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How to build a wood bed frame

Updated February 21, 2017

The carpentry skills used to build a wood frame bed are very simple in this case, but to design a bed that is satisfactory to the person or persons who will be sleeping in the newly made construction can turn out to be a very good exercise in basic design. Also, when you choose your timber for this project, do not forget that this is a project, where you can use recycled or salvaged wood. This can be done both to save money and also add to the finished appearance of your new bed. Read on to learn how to build a wood bed frame.

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  1. Choose the bedding for your new place of repose. Be careful with your selection for if you choose an irregular sized mattress or foam pad, then you will be stuck with that sized bed, if you decide to acquire new bedding at a future date. The easiest way to go is to plan to use standard size mattresses such as twin, queen or king sized.

  2. Choose your timber. Do this carefully. Make sure all pieces are straight and true. If you are using salvaged wood keep a sharp eye out for cracks. Also make sure the wood is at least a full 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick (this is called 5/4 wood) with 5 x 15 cm (2 x 6 inch) or 5 x 20 cm (2 x 8 inch) being your best bet.

  3. Cut the four pieces for the frame of your bed. Don't forget to allow for the thickness of the boards and then add another 6 mm (1/4 inch) on each side to allow for movement of the mattress. For example, if you are making a bed to the irregular size of 1.2 x 2.1m (4 x 7 feet), then you will cut two pieces at a length of 211.3 cm (7 feet 1/2 inch). The extra 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) is to give 6 mm (1/4 inch) leeway on each side. Now when you cut the other two members, you will add 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) for leeway, plus you need to add another 7.5 cm (3 inches) to allow for the thickness of the timber. This assumes you are using standard 5 x 15 cm (2 x 6 inch) or 5 x 20 cm (2 X 8 inch) boards, because they are exactly 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inch) thick. If you are using salvaged wood, then you will have to double-check the width. Now cut your boards to length and make sure each cut is square.

  4. Attach the frame together. The best way is with 6 mm (1/4 inch) lag bolts that are 6.3 cm (2 1/2 inches) long. You will need 12 for putting the frame together. There will be two rows of three at each end and each bolt will be recessed so the head does not stick out. To recess each bolt start the hole with a 1.6 cm (5/8 inch) speed bore bit and drill into the side of the end boards to a depth of 1.3 cm (1/2 inch). Mark the face of the drill bit with a piece of tape to keep the speed bore bit from going too deep into the wood. Then take a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the shaft of the lag screw and drill a pilot hole for each lag. Drive the lag bolts slowly with an electric screw gun or a ratchet wrench. Then you can put the four members together right on the floor to insure a square and level bed.

  5. Cut and fit the slats. For this bed you will need four slats. One goes at each end and the remaining two are spaced evenly between the other two members. (If you are using a standard sized box spring, then only two slats will be necessary, one at each end. You can attach strips of 5 x 5 cm (2 x 2 inch) stripping along the border, if more support is needed. Now attach the slats between the side members in the same manner as before using the 6 mm (1/4 inch) lag bolts. Make sure the frame is square before you attach your first slat and make sure each slat is flush with the bottom of the bed frame. Don't forget to use the speed bore bit so each bolt will be recessed.

  6. Cut a 1 cm (3/8 inch) sheet of plywood to go right on top of the slats. There is no need to attach the plywood just lay it in place. This step is not necessary for those using box springs and a traditional mattress.

  7. Cut and attach the legs of the bed. It is recommended to use four pieces of 10 x10 cm (4 x 4 inch), all cut to the length of your choosing. Set each post under one of the corners and drill through the top of the end slat into the post to make sure that each post stays in place. You can use 2 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) wood screws to secure the post to the frame. Drill all screws from inside the bed frame. Make sure the post supports the frame of the bed and not just the slat.

  8. Make a headboard and attach it to one end of the frame. Your headboard can be a simple 2.5 x 30 cm (1 x 12 inch) piece of pine cut and shaped with a scroll saw or you can quite fancy and decorative here.

  9. Tip

    Make sure the bed frame is perfectly square before you install the slats. To do this check the diagonals. When they are equal, then the box is square. Do not drill the recess holes, where the lag bolts go any deeper than 1.3 cm (1/2 inch). You might be able to use less depth.


    Be careful with the circular saw, use safety glasses at all times when operating this piece of machinery.

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Things You'll Need

  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • Speed bore bit -- 1.6 cm (5/8 inch)
  • Drill bits
  • Lag bolts 6 mm x 6.3 cm (1/4 x 2 1/2 inch)
  • Lag bolts 6 mm 4.5 cm (1/4 x 1 3/4 inch)
  • Ratchet wrench
  • Electric scroll saw
  • Wood screws 6.3 cm (2 1/2 inch)
  • Timber 5 x 15 cm (2 x 6 inch), 10 x 10 cm (4 x 4 inch), 2.5 x 30 cm (1 x 12 inch) 1 cm (3/8 inch) thick plywood (optional)

About the Author

Henri Bauholz is a professional writer covering a variety of topics, including hiking, camping, foreign travel and nature. He has written travel articles for several online publications and his travels have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Europe.

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