NOT A TWO-BIT BED
A beautiful combination of machine and hand work.
SHOP OWNER: Paul Alt
LOCATION: Cape Cod, MA
The bed shown here was derived from a design by Jeff Miller, the Chicago-based furniture maker and author. The appeal of the original design notwithstanding, I changed the leg shape and the side rail joinery. The original design had square cross sectional legs while mine has an H-shaped cross section - there are grooves on the front and back sides of each leg. The bed is made of red oak throughout. All components were fashioned from 5/4" finished thickness except for the slats, which are 3/4" thick. I cut all of the joinery using a combination of table saw and router. However, I flattened all pieces and surface finished with hand planes. This was mostly a concession to the size of the parts.
To make the capitals and bases, I used the table saw and router. Their complex final shape adds visual interest to an otherwise Spartan design, but their construction was neither complex nor time consuming. Each capital is a lamination of several simple pieces. The right angle steps in the headboard required some hand chisel work to complete.
The side rails fit into mortises in the legs and held in place with bolts and nuts for easy disassembly and strength. The side rail tenons have no shoulders and the grooves in the legs, which have the same thickness as the rails, allow this to work well. The full cross section of the side rail thus supports the weight of the mattress and the sleepers. The grooves in the legs, however, do not allow the use of traditional bed bolt covers, which pivot on a nail. Instead, I chose to use Kennedy half-dollars, which are the same diameter as the groove width - not an accident. To hold the coins in place, a rare earth magnet, which I epoxied to the back of the coin, pulls on the bolt head (thanks Ed Mulligan for suggesting magnets).
I stained the oak twice, once with a TransTint water-based dye, and once with an oil-based pigment/dye from Minwax. The latter was to tune the final color and provide some color to the open pores, which the water based dye does not touch. The protective finish is Waterlox Transparent followed by Fiddes Wax. All pieces had finish applied prior to glue up. Finishing was aided by supporting each piece between centers and rotating the piece to expose all sides. Yes, this even worked well for the heavy headboard. Finally, but importantly, the charm quilt on the bed was hand quilted by my wife. It contains over 1,000 pieces of kite-shaped fabric, and no repeats of the fabric.. . . Paul Alt
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