How to repair an antique broken wood bed rail

Written by david thompson
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How to repair an antique broken wood bed rail
(Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Wooden bed rails often break at the ends where the hook plates meet the posts or along the bottoms where the ledger boards support the slats that hold the mattress. If the end is damaged, inspect it to see if the hook plate split away toward one side, leaving half the rail’s thickness intact. If a bed rail is severely damaged, the only solution may be to make a new matching rail and replace the entire piece. However, if some of the rail is sound for its entire length and you want to keep as much of the original antique rail as possible, you can repair the end by replacing only what’s necessary. You can also replace a broken ledger board if the rail itself is intact.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Saw
  • Hardwood piece
  • Chisel or router
  • Clamps
  • Carpenter’s glue or epoxy
  • Scraper
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Flat-head screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Plane
  • Vice
  • Hammer
  • Stain or other finish
  • Tape measure

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  1. 1

    Cut out the damaged section of the rail with a saw and chisel or router. Remove a rectangular section half the thickness of the rail, the full height of the rail, and several inches longer than the split section, leaving only sound wood. Sand or plane the rail to make the surfaces smooth for a good glue joint.

  2. 2

    Saw a block of hardwood the same size as the area you cut out. Spread carpenter’s glue or epoxy on it where it will touch the rail and clamp it in place. Allow it to dry and remove the clamps, then sand smooth the seams where the new wood meets the old.

  3. 3

    Lay the hook plate on the rail, aligned so it will fit properly with the post, using the other rail as a guide for the proper position. Trace the outside of the hook plate with a pencil and mark where the holes need drilled for the pins. Drill countersunk pilot holes and insert two flat-head screws above and two below the hook plate, through the new wood and into the rail, to reinforce the added wood.

  4. 4

    Place the rail in a vice, protecting it with scraps of wood, and drill a series of closely spaced holes into the end of the wood to cut out most of the hook plate slot, using a drill the same size as the hook plate or only slightly larger. Chisel away the wood between the holes to create the slot for the hook plate. Drill the holes for the pins also, choosing a drill bit small enough that the pins will fit tightly.

  5. 5

    Slip the hook plate into the slot and tap the pins in place with a hammer.

  6. 6

    Stain and finish the new wood to match the rest of the rail.

  1. 1

    Measure the original ledger strip with a tape measure and saw a new board the same size. Use a hardwood such as oak for extra strength.

  2. 2

    Unscrew the screws from the original ledger strip with a screwdriver and pry or chisel the ledger strip off the bed rail, since it was probably glued in place. Scrape off the remaining glue from the rail.

  3. 3

    Drill pilot holes for screws in the new ledger strip and countersink them so the screws will be flush with the surface. Place the holes an inch or two to the left or right of the holes in the old ledger so the screws will go into fresh wood on the rail.

  4. 4

    Spread carpenter’s glue on the back of the ledger strip and clamp it in place on the rail. Drill the pilot holes into the rail, being careful not to drill all the way through the rail. Screw in the screws, remove the clamps and let the glue dry.

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