Perhaps it's love, perhaps it is obsession… I don't know if I'll ever figure it out. All I know is that it's been many years since I've been as enamoured with a motion picture as I have become with Peter Jackson's, "The Lord Of The Rings". Combine this with the fact that my eight-year-old daughter needed a bed, and you know where I'm going with this.
The bed is made from solid ash. The carving on the headboard is in keeping with the "Hobbit" design, and the native bird is my own personal seal. The lettering is a typeface called, 'Angerthas Moria dwarf runes' that I got from the Internet (unfortunately the site no longer exists). The inscription that I chose reads, "A life lived in fear is a life half lived", which is something that has great meaning for me personally, and because the bed is for my daughter I wanted to put something of myself into it.
• Mill and glue up the stock for all the major parts – headboard, footboard, sides (rails) and posts (legs).
• Make the parts about 1" oversized, to be trimmed to final size later.
• Plane or thickness sand the parts to final thickness, about 13⁄16".
• Carefully, and precisely, mark the position of the holes in the headboard. Lay out the position of the holes by first drawing the arches. Find the centre point of the arches, put a small nail through a strip of wood, and secure the strip on a bigger chunk of scrap clamped to your work table. Measure from the nail and mark the positions of all the arches, including the carved lettering, onto the strip of wood. Using a knife, cut little notches into the edge of the strip at the pencil marks. The notches secure the tip of the pencil, allowing you to draw a perfect arch.
• Use a compass to mark the positions of the holes. The compass will ensure that all the spacing is uniform.
• Drill the holes, including the cloverleaf cut-outs, with a 1" Forstner saw tooth bit. On the drill press table, fasten a piece of hardwood with screws from underneath so that the drill bit will always land in the same place. To prevent tear-out, set the depth-gauge so that the bit will just come through the wood. Some of the clover leaf holes are 'partial holes'. Space these holes so that their centers are 1⅛" apart. The overall cut-out will be 2⅛" in size. Drill the two holes that are on opposite sides of one another (according to grain) first. Then drill the two 'partial holes' that are in line with one another (again according to the grain). Start the drill bit into the wood and then push the wood against the 'closed' side of the bit in order to prevent the bit from wandering into the 'open' side of the hole. As this may be a bit tricky, practice drilling some on some scrap before drilling into the headboard.
• On the back side of the headboard clean up the holes with a ⅛" round over bit.
• On the front side of the headboard clean up the holes with a ¼" cove bit setting the depth to about ⅛".
Draw headboard arches
Mark position for holes
• Glue small scraps of wood to the top of each post.
• Using a router or chisels, cut mortises on the posts at least 1½" from the post's front edge. If using a router put a piece of masking tape along the top of the fence, and then mark on the tape the exact position of the cutter. (I used a ½" straight cutter set at a height of exactly ½"). Cut all the posts with this setting, then raise the cutter to 9⁄16", move the fence a hair to the left, and cut all the parts again. Then move the fence a hair to the right of the original position and cut all the parts again. This ensures a nice clean cut on all surfaces that will be 9⁄16" wide (approximately), and 9⁄16" deep. Since the tongues are ½" long, there will be a clearance inside the joint of 1⁄16".
• Mount each post on your lathe and turn the tops. (Alternatively purchase off the shelf tops or choose not to include them).
• Trim off the tops staying about 1⁄16" away from the finished size.
• Clean up the rounded part of the top with a rasp and sandpaper.
Headboard, Footboard and Trim Pieces
• Cut the head and footboards to finished length and square them on a table saw cross-cut jig.
• Cut the tongues either with a dado blade and featherboard on the table saw, or with a router.
• Make the trim pieces that will be attached to the head and footboards.
• Plane and sand the trim pieces, headboard and footboard to finished thickness.
• Cut the inside (concave) curve on the top headboard trim piece, and outside (convex) curve on the bottom headboard trim pieces.
• Rout and sand the edges of the trim pieces.
• Carve the lower trim piece.
• Lay the trim pieces on the head and footboards and mark the lengths with a sharp pencil.
• Cut all the trim pieces to finished length (the exact distance between the posts).
• Glue and clamp the trim pieces into place on the head and footboards.
• Cut the outside (convex) curve of the headboard on a bandsaw.
• Clamp the headboard to the workbench and sand the curve with a portable belt sander.
• Clean up the corners with a file and carving knife or chisel.
• Round over the front and back edges with a ¼" round over bit.
• Make sure that everything is finish sanded, and then glue and clamp the posts onto the sides with bar clamps. Check for squareness.
• Cut 1½" x 2" slat support rails for attaching on the insides of the side rails.
• Cut the support rails 3" shorter than the finished length of the sides, which gives an inch and a half of clearance at each end for the hardware.
• After the support rails are cut to length lay them beside one another and clamp them together with a small clamp, just to hold them in place for scribing. Then mark the positions of the holes for the dowels, and scribe that position onto both pieces. It is important that the rails are positioned the same way that they will be on the finished bed - insides in and outsides out. This way there can be no mistakes, and the slats will fall nicely into place.
• Position the dowels about a ¼" in from the outside edge of the rail.
• Drill the holes using brad-point drills because they produce a cleaner hole. Clamp a long piece of plywood onto the table of the drill press to support the weight of the rail when drilling the holes near the ends. This ensures that all the holes will be exactly the same distance from the edge, and the fit of every slat will be exactly the same.
• Glue the dowels into the holes, leaving about an inch of the dowel sticking out, and then set up the table saw to trim them all down together to ¾". Since the slats are three-quarters of an inch thick, the dowels will be flush with the tops of the slats.
• Round over the corners on the tops of the dowels with a file or chisel.
Drill dowel holes
• Make a small jig for the bottom curve of the side trim, and then trace the curve onto the trim parts.
• Rout and sand the trim, then glue it onto the sides.
• Glue the top trim onto the sides.
• Draw a curve on the top trim, then cut it out on the bandsaw.
• Sand the top trim to shape.
Glue trim to head and footboards
Side rails ready for finishing
This bed is a European design with slats under the mattress instead of a box spring, making it both very strong and easy to disassemble.
• Mill 12 slats, making them 3½" wide, leaving a 2½" space between each slat.
• After the bed is assembled drill 9⁄16" holes in the ends of the slats so they will easily fit over the half-inch dowels.
• Drill pilot holes for the bed hardware, then attach it with a couple of screws.
Assemble the Bed
• Take accurate measurements of the slat lengths, cut the slats to finished size, and determine the positions of the holes.
• Set up a stop on the drill press and using a 9⁄16" spade bit, drill the holes.
• Counterbore the edges of the slats and the holes with a ¼" round over bit.
I applied a coat of Minwax Golden Oak stain, followed by a sprayed on toner, lacquer, and vinyl sealer. In lieu of spraying you can brush on your favorite finish. If I were to make another bed similar to this one I would likely use quarter-sawn lumber, as I find the pronounced grain a little distracting against the cut-outs on the headboard. However, this sort of thing is difficult to foresee.
Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!
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