How to Make a Bed Frame

Updated July 06, 2018

A bed frame with a headboard, footboard and two side rails is one of the simpler wood projects you can make. However, to do it right and have the strongest possible support for your bed, you will need to use mortise and tenon joinery. If you have never made a mortise and tenon joint before, please watch the video tutorial by the Wood Whisperer before beginning this project. Use the finest-quality wood you can afford, and your bed frame will become a family heirloom. The materials listed will make a bed that is 5 feet wide by 7 feet long, which equates to a queen-size bed frame that is 4 inches longer than a standard queen-sized mattress. Adjust the length of the bed rails and the width of the head and footboards to make a smaller or larger bed.

Use your preferred mortise and tenon jig with your router or drill press to cut 3-inch long, 3-inch deep tenons on the ends of both bed side rails. Make corresponding 3-inch long, 3-inch deep mortises in the head and footboard posts, about 10 inches from one end of each.

Lay the side rails on their 4-inch sides. Cut a 3-inch long, 1-inch deep mortise 2 1/2 feet from each end of each side rail across the 4-inch side, as shown in the diagram that accompanies this step. Cut 3-inch long, 1-inch deep tenons onto each end of each bed support rail to match the mortises you cut into the bed side rails.

Apply carpenter's glue inside each mortise on the bed side rails. Insert one support rail into one mortise and tap into place with a rubber mallet or padded hammer. Wipe away any excess glue. Insert the second bed support rail into the second mortise and tap firmly into place with a rubber mallet. If you do not have a rubber mallet, pad the face of your standard hammer with several layers of folded towelling to prevent marring the wood when you bang the rails into the posts. Insert the support rail tenons into the remaining bed side rail and tap those joints together. Wipe away all excess glue, and allow the glue to harden overnight before proceeding.

Lay your headboard on the floor. Lay the posts at each end of the headboard as shown in the diagram that accompanies this step, with the mortises face down. Make sure the sides of the headboard are flush with the headboard posts and that the headboard is not covering the mortises. Drill 1/8-inch diameter pilot holes 2 inches from the top edge of each bedpost, through the post and halfway into the headboard. Countersink the holes. Attach the headboard to the posts using two of the 4 1/2-inch long, 1/4-inch diameter brass wood screws. Drill a second 1/8-inch diameter pilot hole in each post about 2 inches from the bottom edge of the headboard, and secure with two more of the 4 1/2-inch long, 1/4-inch diameter brass wood screws.

Repeat Step 4 for the footboard, but lay the posts with the mortise face up instead of face down. The footboard will face the outside edge of the bed when finished, and the mortises in the footboard posts must face toward the mortises in the headboard posts or the bed will not fit together properly.

Apply carpenter's glue inside each mortise in the bedposts. Lay your bedposts on the floor with the mortise face up. Slide the bed rail tenons into the mortises in each post. Tap the ends of the bed rails into the mortises in the posts with a rubber mallet or padded hammer.

Check the bed to be sure it is level by laying a spirit level along one of the bed rails. If the bed is not level, correct it by planing the bottoms of the bedposts until they all sit flat on the floor.

Sand all surfaces of the headboard, footboard, rails and supports using coarse, medium, fine and extra-fine sandpaper, in that order. Apply several coats of clear acrylic wood treatment to all parts of the bed, allowing the acrylic to dry between coats.


To make a smaller or larger bed, adjust the width of the head and footboards to match the standard widths for mattresses. Adjust the length of the rails to match the mattress lengths.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 4-inch-by-4-inch-by-15-inch chunks of hardwood post for footboard posts
  • 2 4-inch-by-4-inch-by-36-inch chunks of hardwood post for headboard posts
  • 1 15-inch-by-60-inch-by-1-inch sheet of the same fine hardwood for your footboard
  • 1 36-inch-by-60-inch-by-1-inch sheet of the same fine hardwood for the headboard
  • 2 2-inch-by-4-inch-by-7-foot long bed side rails
  • 2 2-inch-by-4-inch-by-60-inch long bed support rails
  • Rubber mallet
  • Mortise and tenon jig with router or drill press
  • 16 1/2-inch diameter, 4 1/2-inch long brass wood screws
  • Dremel tool
  • Wood burning kit
  • Carpenter's pencil
  • Belt sander
  • Coarse, medium, fine and extra-fine sanding belts
  • Clear acrylic wood treatment
  • Spirit level
  • Block plane
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About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.