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Cherry BedA number of years back I built a bed for myself using pictures and plans from an article in Workbench Magazine, Heirloom Bed, March/April 2001, page 52.

Constructed entirely of native New England cherry, it is finished with a natural, hand rubbed tung oil. Cherry will darken naturally with age to a rich reddish brown. The legs and rails are one piece, no glue-ups. This adds a little to the cost but makes the finished product more appealing.

Though not visible, the curved rail of the headboard has a natural grain pattern that looks like a dolphin jumping out of the water. We are always looking for natural patterns to incorporate in a piece.

I modified the bed slightly to have a clearance of 12″ under the bed to allow for storage and easy cleaning.

Cherry DresserDetail of Top, Trim, Chamfer and Lamb's TongueA few years later I designed and built two matching dressers. At right above is pictured the bed and at left the dresser. The dresser stands 48 1/4” tall, 36” wide and 18 1/2” deep. There are five graduated drawers, the top drawer having a faux front to simulate two drawers.

All Five Drawers Are Hand DovetailedLike the bed, the dresser is made of native New England cherry; the drawer boxes are poplar. The convex curves in the bed are picked up in the concave curves of the dresser. The legs have the same curved taper design at the bottom, chamfered on the corners with a lamb’s tongue at each end. The sides of the dresser pick up the tongue and grove slats from the headboard and footboard of the bed. To keep the same feel in heftiness I used stout 2” x 2” legs and a 1” top on the dresser.

In all my pieces I use traditional drawer design with floating tapered bottoms and hand cut dovetails. This project was a twin dresser build, so I had ten drawers to dovetail. At the end of an entire day of dovetailing these 68 year old hands can cramp up a lot ;<)

Hand Cut DovetailsMy current project is to design and construct matching bedside tables with two drawers and some space for books or a small stereo unit. I have a multi-part video series on my American Woodworker blog detailing the design process and modeling. You can view Designing Furniture From Scratch In SketchUp–Part 1 by clicking on this hyperlink.

SketchUp Model of the Cherry Bedside TableAt right is a picture of the SketchUp model of the matching bedside table. You can see how the curves, legs and slatted sides appear in all three pieces; bed, dresser and bedside table. The bedside table stands 32” high, 20 1/2” wide and 19 1/4” deep. The opening is 11 3/4” high and 14” wide; tall enough for an 8 1/2” x 11” notebook.

In the near future there will be detailed SketchUp models and shop drawings on my Free Plans page for all three pieces. Perhaps one day I will design a matching bureau and mirrors. Stay tuned.

Finished Panels With 3 Coats Of Wipe-On-Poly Picking up from where I left off in Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 1, I finished all five panels. Three panels will be framed in the headboard and two in the footboard. Just like panels in frame-and-panel construction you must add a few coats of finish to the panels before encasing them in their frame. If this step is skipped unsightly unfinished edges are visible as the panel expands/contracts through seasonal changes.

Trundle Bed Shown With The Trundle Out The next step in Trundle Bed Crafting is to tackle the swan necks that top the headboard. I began by printing out a full scale SketchUp drawing of one swan neck. They are mirror images of each other so all I need is one paper template. However, the swan necks are constructed with two layers glued together and the result is a 3 1/4” piece of stock. Since I need to shape four pieces, all with the same top curve, two of them share the same bottom curve, and two have a bottom curve that is 3/4” away from and smaller than the other two, I decided to make one hardwood template. Using the paper template I traced it onto 3/4” thick cherry stock being careful to arrange the grain for best strength. I rough cut the template on the band saw and completed the shaping on the edge sander.

Completed Swan Neck Cherry Template The completed cherry template, shown left, will be used in a series of steps with template router bits. The Swan Neck presents a number of interesting challenges for the woodworker. The first one is its thickness. The Swan Neck is 3 1/4” total thickness made of a sandwich of a 2 1/4” back and 1” front. I designed it as a sandwich to make shaping easier and doable with my current collection of shaper and router bits. But even the back is wider than my longest 2” template bit.

The Cherry Template Is Traced On 2 1/4" Thick Stock Fortunately I have two 2” template bits; one with a bottom bearing and one with a top bearing. So I used a three step procedure to shape the Swan Neck backs. I traced the cherry template on 2 1/4” stock. I needed two of them and they need to be mirror images which was simply a matter of flipping the cherry template.

Rough Cutting The Thick Back On The Band Saw The first step in this three step procedure is to rough cut the thick Swan Neck back on the band saw. My band saw had a 1 1/4” re-saw blade mounted in it and I should have replaced it with one much narrower allowing me to follow the curves smoothly. But being lazy I simply hacked away at the stock with the re-saw blade. You can see the resulting burn marks created by a 1 1/4” blade struggling to follow comparatively sharp curves. But with no damage to the blade I was able to cut to within 1/8” of the outline making the job for the template router bit minimal. When I was done I had Side A and Side B of the Swan Neck back and the template.

Shaping All But Top 3/4" Of Swan Neck With Bottom Bearing Template Bit The second step in this three step process it to attach the template to the appropriate side of the one of the Swan Neck backs. Appropriate side means keeping the side labels matched, for example Side A facing up on both, but with the template on the bottom. I attached the cherry template to the Swan Neck back using double sided sticky tape (carpet tape). In this step I use the bottom bearing template bit and with the template as a guide and shape all but about 3/4” of the Swan Neck as shown at right.

Complete Shaping With Top Bearing Bit In the third step of this process I replace the bottom bearing template bit with a top bearing template bit, remove the cherry template, turn the Swan Neck over and use its partially shaped surface as a template. See the picture at left. I have to use this three step process on both Swan Neck backs. But I am not done; I still need to shape the Swan Neck fronts. However, they are only 1” thick and only require rough cutting and one template bit. But there are still some tricks that need to be employed to complete the Swan Necks as you will see in Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 3.

Well, I have finally started crafting the trundle bed I wrote about in the Trundle Bed Design series. Many family and unrelated projects got in the way of this project for some time. But no more excuses. The show must go on.

Headboard And Footboard Panel Details I decided to begin with building the panels for the headboard and footboard. The headboard requires a panel 22 57/64” tall by 40 1/2” wide and two panels 8 3/4” tall by 40 1/2” wide. The footboard requires two panels 8 3/4” tall by 40 1/2” wide.

The final thickness of the panels is 5/8”, but I prepare my stock for 3/4” and bring it to final thickness on the drum sander after glue up has been completed. This will allow me to take out any slight mismatches in the glue up joints which are unavoidable. In addition the drum sander can bring the finish panel to precisely 5/8” with 220 grit paper. That way, after shaping the edges, I can immediately apply several coats of finish, which I always do before affixing panels in their frames (The headboard and footboard are essentially a frame and panel construction.). Subsequent shrinkage of the panels will not reveal unsightly voids of finish.

Edges Are Always Prepared With A Hand Plane Before Glue Up Preparing stock for glue up requires the standard jointer, planner, jointer and table saw sequence to face and edge the boards. But the final step for me is always preparing the edges by hand with a hand plane. This accomplishes several things. First it removes any oils on the edge that exist from handling or are naturally secreted by the wood. This is especially important if the time from wood preparation to glue up is hours or days. Second the edge is given a glass smooth surface void of machine marks and scratches. Third I get a better edge, i.e. perfectly straight and square.

All these add up to a better looking and stronger glue joint. One of the tests I use for a properly finished edge is that I can get  a continuous, very thin shaving, of equal width all the way to the end, and the length of the shaving is the full length of the board. Notice the shaving above right. A Lie-Nielsen smooth plane is the one I use for the final cuts. But I will start with a jointer plane if the edge is close to straight, or a block plane if I have to cut short local areas to correct for a bow for example.

Headboard Panel Glue Up When I have finished preparing the edges with a hand plane I immediately glue up. If I have a number of panels to do, as in this case where I have five panels, I’ll prepare all the stock on the power tools. But only the edges for one panel at a time is prepared on the hand plane so that the time from edge preparation to glue up is short, keeping the edges from getting soiled or dinged.

I have tested glued edge joints numerous times and always found that a properly prepared and executed  joint will always be stronger than the wood itself. How long a joint will last I will never know because I won’t live long enough to see its failure. But the accelerated life tests manufacturers perform indicate these joints will still be going strong hundreds of years from now (barring abuse such as prolonged exposure to water, high heat or direct sunlight).

One other idiosyncrasy I have is that I always leave joints clamped overnight. True, the manufacture says you can work the wood after only one hour of clamping provided there are no undue stresses placed on the joint. But I am not sure what an undue stress is. This is an analog world we live in. Stresses don’t magically become undue at 10 lbs of force but not 9.9 lbs. So I am conservative but feel much more secure this way.

The Performax Pro 22-44 Is Used To Final Thickness The Panel After curing for an evening the panel is ready for final thicknessing. I do this on my Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander. To gauge when a side has been entirely sanded and flat I mark the panel with red carpenter’s crayon in wide horizontal lines. When the marks are completely gone I have succeeded in flattening the side. See the picture at right. I use 220 grit paper for this final step. I will sand it one more time just before applying finish with 320 grit and an oscillating rotary sander.

I am careful during glue up to put the good side of the panel up, i.e. away from the clamp’s bars. This allows me to clean the entire surface unimpeded by the bars of the the clamps. See picture above left. I clean the other side too, but the bars always obscure some glue. When dried the backside will have little glue hills which I level with a putty knife. Still, there is remaining glue to be removed. So the backside is the one I drum sand first. Then I turn it over, mark the good side and continue drum sanding until I reach final thickness.

On a panel this wide each pass actually requires two passes. As you can see in the picture above right, the panel is wider than my drum sander. The 22-44 in the name implies you can sand a 22” wide panel in one pass, or one as wide as 44” in two passes. One note of caution about drum sanders; you must not let the work piece stop while going through the drum sander. If you do the sander will sand a horizontal valley into your piece deep enough that you may not have enough thickness left to remove it.

Squaring The Panel On My Large Panel Cutter Once the panel is thicknessed I use a hand plane to create a square and straight reference edge. I then use that edge in my large panel cutter to square the panel to finished length. This panel cutter has been a life saver and workhorse for me. If you don’t have one I strongly suggest you make one soon. With it I can cut large panels (wider than a kitchen cabinet end panel) perfectly square every time, and with ease. The panel shown is 24” wide and 40 1/2” long. This panel cutter uses both table saw slots, has a high fence to keep your hands away from the blade and has a block that completely covers the saw blade as the fence passes it.

Inspecting The Panel With Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinner) When the panel is cut to size I wet it down with mineral spirits to inspect for any remaining glue spots. Hopefully there are none. This step also gives you an idea of what the panel will look like when finish is applied.

Of course, this being cherry, it will darken considerably with sunlight and age. Most of the darkening takes place in the first few months of exposure to strong light, but it continues for a long time. In the picture at right the wood came from two piles, one which had not been subjected to light and one which had (it was on top of the drying stack). These pieces will darken to the same color in a few weeks time.

However, you will notice some sapwood in this panel. Purists argue that you should remove all sapwood when crafting fine furniture. I respectfully disagree. I have always felt that nature does a better job of designing wood than we do. I like to expose all “imperfections” in the wood, including dark pitch pockets in cherry, or cats paw markings. I feel they add to the piece. I am sure that the Shakers didn’t throw out pieces with these imperfections, and if its good enough for the Shakers, it’s good enough for me.

A Full Scale Print Out Is Used As A Template One of the really neat features of SketchUp is that you can print drawings to scale. I printed out the headboard to full scale (1:1). It took about 23 sheets of 8 1/2” by 11” paper, though most of them were blank and I put them right back in the paper stack. I taped one side of the swan neck together and then encapsulated it with self sticking clear plastic and made a template, which I then traced on the panel. Only one side is needed for a template because the curves are mirror images and you can flip the template.

The Delta BOSS Is Used To Remove Jig Saw Machine Marks After rough cutting the swan neck curves, I used my Delta BOSS with course paper to sand away the machine marks left by the jig saw. I usually use my band saw to cut shapes like this, but a 1 1/4” re-saw blade was mounted on it and I didn’t want to take the time to change to a smaller blade. The BOSS oscillating sander does a good job, however, in the end I had to finish the job with lots of hand sanding.

This panel is rather large for the BOSS table so I used adjustable roller supports to carry most of the weight while still making it possible to easily manipulate the panel. Note that the circle in the top middle of the panel is not cut out at this point. If I would have cut it out at this point, the shaper, which will be used to shape the edges, would likely destroy the delicate points that are formed by the circle (see the first picture).

Shaping The Edge With A Large Cutter I Am Especially Alert The next task was to shape the edges. During design of the bed I chose to do this on a shaper because I could get a cutter that would form a wider shape than possible on the router. But the cutter has a rather large 5 1/2” outer diameter. Plus the shape of the swan neck is such that I had to expose most of the cutter to be able to manipulate the panel during shaping. This makes for a somewhat risky and dangerous cut. In situations like this I am always super alert, especially during the start of a cut when the shaper can grab the piece and throw it, or throw sharp pieces at you. Also, I am conscience of where my hands are at all times.

The Circle Is Cut Out With A Jig Saw Finally I cut the circle with the jig saw and repeat the BOSS and hand sanding process. When cutting pieces like this where the panel has to hang over the edge of the table, I make the cut in sections, and support the cut-off by clamping it to the panel. That way it will not unexpectedly fall an split a piece out ruining the panel. These little extra steps can save a lot of work and material and pay for themselves many times over.

The Completed Panel Ready For Finish When the panel is completed I wet it down with mineral spirits again. This time I am looking for scratches or dings. This sometimes happens due to the hard surface of the shaper and BOSS tables. If I find a mark I remove it now. If I were to skip this step the imperfection would surely show up after finish is applied and would be much more difficult to repair at that point.

This concludes Part 1 of Trundle Bed Crafting. In Part 2 I will make the swan neck frames the will encapsulate the panel. Stay tuned.

Wood Movement Master Calculations For Expansion/Contraction Of Headboard Panel The Trundle Bed design is complete and with this post so will the Trundle Bed Design series be. The next Trundle Bed post will be Part 1 in the Trundle Bed Crafting series where we will chronicle the build of this bed. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and complete this post first before strapping on our shop belt. As always I will make plans for this project available to my readers on my Free Plans page.

Since the last post the only design decisions were that of choosing joinery and allowing for material expansion/contraction through seasonal changes. All panels in the bed will ride in a grove 1/2” deep by 1/4” wide. The panels must be sized to allow for seasonal expansion/contraction, and we would like the panels to be centered in the groves. To accomplish this I will use a relatively new product on the market called Space Balls. Space Balls are flexible polymer balls 0.260” in diameter to fit snuggly in a 1/4” grove. By placing a number of these all around a panel which is appropriately sized they assure the panel will always be centered, eliminate panel rattle and allow for smooth expansion/contraction. Space Balls can be purchased from a number of places, including on the internet from McFeely’s.

Expansion/Contraction Is Not An Absolute Constant Across The Panel The trick to using Space Balls and to sizing panels is to know precisely how much a panel will expand/contract over the course of a season. You have seen me make these calculations before using an application called Wood Movement Master from Kite Hill Software Inc. Unfortunately this application is no longer available and supported. So, while I will use it here, you can find similar free calculators via a search of the internet. If you want to do the calculations by hand see Understanding Wood by R. Bruce Hoadley, an excellent reference for almost anything wood.

CutList Plus 2009 Parts List Generated From SketchUp Via Cut List 4.0.7 The first picture left above shows the results of a calculation for the bed’s Headboard Panel. This panel is quite wide, 22 29/32”. The bed will reside on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, so I choose Massachusetts, Coastal as the “Ultimate furniture location” which specifies the seasonal extremes of Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC). The species is Cherry which defines the shrinkage percentage. The other critical parameter is the type of lumber, flat sawn in this case. Flat sawn lumber expands/contracts about twice as fast as quarter sawn lumber in most hardwoods. In the lower right you can see the results. This panel will undergo a total change in width of 3/8” over the course of a season. If I cut the panel now it will be at its narrowest because this is just past the peak of the dry season in Massachusetts. Space Balls recommends that panels be undersized 3/8” overall. I suspect this is a typical number for the typical cabinet door panel width. I decided to undersize this panel by 1/2” overall, which is how I arrived at the 22 29/32” panel width. This should work quite nicely.

One other subtlety about this panel, it is not the same width across its length; therefore the expansion/contraction will not be the same absolute amount across its length. See the second picture on the right above. Most of the expansion will take place near the center of the top edge where it will place the most force on the Swan Necks. This is a place where the Swan Necks are not physically attached to anything and hence will act as a lever prying the joint at the Headboard Posts apart. This is another reason why it is important to get this calculation right, that is, to minimize that maximum force generated by expansion. It is also why I will use lag bolts and glue on this joint to make it as strong as possible.

Rough Lumber Materials Requirement Per CutList Plus Calculations. While we are on subtleties there is one more to consider. The width of the panel given is good if I cut it right now. If, on the other hand, I get lazy and don’t get around to cutting it until late summer I need to adjust the cutting width for the planned expansion. If I cut it just past the peak summer humidity I may want to cut it 3/8” wider, lest it be too narrow and create an unsightly gap next winter. It is important to keep expansion/contraction in mind throughout the course of a design and crafting of a piece. Wood is still alive even though it is cut and dried.

Finally we can generate a cut list. Thanks to Cut List 4.0.7 Ruby Script (see Cut List 4.0.7 Ruby Script Connects SketchUp & CutList Plus ) we can pass information directly from SketchUp to CutList Plus and generate a Parts List and Material Requirements as shown above left and right. The rough lumber calculations are based 20% waste, which may be optimistic for hardwood calculations. It should be adjusted for the individual work habits. In addition to the rough lumber requirements shown above, two sheets of 3/4” plywood are needed for the platforms.

Now that we have completed the design I will make the SketchUp model file, CutList Plus file and a complete shop drawings package in PDF format available on my Free Plans page. The shop drawings in PDF format are thanks to LayOut, a presentation package that comes with the professional version of SketchUp. Now it is time to go in the shop and build this puppy. I will see you next for Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 1.

The Final Finial Design Is Slimmer & Shorter Well, the last of the design decisions involving the look and functionality of the trundle bed is complete. Two changes were made. The finial has been redesigned and made slimmer and shorter. This gives it a somewhat more delicate look while remaining substantial enough to look at home with the rest of the bed.

The Trundle Has Been Modified To Lower One Side For Sleeping Comfort The second change was in the trundle itself. It originally had two faux drawer fronts, one on each side. The thinking was that if the trundle bed were placed in the middle of the room both sides of the bed would have the pull out drawer look. The problem is that the faux drawer front rises above the mattress and would make the bed feel like a hospital bed, not allowing the person sleeping in it to dangle their legs over the edge. I lowered one side to the height of the head and footboard. This doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it gives the sleeper one side to favor when dangling a leg.

The Swan-Neck's Overall Dimensions It is now time to turn our attention to joinery and shaping. I like to have a strategy for shaping before I go into the shop even though it may change significantly once I start. The most complex pieces to shape are the Swan-Necks, Headboard Panel and Finial, in that order. So I will start with the Swan-Neck. The first and most important thing to remember about the Swan-Neck is that there are two of them and they are mirror images of one another. The shop drawings that I have created show one Swan-Neck, the left one. The drawings are annotated in a number of places to remind the craftsman that there are two, and the second is the mirror image. I don’t know about you, but I have made several pairs of things and discovered during glue-up that they were the same and not mirrored. Be forewarned.

Swan-Neck Cross Section With Dimensions The first thing you notice when looking at the Swan-Neck’s overall dimensions in the picture above left is that the stock is 3 1/4” by 3” – very hefty. Immediately you wonder – “What kind of router bit or shaper cutter can handle this profile and how will one actually move the stock through the cut?”. I decided that it is best to make the Swan-Neck out of two layered pieces, and, after some research of router and shaper bits, use two router bits and one shaper cutter to do the shaping of the stock. The Swan-Neck S shape will be formed using the band saw and various sanders. Before moving on to the next picture notice the mortise cut in the bottom of the Swan-Neck to accept the Headboard Panel. This will be cut with a slot cutter. At the end of this blog I will list all of the router bits and shaper cutters required to shape the Swan-Neck.

Back Layer Of The Swan-Neck Looking at the Swan-Neck cross section picture above right you can more readily see how the two pieces will be shaped. The front, and smaller piece, is only 1” by 2 1/4”. This curve can be shaped with Freud Raised Panel Cutter #UP209 and the companion Rub Collar #RC101. This cut will want to be made in a number of passes, probably by lowering the blade with each pass.

The second piece of this two piece sandwich is 2 1/4” by 3”. I will use two router bits to form it. The first is a rabbet cut 1/4” by 1/4” using a rabbet bit. This will remove most of the material. Then, using a 1/4” cove bit, I can shape the remaining curve.

Front Layer Of The Swan-Neck Take a look at the Swan-Neck back piece pictured above left. You will see that it is cut from a piece of stock positioned such that the grain of the stock runs through the center line of the Swan-Neck S. This stock should be 2 1/4” thick and minimally 8 1/2” wide by 28” long. The longer the length, the better. This will provide the opportunity to slide the template up and down the length of the board to choose the best grain pattern.

Note also the mortise slot for receiving the Head Board Panel. The particular slot cutter I have chosen cuts a slot 1/2” deep. The Headboard and Footboard Panels are designed to have a 1/4” tenon. Hence there will be a 1/4” gap. This gap will be filled with Space Balls, a hard rubber like ball that will give as the panels expand/contract with seasonal changes. More on this in a later blog.

Also notice the annotation that suggests that cutting and shaping the ends of the Swan-Neck may be a hand cut and sanding operation rather than using router or shaper bits. This is to avoid tear out ruining the entire piece. Better safe then sorry.

A similar picture of the Swan-Neck front piece is shown above right. This time I will use a piece of stock 1” thick by minimally 8 1/2” wide by 28” long. Again, the longer the better so that I have a choice of best grain direction. Also, as with the back piece, the ends will likely be shaped by hand to avoid tear out ruining the whole piece.

I promised a list of the shapers and cutters I plan to use to shape the Swan-Neck. These can very well change as I begin working the wood, but at this moment here is the list:

Freud UP209 Raised Panel Cutter
Freud RC101 Rub Collar for UP209
CMT 835.502.11 Rabbeting Bit Set
CMT 837.722.11 1/4” Cove Bit
CMT 822.364.11B 1/4” Wide by 1/2” Deep Slot Cutter
Freud UP207 Raised Panel Cutter for the Headboard and Footboard Panels


If you don’t have a shaper you can use similar or equivalent router bits. But they will have large radii which will require slow cutting RPM and they may not cut as cleanly as a shaper cutter.

In the next blog in the Trundle Bed Design series I will cover the shaping of the Headboard and Footboard panels.

Sneak Preview – Possible LayOut Tutorial

A Sample Of A Shop Drawing In LayOut As I mentioned earlier I purchased a SketchUp 7 Pro license and I am using LayOut to generate my shop drawings for this project. When they are completed I will make them available to you from my Free Plans page. I am also thinking of (quite seriously thinking of) creating a tutorial series on how to use LayOut. If there is enough interest I will get to work on it. To see how much interest there is I have a polling question at the top of my blog page. Please vote whether you are interested or not.

Isometric View Of Bed & Trundle The Trundle Bed design is almost complete. The joinery still needs to be added to the SketchUp drawings and I am not happy with the finial design at the top of the headboard. Also, I may dress up the faux drawer fronts a little to make them stand out more. The overall dimensions are 4’ 6 1/8” tall by 6” 11” long by 3’ 10 1/2” wide. The trundle will accommodate a twin platform mattress of 39” wide by 75” long by 8” thick. As it stands now the bed will accommodate  a twin platform mattress or a combination mattress & box spring of 39” wide by 75” long by 12” thick. Because the bed sits over the trundle its platform is necessarily longer, just barely enough to squeeze an X-Long mattress of 39” wide by 80” long by 12” thick, but with no margin for slipping a fitted sheet over it. The design could easily be modified to accommodate a few inches of margin.

Isometric View With The Trundle Pulled Out The trundle rolls out on non-turning casters aligned to make rolling out and in easy. The faux front drawer pulls also help. I debated using knock-down hardware to assemble the trundle instead of glued dovetail joinery. It certainly would make moving this bed easier. But in the end I couldn’t bring myself to abandon hand cut dovetails on a piece of fine furniture for knock-down hardware. The movers will just have to suffer. The overall trundle dimensions are 3’ 7 3/8” wide by 6’ 6 1/2” long by 12 1/4” tall. The faux drawer front is cock beading 1/4” thick with a 1/8” radius bead. The swan-neck cap on the headboard is rather thick, 3 1/4” in cross section. I may need to dress up the drawer front with more substantial and decorative trim to provide balance of attention garnered by the bed and trundle.

The Headboard - Notice The Swan-Neck Profile The shaping of the swan-neck will be done on my shaper using shaper cutters. The profile shown is an estimate of what I desire. In reality I will have to research my inventory, and on-line, to see which cutters I need to approach my desired profile. I have already done this for the shaping of the panels. They will require a Freud UP207 Raised Panel Cutter. Since I don’t have one I will purchase it on-line for about $140 plus tax. Shaper bits are not cheap, but in order to get a larger cut on the raised panel, I need to use shaper cutters rather than router bits. The Freud UP207 is designed for 5/8” panels which is what I have used in this design.

An End View Showing The Headboard & Footboard I am not real happy with the finial design. Though the bed has a substantial look, the finial seems to be too large and not delicate enough. I have changed it numerous times and still have more work to do. it is possible I might eliminate it all together and replace it with a reading light. One of those old style desktop lamps with the thick shade, dark green on the outside and white on the inside, might look good mounted on the pedestal. Alternatively a bedside table style lamp with a decorative shade might also look good. I have to check with the boss.

In the next installment of this series I will show the joinery and explain why I chose the joinery I did. One of the reasons for leaving the joinery to last is so that I can get accurate measurements of various components and then calculate the expected expansion and contraction during the course of a year. This drives the choice of joinery. In addition, leaving the joinery to the end allows for easy changes in design. Once the joinery is added, changes are much more complicated and require more work. Stay tuned.

Trundle Bed Sketch Minus Joinery & Panels After reviewing the styles and design criteria with Willow a few decisions were made. First, she fell in love with the Swan Neck headboard style shown in the third picture in Trundle Bed Design – Part 1. The second decision required a quick budget analysis of the component parts that made up a trundle bed’s height. This was aided by a few SketchUp drawings like the one shown at left. The total height of the bed from floor to the top of the top mattress was 30”. That included two 12” thick mattresses. Thirty inches was too tall because it was 4” above the sill of the window it would reside next to. Reasoning that a trundle is seldom used except as guest overflow, and that futons are often 4” or less, we chose to reduce the allowance for the trundle mattress to 8”. It should be rather easy to find a very comfortable platform, single  mattress, that is 8” thick or less.

This trundle bed SketchUp drawing is incomplete. It has no joinery included, the headboard and footboard have no panels to hide the trundle, and the faux drawer fronts have no trim to form the false drawers. In addition, the shape of the Swan Neck profile is simply a quick selection of geometric shapes, but I haven’t done a search of the shaper bits available to create them, so they are subject to change. This drawing took little time to produce, but it is very helpful in viewing the concepts and determining dimensions. From here I can try a number of design options.

Trundle Sub-Assembly Showing Dovetail Joinery One quick piece of joinery, and joinery decision, is shown at right. In almost all my projects there is a good size helping of dovetail joints. My favorite joint, and one I love to produce by hand. All that is missing from the trundle sub-assembly is the trim that will provide the faux drawer front look. The platform is 3/4” plywood. I almost never use plywood in my projects, but this is an application that screams out for it. Plywood is strong, it is almost warp proof, takes a finish well and it is cheap. In this application it will not be seen, but fits all the criteria. So I reluctantly submit to its use.

X-Ray View Of The Trundle Sub-Assembly - Note Casters & Dovetail Joinery I am an avid SketchUp fan and use it for all if my drawings. You by now have probably seen my beginner and advanced SketchUp tutorials. One of the really helpful features of SketchUp is the one click X-Ray. The picture at left is the very same drawing shown right above but with the X-Ray Icon selected. In this view the casters are clearly visible as are the platform support pieces. This view is not only helpful to see hidden joinery and hardware, but it also aids in the drawing of components when it is necessary to attach a primitive drawing element to an otherwise invisible point. SketchUp also has a companion sectioning tool that helps to make slices though any plane, for example a cross section down the length of the bed if desired.

Trundle Bed Sans Trundle Sub-Assembly Another feature of SketchUp is its ability to define views. A view can be from any angle, distance or several drawing representation (e.g. Isometric or Perspective). This helps when dimensioning a drawing or showing sub-assemblies such as the trundle above. At right is the bed minus the trundle sub-assembly. The number of views that one can create are virtually limitless, even in the free version of SketchUp. Recently I purchased the Professional version which includes SketchUp LayOut, at full featured presentation package. As this project proceeds I will use LayOut to create professional looking shop drawings and describe how this is done in this blog series. So stay tuned.

A Double Bed I Crafted - The Design Adapted From Workbench Magazine, Heirloom Bed, March/April 2001 Willow has been after me to design and build a trundle bed for the Cape House guest bedroom for some time. I am finally ready and I thought it would be a great opportunity to write a series of blog posts chronicling the design and build of this bed. So this is Part 1 in the design phase series. The crafting phase will also bring a number of posts in a series.

I will start with the bed’s requirements. The guest bedroom is a rather small room with a window opposite the entry door. Because of the small room size the bed design is limited to a twin (or single size).

A Simple Elegant Design - The Trudle Would Be Faced With A Faux Double Drawer We get a lot of guests on the Cape, especially grand children, and we need all the bed capacity we can get. So this bed needs to be a trundle. Also the window it will go against is rather low so there cannot be a mattress/spring combination, but rather two platform bed mattresses.

Twin or single bed mattresses come in two sizes: twin size 39” wide x 75” long or X-Long 39” wide x 80” long (same as the length of a queen or king mattress). The size of the room again dictates the normal size of 39” x 75”.

The Headboard Features A Grandfather-Clock-Like Swan-Neck Pediment With One Finial While the length and width of a mattress is standardized, thicknesses are not. However, a twelve inch assumption is plenty of thickness to acquire a comfortable platform mattress. So now I know I need to accommodate two mattresses, each 39” wide by 75” long by 12” thick. These box dimensions representing the mattress size will drive many of the trundle bed’s design decisions.

With the design constraints in hand it is time to consider bed styles. If you are the really creative type you might do this by sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper with pencil in hand and begin sketching. I am not that creative; I need a starting point for my designs. So I run to my desktop and begin a search for “trundle or twin bed” pictures to look at. There are thousands, but the trick is to narrow interesting and general styles to a few.

A Sleigh Bed Headboard & Platform Bed Footboard There are four that interest me that are represented by pictures on this page. In the first picture left above is a double bed I crafted with a design adapted from an article in Workbench Magazine, Heirloom Bed, March/April 2001, page 52. I like this design and one benefit to sticking with it is that the bed shown is already in the Cape House. Another benefit is that drawing it would be a matter of simple modifications to my current drawings. On the other hand, I like to choose projects and designs that are different one from another. But there are pieces of this design that might get incorporated in the final design.

The second picture above right is another simple and elegant design. I like the simple single curve of the headboard top. The double drawers would serve as a nice faux front for the trundle. The footboard could remain the same or raised to the level of the mattress and allow for slats that match the headboard. Alternatively a matching curve could be incorporated into the footboard. There are a lot of possibilities with this design.

A Simple Sleigh Bed Design Incorporated Into Both Head & Footboard The third picture above left incorporates a grandfather-clock-like swan-neck “pediment” with one finial forming the top of the headboard. The swan-neck is rather tall and the curves are a little severe, but the narrowness of the bed may dictate that. I would attempt to alter it. The overall design, especially the footboard, could have simpler lines; I don’t like the footboard design shown at all. An American Colonial flavor might be just right for this style. There is also the possibility of adding a swan-neck to the footboard.

The last two pictures above right and left are variants of a sleigh bed. The last picture is more traditional in that both the head and footboard are sleigh bed shapes. The second to last picture uses a platform bed footboard. The last picture is actually a trundle bed design. There are lots of possibilities for modifying both designs into one. The footboard in the last picture exposes the “trundle” which I find distracting. Also the footboard height is well above the mattress, which is traditional for a sleigh bed, but not a feature that will be accepted by Willow. She believes one should be able to lie in bed and look at nature with nothing blocking one’s view.

The bottom line is that my opinion and taste means little. I am simply attempting to give the customer (Willow) some ideas. She will make the final decision of style selection and modifications. In the end it may be that she has a completely different idea. But this is the beginning of the design phase. Stay tuned for follow-on posts on this topic.

Note: All but the first picture was copied from a website page and are used simply as an architectural example. Any design that I might extract in part from them will not be used for commercial purposes. If you like one of these beds and wish to purchase it I recommend visiting

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