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The goal of this project was to create a very strong bed frame using only scrap material. You should easily be able to find all of the materials (or alternatives) on craigslist. You can also do this build using new materials from your local hardware store. This saves on some work but adds cost and doesn't give quite as much character :). Like any other woodworking project, the bulk of the work is in the sanding and finishing of the wood.

Step 1: Design, Materials & Cuts

I designed the frame ahead of time in Sketch-up. You can find the model file attached to this step. The design is intended for use with a full size mattress (54 in × 75 in), however you can modify it to fit other sizes by making it wider (dimensions for typical bed sizes are given here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_size). The openness of the design is meant to allow plenty of ventilation for the mattress and provide space for storage. The use of stacked fence posts for the sides makes the frame heavy and very sturdy (this is especially useful if some of the posts are a little deteriorated and can't be trusted to hold much load alone).

Here are the materials I used:

  • Old 4x4 cedar fence posts (it is best to find long pieces and cut them down so that you can remove any rot, the grey sides will be removed in the next step resulting in 3"x3" beams). The ones I used are in the 3rd image (yes! I really used these ugly beams to make this beauty!)
    • 2 x 52"
    • 4 x 46"
    • 2 x 20.5"
    • 2 x 17.5"
    • 1 x 49.5"
    • 1 x 55.5"
    • 2 x 12"
  • 10 x standard 2x4's (old deck boards)
  • 4 x 1/2" carriage bolts, 6.5" length (a bit overkill, you could probably get a smaller diameter) + washers & nuts
  • 20 x 2.5" wood screws

All of the posts and 2x4's were cut to length using a chop saw.

Here are the tools that I used:

  • Belt sander
  • Orbital sander
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • 1/2" diameter x 7"+ length drill bit (for bolt holes)
  • Forstner or spade bit (diameter > diameter of washers)
  • Table saw
  • Chop saw
  • Ratchet
  • Sandpaper (100 grit, 150 grit, 250 grit)
  • Danish Oil
  • Wood glue

Step 2: Cleaning Up the Posts

Old cedar posts have a gray rough surface due to way they weather. However this surface layer is not very thick and you can reveal the original beauty of the wood by using a table saw to shave off 1/4" from each face (1st photo). This brings the dimensions of the posts from 3.5"x3.5" to 3"x3".

I found it best to set a width on the table saw guide, cut two perpendicular faces off of every piece, then set a new width and repeat.

Note: I did this step after using the chop saw to cut the correct beam lengths listed in the previous step.

Step 3: Make Side Walls

Make the side walls by gluing the cedar beams together in the arrangement shown in the first picture. Check the fit of the beams before gluing and use a belt sander or orbital sander with a coarse grit paper to smooth down any bumps that prevent the beams from pressing flush against each other. Apply wood glue to any face that contacts another beam and then use wood clamps to squeeze the whole assembly together until the glue dries.

Next cut out the the rails for the cross-supports from the tops of the side walls (3rd image). I used the table saw to cut these out and a chisel to clean up the corners wherever necessary.

Note: It was awkward to push a large group of glued of beams across the table saw, but this did produce a nice even cut across the beam seams. You could probably produce the same result by cutting before you glue the beams and doing some extra sanding.

Step 4: Make Foot-end Assembly and Test Fit

The foot-end assembly consists of the 49.5" beam and the two 12" beams (see 1st picture). You can assemble these using wood glue again.

Congratulations, you have created all of the components! Now is a good time to try fitting them together to see what needs to be sanded, re-cut, etc. Make sure you do this on a flat surface!

Step 5: Rough Sanding and Hole Drilling

Use a belt sander with 60 grit paper to even out the faces of the side-wall and foot-end assemblies, and remove any table saw marks that are visible (I also used this to remove the paint from the 2x4 cross-beams). I had to do some more sanding in order to make sure that the bottom surfaces made contact with the floor evenly.

If the faces are even and the pieces fit together well, then you are ready to drill the bolt holes! Assemble the head and foot beams with the side walls and created recessed holes on tops and bottoms of each corner for the bolt heads and nuts (I used a forstner bit, but a spade bit should work too). Drill a clearance hole from the top recessed hole through the bottom recessed hole. After doing rough sanding on each recessed hole, mark the insides of each corner in order to keep track of which beam goes where, and which side is supposed to face inwards.

Now you can disassemble everything and then move on to the final sanding and finishing!

Step 6: Finishing and Final Assembly

Sanded all pieces with 100 grit and again with 150 grit (or 220 grit) using an orbital sander, then wipe them clean using a cloth soaked in mineral spirits (you can use compressed air instead if you have it). To finish I applied two coats of Danish Oil (Golden Oak color) following the directions on the can. A polyurethane coat is probably a better choice for protecting the soft cedar, but I didn't have any.

Once the finish is completely dry, move all of the pieces to the bedroom for final assembly. Put all the pieces together, slide the carriage bolts in, hammer down the bolt heads to lock them into place, and then tighten the nuts down with a ratchet wrench (don't forget the washers!). Lay out the 2x4 boards across the frame, then drill holes and fasten down each board with 4 wood screws.

After you vacuum up the mess from the drilling, you can tip the frame onto its end and attach some stick-on rubber pads (3rd image) if you are using this on a wooden floor. Be careful! This frame is fairly heavy!

Now put the mattress on and you're done!

<p>Great result from what looked like wood that was only fit to burn! The guy next door to me used the same method to clean up some old door frames and recycle them into an outdoor sunlounger, but they were nowhere as bad as your starting point.</p>
It's very surprising how well old cedar cleans up! I picked up this method from a friend who stockpiles these old posts just in case he needs to build anything.
I only found out about this myself a couple of weeks ago when the guy was making his sun-lounger. It's a great tip and easy to do with a circular saw and the wood is good for so many other projects. Thanks for spreading the idea around!
<p>This is a great looking bed frame. I love the simplicity, but it looks perfectly solid.</p><p>The finish is great too! </p>
<p>Excellent use of reclaimed wood. I also like how you modeled the whole design before building it. You've got my vote.</p>
Thank you!
Great looking bed!

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