Disclaimer: When I built this bed frame, I had a very limited knowledge of carpentry. I learned a lot by trial and error while building this. I also wasn't thinking about making an instructable, so I didn't take as many pictures as I probably should have. If any of my instructions are unclear, please let me know and I'll try to explain myself better! I do tend to get a little verbose, so I apologize in advance.
That said, my wife and I got real tired of using cheap ass walmart frames because they were made of chinesium alloy, which would break far too easily. We didn't have enough money to buy a "real" bed frame, so we gathered lumber and supplies over the course of several months. Check craigslist for surplus supplies or ask a local construction company if they have any scrap materials they'd be willing to let you recycle. They may reject your offer, but it never hurts to ask. Your local landfill may have a construction debris area that you can scavenge, too.
Materials list (king size, your bed may vary):
Around 16 2x4s
3 sheets of 3/8" particle board
1.5 sheet (approx) 3/8" plywood (something nice looking, this will be the exterior)
Ball bearing drawer slides
Flat and L shaped strong ties
Screws. Lots of screws
Shims (optional, but very helpful when mounting the rail supports)
Paracord (or actual drawer handles)
Hardwood flooring adhesive (probably not 100% necessary)
Basic tools: impact driver, drill, saws, clamps and/or ratchet straps, tape measure, caulk gun, sand paper, level, speed square (or something to determine a 90degree corner)
Protip: You will have the best results with a chop saw and a table saw. I tried using just a skil saw at the beginning, but the results were.....bad. After grabbing the chop and table saws at a pawn shop, I was able to get significantly more accurate with my cuts. I used an orbital sander, but a belt sander would have been ideal.
Step 1: Start Off by Planning Out Your Bed
I spent a long time planning this. I went as far as building a scale model in minecraft so I could get a 3D visualization of everything. Somewhere, I have a few pieces of notebook paper covered in sociopathic scribbles and doodles, where I had all the measurements and diagrams of the pieces. I'll upload pictures after I track them down. For ease of transportation and setup, we made the frame in 2 halves.
Here's the basic process I followed:
Measure your mattress and decide how tall you want it. You'll be making your frame using these dimensions.
Wife wanted something tall, so we decided on 3ft. Subtract the height of your mattress and box spring. This will give you the height you need to build the frame.
Figure out the size and quantity of drawers. We settled on 2 large drawers per half--one at the foot, one on the side so no matter how we positioned it, we'd have at least 3 drawers available.
Step 2: Build the Top and Bottom of Each Half
As you can see from the pictures, the design was very simple. Build 4 rectangles the length of your mattress and 1/2 the width. 2 will be tops and 2 will be bottoms. Make sure to use your speed square to get perfect 90degree angles on the corners.
Using 2x4s, lay 2-3 along the length of the frame, equally spaced, and flush with the top of the perimeter 2x4s. The easiest way I found to do this was lay them flat on the ground inside the rectangle, screw them in and flip it over. Double check with your speed square before you screw them in. They might need a little bit of adjustment to get a nice square fit.
I changed the plan slightly from the picture. Instead of turning the 3 perpendicular 2x4s on their side, I ended up only doing that with the center one. The center one should be hanging down about 1.5", making the entire top like a teeter totter.
Run 1 2x4 down the center of the frame. Cut 6 pieces to 1/2 the width of the frame minus the width of the 2x4. (1/2width-1.5"). Take 3 of these short pieces and screw them into both the outside of the frame and the center 2x4. Take the other 3 and screw them into the outside. Square them up in the center and use a flat strongtie to hold them in place.
Your 2x4s may or may not be completely straight. Some of them might be quite warped. I had to use ratchet straps to squeeze the frame pieces to make the supports fit. If you do your math right and cut your pieces to the right length, you should end up with very close to being completely rectangular.
If you measure and cut as you go, you'll probably end up with something that's very bowed out in the center. My first one looked like an egg with flattened top/bottom. Not good. Messed up several 2x4s by making that mistake. Luckily, I was able to use them in the next step.
Step 3: Building the Drawer Mounts and Adding Vertical Supports
Take the height you want your frame to be and subtract 7" (2x4s are actually 3.5" tall, so you lose 3.5" from the top and another 3.5" from the bottom). This is the size you need to cut all but 2 of the vertical supports. More on this later.
Start off with 2 on each corner, then add one at each intersection except ones that would be inside a drawer. I started off using strong ties to hold them on, but they were pretty floppy. After learning about it at work, I ended up toe-screwing (I assume that's the word for toe-nailing when you use screws) them to they didn't rotate and wobble like loose teeth. Take your screws and put them in at a steepish downward angle into the narrow sides of the vertical supports. This should drive the screw the vertical support into the bottom and pin it in place. I only did 1 side of each vertical support so it didn't split. See picture for an example. Nails would also work (and probably work better), but I used screws because it's what I had on hand.
In the center, I had to modify 2 of the verticals slightly. Take your top and measure the overhang of the center support (the one that makes it a teeter totter). Subtract this amount from the height of the 2 verticals supporting the rail mount so they don't get in the way of the top.
Cut 2 pieces of 2x4 per drawer. I used 20" rails, so I cut them ~21". That gives me a little bit of slop in case I need to adjust the rails forward or backward. Be very exact when you mount the rail supports! You don't want there to be more than 1/16" between the front and back of the rail mounts, otherwise it will bind up the rails and possibly break them. I added another vertical where necessary and had to shim them slightly. You can either use actual shims or cut shims from scrap 2x4s.
Step 4: Mount Rails, Then Attach Top to Bottom
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the rail mounting, but it's pretty straight forward. Mount 1 rail and get it as level as possible. The closer you get to perfectly level, the lower the chance of the drawer magically opening or closing on its own. Measure the height from the ground and mount the opposite rail to the same height, making sure it is also perfectly level.
Hint: You may need to adjust them several times to get it perfect because they tend to wander slightly when the screws are tightened. This can be very tedious and annoying, but it's worth it in the end.
Lay your top on the bottom and attach the 2. Again, I originally used strong ties, then toe-screwed them for added stability. In the end, there were 2 strong ties on all of the verticals--one attaching it to the top, one to the bottom.
Step 5: Building the Drawers
Again, I don't have any pictures of the drawers as I worked, but I have pics of the finished product.
The drawers aren't anything fancy. Measure the opening for your drawer, making sure to account for the thickness of the rails. This will be the width of your bottom plate. I didn't really measure the length, just make sure it's at least as long as the rails. I think I went ~2" longer because it seemed like a reasonable size. I cut the sides ~5/8" shorter than the height of the opening. You will want the height to be pretty loose so nothing rubs against the top or bottom. I didn't cut any particleboard for the front of the drawer because I was going to use plywood.
After cutting the particleboard, I ripped some 1" wide strips of 2x4 and cut laid them around the outside perimeter of the bottom, leaving about a 3/8" space for the sides. Cut them to size and double check that everything is square. You don't want your drawers to be out of square. Make sure the sides are extremely straight because once the rails are screwed in, you don't want it to be warped or crooked. Use your level as a straight edge and mark a line.
Using 1" screws, screw 1 end of your board in from the bottom and look at how it lays on the line. While you're at it, take a piece of particleboard and make sure it doesn't hang over the edge of the bottom. If there are no serious problems, go ahead and screw the rest of it in. I put a bead of glue between the rip and the particleboard, but this is probably overkill. Clamps are really helpful keeping it in place while you screw it down. If there are any major bows in the wood, you would probably be best off just cutting a new piece. Again, you probably don't want to be more than 1/16" off on the rails. The back isn't such a big deal.
Once the bottom has the 2x4 rips screwed on all 3 sides (we'll do the front of the drawer later), take one of your sides and hold it in place. Run your pencil along the top of the rip, marking the particleboard. Do this for all 3 sides. Take some more rips of 2x4 and cut them to 1/8-1/4" less than the length of the 2 sides of the drawer. Center it ~1/16" above the line you marked and put 1 screw in each end. Make sure it fits on the bottom before you add another screw or 2 to hold it permanently. Measure from the top of the particleboard to the top of the rip, subtract 1/4" and cut another rip to that length. Mark it and set aside. Do the same for the other side of the drawer.
Using brad nails, carefully tack it in on the bottom of the drawer. This is going to be temporary, so don't go overboard. Measure the width of the back between the 2 rips and subtract 1/8-1/4". Repeat the previous step for the back, using this measurement for the length of the rip. You won't need to cut a vertical piece for the back.
Make sure everything fits one last time because after you glue it, it is never going to come apart! Once you're sure, put a bead of wood glue in the corner of one side, where the rip meets the particleboard. Lay it in place on the bottom and, using brad nails, nail it into the 2x4 rip on the bottom piece. Put a bunch of nails in, but don't go crazy. Repeat for each side. Take the rip you set aside and carefully lay it in the corner, with a bead of glue on each side, making sure the square side is facing into the corner. You don't need to center this one, so it can rest on the rips you already attached. This is going to keep the sides square, so be careful not to knock anything off kilter when you nail it in. If you're using a pneumatic nailer, be very careful because it may be powerful enough to knock the corners out of whack. If you're hand nailing, it may be helpful to drill a hole slightly smaller than the nail so it will go in easier.
Leave the glue to set overnight.
Check the fit after the glue sets by laying it in place in the frame. If your drawer is a little too wide (one of mine almost 1/16" too wide, which was enough to bind up the rails), gently sand it down until it fits. Depending on how far off it is, hand sanding it is better than power sanding because it's very easy to take too much off.
Step 6: Finishing the Outside
I was fortunate and got some nearly complete scraps of 3/8" golden oak plywood for free from work. They were going to throw it away because the pieces weren't whole. 2 of them were 2-8', another was 3.5x8' and 3 were a full 4x8' missing just like 2" from one side. I'm told these things were like $64/sheet! Perfect for someone like me, but apparently not good enough for a school district.
Double check the measurements of the frame. You may have gotten a little off along the way (I think mine was ~1/8" taller than planned) and it may not be completely square. Mine was slightly out of square, but it was enough I could just cheat it a little with the plywood. Start with 1 side and cut the piece to fit, leaving a little bit of overhang on the corner where it will meet another piece of plywood. Do the same for the outsides of the frame. Since I made mine in 2 parts, I didn't cover the inside where the halves meet. I also didn't finish the head side because I have plans to build a headboard and will probably need access to the bare frame. Remember, this is finish work, so take your time. Be very precise with your measurements and cuts. You can always take a little bit off, but you can't add any back on! After you have them cut, set your table saw to a 45degree angle and cut the long edges to size. This should make a very clean corner and hopefully cover up any minor imperfections if the frame isn't completely square.
You may find some places where your 2x4s aren't flush, so get your sander out and sand them down as you go. I found most of the places were where the vertical pieces met the top/bottom, but there were a few knots that were slightly raised as well.
Carefully mark where the drawers are because you will be cutting out the face of the drawer from this piece. Measure it several times, cut once. I used a circular saw with a superfine finish blade to make the long cuts and a small hand saw in the corners to finish the cut. Set the drawer pieces in their respective drawer so you can keep them straight.
All in all, I was pretty happy with the cut. My blade cut just a hair under 1/8" out, which was loose enough not to interfere with the drawer, but tight enough to not be extremely obvious.
Once you have your plywood cut, read the directions on the flooring adhesive. Make sure you meet all the installation conditions and apply it to the 2x4s on 1 side. Press the plywood into the adhesive and start nailing it off. I nailed 1 corner, made sure it was level and flush, then nailed the other corners. After it was tacked in, I started nailing it along the edges every few inches with a few throughout the center. Make sure you are hitting 2x4 and watch out for screw heads. If you use a battery powered one, like I did, make sure the battery is fully charged. Once the glue sets, it's permanent, so if it isn't pressed tight into the adhesive, it won't grip it.
Glue on the rest of the sides. I used my finger to spread a light coating of wood glue on the corner bevels to keep them together.
Again, take your time, but don't dawdle--there is a very limited working time for the adhesive. You want it to look good, which is why you took your time in the beginning. That should be paying off right now as the pieces just fall into place. After you have all the sides adhered, sit back and marvel at your work.
Step 7: Finishing the Drawers
One mistake I made was mounting the rails before the face. In turn, my measurement was off and I had to jerry-rig a solution. I should have done it this way instead.
Using the same method of mounting the sides, mount the plywood on the front. Double, triple, quadruple check that your drawer will fit before you permanently attach it! It may take a lot of trial and error, but this will save a lot of hassle and will make the finished product look that much better. Remember, the drawer isn't going to be laying flat against the frame. You will need to leave a gap between the bottom of the drawer and the top of the (bottom piece) of the frame. I used a spacer to lay it on made of some 3/16" rips of scrap 2x4. Make sure there is sufficient clearance on the top so it doesn't bind.
After you mount the front and the glue has set, measure the distance from the outside of the plywood on the frame to the front of the rail. Make a mark on your drawer so you can line it up. Do this on both sides. Take some scrap 2x4 and your spacers and lay them in front of the frame, so you can simulate the drawer being fully extended. Extend the rails all the way and line them up with your marks. Put 1 screw in the center of oblong hole on the front and 1 in the oblong hole on the back. Carefully tighten them, being sure not to strip the plywood by overtightening. If all goes well, you should be able to open and close the drawer with no problems. The reason you used the oblong holes is it will give you room to make small adjustments without having to remove the screws completely. Make any adjustments necessary, checking to be sure the plywood face is flush with the plywood frame, and making sure the drawer is as level as possible. You may or may not need to remove the screws from the oblong holes and make a larger adjustment, but it should be pretty close.
Once it is perfect, carefully take a 1/16" drill bit and drill a short hole in the exact center of the round holes. This should keep the screw from migrating off center and moving the rail. Carefully screw in the rails the rest of the way and check the drawer's operation again. This was the most time consuming part of this whole project. Lots of precision is required so the drawers work smoothly.
Step 8: Drawer Handles
I had some paracord laying around, so I decided to put it to good use and have some custom handles (I had also blown WAY past my budget at this point and didn't want to spent money on actual handles).
Used a simple cobra weave with a few inches extra on each end. I laid the weave on the drawer and marked the width of the weave. I drilled holes that were just barely larger than the paracord, making sure to drill through the 2x4 rip, and using a small crochet needle, pushed them through the holes. Using a staple gun, I stapled it on the inside. I started with 1 staple at the half way point, folded it over, then went to town. I figured more staples would be better than less because the paracord would be pulling the full weight of the drawer and its contents and I didn't want it to move or come loose.
If you are using a store bought handle, follow the directions on the package.
Step 9: Installation
Now that it's complete, make sure the glue and adhesive has completely set, give it one last once over to see if anything looks wrong. If you don't see any problems, it's time to put a bed on it.
I am positive this could have been built much simpler and cheaper, but I wanted something sturdy that would hold up to vigorous....eh....adult activities for a long time. Also, like I said before, I had a very minimal knowledge of carpentry, so I worked with what I knew.