Beds are among the easiest pieces of furniture to construct and they are often the first carpentry job that a beginning carpenter takes on. Whether building a bed from scratch or repairing one that came apart, constructing a bed can be accomplished with a few tools and pre-cut wooden boards. Hanging the bed rails is the most important part of the project. If the project is done slowly and carefully, the bed will be sturdy and will last for many years.
Building Wooden Bed Rails
Measure the mattress length. The side bed rails will need to be as long as the mattress with an additional 1–2 inches to allow some leeway when placing the mattress on the bed.
Hardwood, such as poplar or oak, is a good sturdy wood that works well for building beds. The type of wood used for the side rails should match the bed's headboard and footboard. Recommended thickness for the side rails is 2 inches.
Cut the bed rails or buy pre-cut wooden rails which are sized to the exact length you need. The rails should have an inside edge where the wooden slats will lay. (The mattress will lay on these slats.) These boards can be purchased with the edge already glued onto the wood. Pre-cut wood can be purchased at a lumber yard.
Alternately the edge can be glued onto the bottom of the board. The edge should be at least 2 inches in width to hold the slats securely. The edge should be glued onto the side rails with carpenters' glue and clamped onto the rail for at least a day to secure it.
Trace the outline of a bed rail hanger (fastening hardware, sometimes called bed rail fasteners, and available at a home center or hardware shop) onto the end of each bed rail. Four bed rail hangers will be needed, one for each rail end.
Cut a mortise in the wood (a groove, where an insert of the same size is to be placed) for the bed rail hanger as traced on the outline. The mortise can be cut with a hand chisel. The depth of the mortise should be equal to the thickness of the bed rail hanger.
Cut mortises into the bed posts in the same manner (approximately 2 inches from the post's edge) and insert the opposing halves of the bed rail hangers. Screw them in securely. Do this for each corner of the bed.
There are now bed rail hangers in each of the four ends of the side rails with their opposing halves in the four corners of the bed posts.
Slide each rail's hanger into the opposing bed rail hanger which is embedded in the bedpost. Use a rubber mallet to seat the bed hangers together.
Finish the bed rails by sanding, staining and varnishing them to match the rest of the bed.