. True that’s a lot of money, but my friend was looking at bed frames that easily cost that much money, if not more.

Plus this is exactly what he wanted and he now has a handmade piece of furniture in his home that he can point to and say “I made that”.

It took us 3 days in the shop to complete it start to finish and that includes the time it took us to gather materials.

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That’s it for another build, thanks for checking it out! Close the door on your way out!

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Also, I’m really trying to build out my Instagram following, and Facebook group. If you could follow, or at least hit the like buttons a couple of time it would really help me out! Thanks!

See you next time!

Hit me up with any question or comments you might have below and I’ll do my best to answer anything and everything.

  1. […] for this project while I was at the lumber mill recently. I was picking up the walnut I used in my bedframe project when I spied some smaller pieces of live edge olive wood. I didn’t know what I was going to […]

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