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Thread: Bed building question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Indianapolis
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    413

    Bed building question

    I plan to build a queen size bed using quarter sawn white oak. Posts would be 3 x 3 or larger. I was thinking of two rectangular panels across the head board. I was thinking of using thinner QS plywood for the center of the panels, but wondered if I needed to use something thicker in case someone leaned back on them if they would be sturdy enough or not? Thanks. Brian
    Brian

  2. #2
    Brian,

    3/4 oak is probably sturdy enough but you should not join a wide panel to the posts with glue or the panel will expand and/or contract from humidity changes and crack something, probably itself. So you have an issue getting a good joint between a large panel and the posts. That is usually solved by joining horizontal members to the posts and floating the panel between them. Maybe that is what you meant? I have made multiple beds with horizontal pieces an inch or more thick with slats that were only around 3/8 thick between the horizontal members. Beds hold up fine. The horizontal members take most of the stress but even little 3/8 thick pieces of hardwood are pretty strong. You might be able to make a panel that thin and have it hold up but I haven't done it. The panel would see more stress than the little vertical slats due to it's area being so much larger - more of a person can push against a panel. So I would make it thicker. At least 1/2 and probably 3/4 thick.

    Jim

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Clarks Summit PA
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    978
    Brian, I agree with Jim, 2 horizontal pieces one inch thick and panels thinner ( I used 5/8 inch solid cherry ).

    bed 5.jpgBed 1.jpgBed 2.jpgBed 4.jpgBed 4.jpg

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    Columbus, OH
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    105
    On the bed I recently built, I did 3x3 for the legs (or maybe 3.5x3.5) from laminated 8/4. The rails, and members making up the frame of the head and footboards are 1.5" thick. The panels were 1/2". I haven't had any problems from leaning on the 1/2" panels. I'd feel comfortable with 1/2" plywood for the panels for sure.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myles Moran View Post
    On the bed I recently built, I did 3x3 for the legs (or maybe 3.5x3.5) from laminated 8/4. The rails, and members making up the frame of the head and footboards are 1.5" thick. The panels were 1/2". I haven't had any problems from leaning on the 1/2" panels. I'd feel comfortable with 1/2" plywood for the panels for sure.

    Thanks Myles. Brian
    Brian

  6. #6
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    Jan 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dwight View Post
    Brian,

    3/4 oak is probably sturdy enough but you should not join a wide panel to the posts with glue or the panel will expand and/or contract from humidity changes and crack something, probably itself. So you have an issue getting a good joint between a large panel and the posts. That is usually solved by joining horizontal members to the posts and floating the panel between them. Maybe that is what you meant? I have made multiple beds with horizontal pieces an inch or more thick with slats that were only around 3/8 thick between the horizontal members. Beds hold up fine. The horizontal members take most of the stress but even little 3/8 thick pieces of hardwood are pretty strong. You might be able to make a panel that thin and have it hold up but I haven't done it. The panel would see more stress than the little vertical slats due to it's area being so much larger - more of a person can push against a panel. So I would make it thicker. At least 1/2 and probably 3/4 thick.

    Jim

    Yes build the panels and only join them using my domino at the top and bottom cross members and float the panels, but how thick on the plywood was my concern. You feel I can get away with 3/8" thickness? thanks brian
    Brian

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    Columbus, OH
    Posts
    105
    I did a chair with a bent lamination back. It has 3/8" slats. They're glued with pva (titebond extend), and they're not cross grain like plywood. They have a reasonable amount of flex and you can feel it leaning back into the chair. That was my goal to let them move and bend for comfort.

    I think a bed with 3/8" plywood would be stiffer than solid wood, but my biggest concern would be if you want it to feel like it's flexing, regardless of if it holds (I see it holding just fine). My thought process when I did the bed was I want a solid feel behind the pillow. If I'm leaning against the headboard I've moved the pillow to be a backrest and I didn't want the back to start flexing even more

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    McKean, PA
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    13,182
    I would think that a 1/2" thick panel would work just fine. 1/4" would be too thin and 3/4" adds a lot of weight. Consider gluing up your posts from 3/4" material and make them hollow. This reduces weight and allows you to embed Tee nuts inside the posts to attach the headboard to the rails or bed frame.
    That's how this headboard was made.
    Projects_0031.jpg
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USNR(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  9. #9
    I wouldn't float plywood panels. You'll end up with a rattly, creeky bed. Beds should be as close to monolithic as possible. Plywood capture in solid rails and stiles doesn't really create a cross grain situation.

  10. #10
    While I've built 3 beds with slats no thicker than 3/8 I would not use 3/8 plywood for the panels. I would use at least 1/2. Plywood is not as strong, it does not resist deflection as well, as solid wood. My beds were hardwood which is also stronger than softwood - which is stronger than even good plywood. I do not think a panel of 3/8 plywood would break but I would worry about it deflecting noticably. It would probably work but I consistently go stronger when I am not sure.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Camas, Wa
    Posts
    3,667
    1/4" Plywood is too thin in my opinion. Our headboard has 3/4" solid wood panels. I don't like a creaking bed. A headboard takes more stress then you think.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Western PA
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    825
    I need to measure my head board panel thickness. It’s a craftsman style with three panels for the headboard and footboard. Center panels are sequentially matched walnut crotch figure in the vertical orientation, maybe 12” by 12”. The two flanking panels are book matched walnut crotch in the horizontal orientation for each headboard and footboard. Those are maybe 12” high and 24-30” wide. These panels are no more than 1/2” thick if memory serves me, because I resawed them from 12/4 to 16/4 crotches. I find them to be sturdy enough. My wife and I sit up in bed against the head board all the time and no problems. Like others, I wanted my bed to be tank-like and I am very happy with the utter silence over the years.

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