Modern Platform Bed // Hand Tools + Framing Lumber

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Introduction: Modern Platform Bed // Hand Tools + Framing Lumber

About: Designer, builder, musician, artist, friend :) Original Music: https://brettlehrman.bandcamp.com DJ'ed Music: http://www.djcookiepolicy.com

I used to work for a commercial interior designer as a shop hand. Before I got fired for literally laying down on the job (more on that later), I learned some helpful tips/tricks and how to apply the ethos of doing more with less, to interior design and structural builds. Since then, I’ve been using simple plywood and framing lumber to make furniture and decorations. It’s cheap, strong, readily available, easy to work with and with some clever techniques or design elements, can be made to look like something finer.

Nice looking, solid wooden bed frames are expensive. My goal with this, and maybe all designs, is to hack the system: To have something nice, that I truly love, while saving money to use for other experiences in life. I think that's what I like so much about minimalist design principals, including how to do something with the least amount of time or effort possible. Rather than being about the thing itself, it's also largely about how it fits into the rest of your life and the kind of freedoms it provides.

If you want a nice bed frame for a fraction of the cost of something store-bought, this is one way to go about it.

Key Elements of this build:

  • Cheap
  • Durable
  • Beautiful
  • Almost anyone can make it

Fringe Benefits

  • Accessible materials
  • Requires only minimal hand and power tools to build
  • Provides ample storage underneath with minimal view of what’s stored
  • Built in night stand
  • Customizable

Material Cost: Less than $175

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Tools!

  • Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw or multitool
  • Drill
  • Speed Square
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil / Marker / Pen
  • Ear Protection
  • Safety Glasses
  • 2 medium sized quick clamps

Materials!

  • 9 2"x4"x8' framing boards
  • 8 2"x12"x8' framing boards
  • 1 2”x12x6’ framing board
  • 8 or more screws that are at least 2.5" in length

Step 2: Optional Tools and Materials

  • Pocket Hole Jig & Screws
  • Wood Putty
  • Power Sander
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • small "L" brackets
  • wood putty
  • wood stain
  • Wood Glue
  • Mineral Oil
  • Ployurethane

Although it's not necessary, I opted to use a pocket hole jig to join certain boards with pocket holes joints. Since it’s optional to do so, I won’t get into the specifics but there are tons of helpful resources to learn more about pocket holes and how to use a pocket hole jig. If you opt to go that route, do so with 2.5” pocket hole specific screws (right next to where they sell the jigs at the hardware store). Otherwise, using normal screws and small “L” brackets works well too. Either strategy will allow you to disassemble the bed frame in case you ever need to move it to a different room or building.

Regardless of what strategy you use to fasten the boards, the entire project can be completed for less than $175 in materials. That’s high end furniture durability and aesthetics for a low-end furniture cost!

Step 3: Design

What is a bed frame?

  • Raises mattress off the floor
  • Provides storage space underneath
  • Looks nice and makes a room cozier // more inviting

Less is More
Slot-fit construction (also called interference fit) is ingenious. It uses the material itself to provide rigidity to a structure and negates, or seriously cuts down on, the need for fasteners when done correctly.

Structural Pieces
The frame gets it’s structure from a “Spine” that runs head to foot, that has four “Vertebrae” that run from side to side, intersecting at 90 degree angles. The mattress is supported by the 2”x4”s, running across the top of the notched out skeleton. The vertebrae are notched out to fit the width and depth of the 2”x4”s so that the top edges of the skeleton and the mattress supports are all level with each other. This means that every piece of wood except for the runner board and the headboard are providing support to the mattress.

Aesthetic Pieces
The headboard is just another 2”x12”, fastened to the rear side of the far vertebrae with screws. The runner board is more 2”x12”s, cut to fit around the mattress. It’s placed on top of the skeleton and mattress supports and provides a ledge that prevents the mattress from shifting in any direction.

Dimensions

This design can be tailored to fit a mattress of any size. All of the dimensions listed here are to fit a full sized mattress

  • Width (side to side): 71.5”
  • Depth (foot to rear edge of headboard support): 83.75”
  • Height (floor to runner board upper surface): 12.75”
  • Height (floor to Headboard upper edge): 33.125”

Footprint
I opted to use 2”x12” lumber for the runner board. If that footprint is too large, you can always use smaller boards or opt out of the runner completely. The same design without the runner board brings the footprint to little more than the width and depth of your mattress itself.

NOTE: A little helpful tip that I had to realize the hard way, is that framing lumber is never actually the dimensions that give each board it’s name. This has to do with the finishing process while it’s being milled. For a chart with actual vs. nominal lumber sizes, see the images above. Taking that into account can save you a lot of headaches when it comes to designing something from scratch.

Step 4: Purchase Materials

Here’s that list again for ya:

  • 9 2"x4"x8' framing boards
  • 8 2"x12"x8' framing boards
  • 1 2”x12x6’ framing board
  • 8 or more screws that are at least 2.5" in length

I got mine at Lowes. You can generally get framing lumber at any lumber yard but it’s good to check in advance. My local Home Depot didn’t have any 8’ 2”x12”s. They only had 12’ers in stock.

  1. Look for boards that are straight. A little bowing is inevitable but the less the better.
  2. Lowes and Home Depot will make 90 degree “cross” cut for you at the store if you ask. First 2 cuts are free. Every other cut is $0.50
  3. Purchase and load the wood and any fasteners you may have pick up, into your car.
  4. I drive a small SUV. We loaded as many boards as we could into the trunk with the seats folded down and strapped the remainder to the roof. If you do the same, drive slow and take the back roads home.
  5. Framing lumber falling off the top of your car can be extremely dangerous for you and/or other drivers.
  6. Once you get home, bring the wood to an area that’s large enough for you to do the work on the long boards. It was cold and dark so we set up inside. We happened to have a large, empty front parlor inside, so that worked out pretty well as a temporary workshop.

Now that you have all of your tools and materials in one place, it’s time to measure for your cuts!

Step 5: Choose Your Boards

Decide which boards are going to serve as each part of the frame. Find the pieces with the best looking grain and set those as the pieces that will be most visible: the headboard and the runner boards.

Step 6: Crosscuts

There are 3 different types of cuts we’re going to make. In order of simplicity those are:

  • 90 degree cross cuts
  • 45 degree miter cuts
  • Notch cut

We'll start with the crosscuts
.

Measure
Gather the all of the 2"x4"s and the 2"x12" boards you decided will serve as your skeleton & headboard. Measure and mark the boards at the following lengths. Using the speed square will ensure nice straight, perpendicular lines. For more info on using a speed square: click here!

2"x12"s

  • 1x Headboard: 64.125”
  • 4x Vertebrae: 75.5”
  • 1x Spine: 88.75”
  • 1x Front Runner: 75.5"
  • 2x Side Runners: 82.25"

2"x4"s

  • 2x Headboard Supports: 33”
  • 8x Mattress Supports: 77.5”

Cut

  • Put on some eye, ear and respiration protection.
  • Using the circular saw, cut along the outside edge of the pencil line. Watch the blade to ensure you're cutting where you need to. Move the saw forward with steady and even pressure. Being sure not to move faster than the blade can remove material, and not so slow that the blade heats up the wood, causing burn marks.

Step 7: Miter Cuts

The runner boards, bottom corners of all the skeleton pieces and back corners of the headboard supports are all cut with 45 degree miter cuts to give things a stylized look. The speed square makes quick and easy work of marking 45 degree lines as well.

Measure

Skeleton & Headboard Bottoms: at both ends of the skeleton pieces and headboard, find the middle of the board (5,5/8"). From there, use the speed square to draw a 45 degree angled line toward the inside of the board. Make sure you make the marks so that you'll be cutting away the bottom corners on both sides of each board

Runner Boards: This is a little different since we have not yet cut these to length. For the sides, we're going to leave one end flat and mitre cut the other, with the longest tip of the board measuring 86" from the back of the flat edge. Find that length with a tape measure and use the speed square to mark the angled line. For the front runner board, mark the angled lines so that they come in toward each other with the farthest pointy tips measuring 75.5" apart.

Cut!

Just as before, put that safety gear on and use the circular saw to make the cuts, watching the blade to ensure a straight go at your pencil lines.

Step 8: Cut Skeleton Slots

The slots in the spin are cut so that the vertebrae slide into them from the top. Each slot is measured to be the width of the intersecting board (1.5") and half the depth of the intersecting board (5 5/8"). That's how we get a nice sturdy fit.

Slot Positions

  • Spine (measured from front edges): 9 3/8", 34 1/4", 58 7/8", 84 3/8"
  • Vertebrae (measured from center of board & slot): 75 3/8

Making The Cuts

  1. Measure out the positions of the slots on each board.
  2. Use your speed square to get straight perpendicular lines where you will actually make the cuts.
  3. Use your circular saw to cut the exterior edges.
  4. for the flat part in the center of the board that connect the two cuts, use your jigsaw or multitool to fully remove the piece of wood.

Alternatively, you can also use the same method for making the mattress support notches: Make a bunch of perpendicular cuts with the circular saw until the thin pieces of wood can be broken away by hand or with a hammer and/or chisel.

More or less like this video below, but with the different dimensions of 1.5"x5.625" (half the depth and the complete width of a 2"x12") instead.

Step 9: Cut Mattress Support Notches

Measure & Mark

Take the 4 vertebrae and squeeze them together with the quick clamps. Be sure to square up all of the edges. Once clamped, it should look like one giant board. Using a pencil and your speed square, mark where the notches will go for the 2”x4” supports. Each notch will be the width of a 2”x4” AKA 3.5” wide. Draw an “X” in the space that will be removed so that you know exactly where to cut. Using the depth gauge on your circular saw, set the depth of the cut to be the exact depth of a 2”x4” AKA 1.5”.

Cut!

Put that safety gear back on and pick up that circular saw! Start by carefully cutting the exterior edge of each notch across all 4 boards, in smooth steady passes. Then use the saw to cut a bunch of straight lines in-between the two edge cuts. Once you’ve made enough cuts, there will be a bunch of thin slices in-between the two exterior edges. Simply break them off with your hand or use a hammer to knock them away. Once you’ve done this for all 8 notches, remove the clamps and get ready to assemble your new bed!

Step 10: Assembly

  1. Place the spine where you’d like the bed to go.
  2. Slot each vertebrae along the spine. You may need to make adjustments to the slots if you didn’t cut them wide enough. It’s ok if that’s the case. I always play things on the safe side when making the cuts because you can always remove more later but you can’t put any back once you’ve cut it off.
  3. Place the 2”x4” mattress supports in the slots along the vertebrae. If you’d like, you can fasten them down with screws but it’s not necessary.
  4. Attach the headboard supports to the back of the headboard with screws. Be sure to drill pilot holes slightly narrower than the diameter of the screw before doing so to avoid splitting any of the boards. Use the same method to screw the headboard into the back of the rear vertebrae.
  5. Place the runner boards on top of the Skelton and attach them together with your chose fasteners:
    • "L" brackets from the underside into the vertebrae
    • pocket hole from the underside vertebrae into the bottom of the runner boards
    • for an easy but maybe less attractive fasten: From the top of the runner down into the top of the vertebrae with screws.

However you got it on there... congratulations! You’re basically done!

Step 11: Finishing the Wood

At this point it’s totally up to you. The bed frame will totally work regardless of what you do at this point. Personally, I like the look of natural wood. All I did to finish mine was sand things down to a fine grit (320) and rub in some mineral oil mixed with bees wax, to bring out the depth and color of the grain. This darkens the wood ever so slightly and brings out a richer contrast in the grain.

Alternatively you can stain the wood to a color of your liking. At that point you can choose to use a sealer like polyurethane after the stain or just use a sealer without staining it. NOTE: You can’t stain the wood once you’ve sealed it, so just know if you go that route, a sealer is always the last step. Sealing wood is an involved process. Since a bed frame isn’t something that’s going to redial come into contact with liquid, it’s not necessary. However, it technically will increase the lifespan of the wood. Water based sealers are a little easier to put on and clean up. Oil based sealers bring out a richer contrast in the wood grain and darken things a little bit.

So you’ve got options!

Step 12: Clean Up

Step 13: Pat Yourself on the Back

After all the hard work, you deserve a nap. Good thing is, you’ve got a beautiful new place to do so. Not only that, but you’ll sleep like a baby due to all of the satisfaction that comes from making something yourself.

Be sure to drop a comment or reach out in any way if you’ve made this project! Would love to see what you think and what you came up with. Feel free to make changes and interpret things as you will.

Happy making, and all the best as you get to now lay down on your finished job!

Furniture Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Furniture Contest 2017

4 People Made This Project!

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31 Comments

My daughter is very happy thanks to you! She now has a queen size bed she loves! I messed up by breaking down the bed, and applied three coat of tung oil, then waited two weeks to add three coats of matte polyurethane because she has a cat, and dog figuring to protect the surfaces a little better. The problem I had was the wood had dried so things didn't fit as nice! Curves, and twist Yikes! LOL! The only thing I added was I routed a radius around all the edges. Thanks again.......Larry

IMG_1601.JPG

Do you have any simple plans for a "book case" headboard?

1 reply

I do not. There's gotta be some out there on the internet somewhere. If you strike out on the web and would still like some, send me a private message and we can work out a contract for me to make some for you.

Beautiful! But my shins hurt just looking at the edges. How about some swim noodles around the perimeter? Or something that functions the same way but doesn't take away the look? Maybe round the corners?

4 replies

This. I had a similar frame around my bed, and sanding the corners and edges saved me a small fortune in bandages. The room was narrow, which contributed to shin damage when the lights were out. It has since been moved into a larger room, but would be a worthwhile consideration for anyone making a similar frame.

Yeah, my room happens to be very large so it's not an issue but I could totally see it being a problem if that weren't the case.

Thanks! You're not the only one to have the thought. It's only been a problem for me once when I was carelessly leaving my desk, tired, late at night. I later realized that part of the problem was that the whole frame had been pushed more to the left without me realizing it so the space was different that I had become accustomed too. Otherwise it doesn't feel any different than avoiding walking into any other spacial object :)

Instead of using 2x12's for the runners, you can also use narrower boards. to take up less space.

Very nice bed! My daughter loves it, so I'm going to attempt to make it for a queen size mattress. One question, Under step # 6 crosscuts, your print shows the length of the vertebrae at 75 3/8". Below the print you listed them at 75 1/2". Does it really make a difference? Also, is your mattress a full at 54" x 74"?

1 reply

Thanks! I'm honored!!

Thanks for catching that discrepancy. The correct length is 75 1/2". For your daughter's queen sized mattress it'll be a different. Since the mattress is wider (mine is a full at 53" x 74") you'll need to add the width of the runner boards to the width of the mattress: 11 1/4" + 11 1/4" + 60" = 82 1/2"... if you decide to use 2"x12"s as the runners. That can be seriously wide and take up a lot of room, so make sure that's not gonna be too big of a footprint. If it is too big, you can always opt to use narrower boards for the runners and measure accordingly :)

Happy making!

Let me know how it goes!!

Very nice project although I wouldn't go to all that effort myself for a bed: I would have stuck to the mattress on the floor. It's a very large base area if that is a double mattress so you need a bloody big bedroom which not a lot of people have. But it sure is different and looks cool. I think you have a mistake in the first set of drawings. It baffled me for a bit: the 'vertebrae' don't have a slot marked so I couldn't see how it could fit together.

What a beautiful project, it's beautiful in simplicity, eye appeal, utility and use of resources.

Which brings me my points:

- there is no sin in using cheap materials. Buy standard grade construction stuff , bring it inside and let it dry out for a month or two and build something really nice. It doesn't have to be oak and it will be far better than "oak patterned plastic veneer over chipboard"! In addition, frequently when I go to HD I see 2*4's so bowed you could build a boat out of them and I am tempted to try. Just an idea.

- squeaking can be a problem but a coating of pliable construction caulk/adhesive where the pieces meet helps a lot. Silicone works well but it's really hard/impossible to remove the excess without leaving a film and it won't take any finish at all

1 reply

Amen! And thank you so much for the incredible compliments and suggestion. Wouldn't have thought of that. That's what this website/community is all about.

***~~~ many blessings ~~~***

cool very cool

Great example of doing MORE with less!

2 replies

I went a step further with simple: We bough a box platform, a mattress, and 4 cinder blocks. I sprayed the cinderblocks white,and cut a scrap of carpet the size of the face for each. Put the fuzzy side down, put the block under it, and put one block under each corner. The joint between the box and the mattress is solid for holding bedding when we make up the bed.

In my student days when I was even poorer my bed was a door and 4 milk crates, and a 30" x 72" chunk of 4" foam. Small spacers under the support crates allowed additional crates for storage under the bed with 1 spacer clearance. (I think I used scraps of 1x4 as spacers.

Thanks EdM63! It's an ethos behind everything I do!

Before you build this set up, make a mock up to see how easy it isn't to get out of bed. I have found that anything much more than a vertical 1 x whaterver on the edge of the mattress requires that I scooch over. It's a minor nuisance, but on one bed we had a 2" gap between the mattress and a 2x6 on edge. I eventually got annoyed enough that I turfed the bed.


Also mock up the bed's foot print. You may have a huge bedroom and the extra 2 foot width isn't a problem. In many rooms it can be. (We have a guest room that a standard double wide only leaves 16" on either side.)

Finally: Give consideration to making matching boxes that slide or roll under the spaces. These aren't convenient spaces to use, but are quite suitable for things that aren't uses often -- e.g. winter clothes in summer; Christmas ornaments/presents that come out only once a year.