Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A DIY Project: Make your bed

I must apologize for this week’s post. I had promised I was going to talk about a medieval/renaissance fair, and I had intended on going to one this past weekend.

I had all intentions of going to the 14th Annual Community Festival at the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies in Amherst, Massachusetts.  I had looked forward to attending this event, since it would have been a wonderful place to make contacts dealing with medieval and renaissance history; but it was not to be.  Because of the weather, I decided not to make the 2 plus hour trip; maybe next year.

This week I decided to talk about a DIY project I recently completed.  I had just moved into a new apartment and discovered that my box springs had been destroyed during the transport.

I maintain an apartment for work, and a home which is several hours away that I go to on the weekends. For my apartment bed, I had a simple metal bedframe.  I was never happy with this metal frames (I always seem to run into the corners at night) and wanted a larger wooden bed.  Although, I have a very decent bed in my house, I did not want to spend that amount of money on one for my apartment.

I decided to make my own bed, including the box springs. Remember, being in an apartment I needed to consider my limitation of tools.  At my disposal were a hand drill (looks like an old fashioned egg spinner), a handsaw, hammer, and a screw driver.

The first step in any DIY project is the plans. I envisioned an older style bed, something that was large and simple in construction.  This step is vital because you need to know how wide and long your bed should be, as for me I made it so the mattress would just sit inside the bed frame, down into it an inch.

The next step you need to do is consider what type of wood you want for your bed. You can go and use an oak if you want, I decided to use pine (because of cost) and stain it oak color. Now go do some research and find where the wood is the cheapest.

Remember, when I said the vital step was planning, because it now comes into effect.

I used wide boards; these wider boards would display an older style bed. The vital step is that if you measured the length properly, you can often (as I did) have them cut at the place of purchase. This removes the need for you to cut them at home, this is important if you have an apartment such as mine.

So now I have 4 boards (two smaller for the ends and two longer for the sides). I secured the pieces together using lag bolts. This appearance of the lag bolts made it appear rustic in nature and made it very secure.

Now, we need to speak about terminology.  A bolt is a bolt, and a screw is a screw.  A bolt usually has a nut at the end, while a screw using its teeth to cut into the wood and hold two pieces together.  Now for the exception to the rule; THE LAG BOLT.

The type of lag bolts I am using are sometimes referred to as a lag screw. Imagine a thick screw, except the difference is the head.  A normal screw is screwed in by use of a Philips or straight screwdriver. The head of a lag bolt is either square or octagon and is screwed in using a wrench or socket. I am mentioning this in case you need to ask for this bolt, you want to make sure you get what you are looking for.

Plan out where you want to put your lag bolts, and make sure they align up on all boards, this will give it more of a professional looking design. When you are ready to bolt them into, use your hand drill to put a pilot hole between the boards. Using a pilot hole helps the bolt go in without cracking or splitting it the wood.  Remember: if you make the pilot hole too small, the wood may crack; too big and the screws of the bolt have nothing to cut into to.

Next I needed to create the legs for holding the bed up. This step can be done in any manner you wish, as long as your finished project is secure and safe, remember you will be using this for a long time and putting a lot of weight on it during its life. This is the number 1 rule when trying to create a DIY bed (or any project), MAKE SURE IT IS SECURE AND SAFE.

I was able to find matching legs that was sold for use on couches or benches. Using some lag bolts I secured them firmly into the frames. This brought the bed up from the ground several inches from the ground which allows storage underneath. If you use legs, or the design of them is totally up to you, just remember the number 1 rule.

My design incorporated the box springs into the bed itself. Since my box springs were destroyed in the move, it allowed me to see how they were constructed. In honesty, there is not much to them; some cross wooden slats covered with a thin cushion.

You must need two wooden slats running length wide inside the bed for an anchor for your other slats to lie upon.  These two slats must be a better quality then the others, and make sure you secure them very good using lag bolts and wood glue. Remembering I wanted my mattress to sit inside the bed, so I located these slats a couple inches inside the frame.

Space the other slats running across (vertically) your bed; remember the more you have the more secure and safe your bed will be.  I nailed them in using very fine nails into the length way slats, then cut small pieces of board (from the excess slat material I had) and placed them in between, this will keep the slats from moving if they are ever dislodged and also gives the side a level edge.

After the slats were installed, I took a two by four and ran it in the center of the bed an inch or two below the vertical slats.  This would allow the slats to move up and down giving it some spring, but not far enough down as to cause them to break.

I used a bed topper, placed a sheet around it, and placed it on top of the slats to be used as the cushion for the internal box springs. These bed toppers are very inexpensive, and are perfect for us of the box springs cushion. This bed topper gives me an options to extend the life of the bed, if they ever become stained or ripped, I can simply exchange the bed topper instead of buying new box springs.

After all of this was completed, I stained the bed.  I made sure I placed cardboard and plastic sheets underneath it in case of spills, remember I am in an apartment. The stain I used was a red oak color. The product consisted of a stain and sealer in one, so this saved some time. I placed the mattress on top and the bed was completed, and it was inexpensive (under $100) and is quite comfortable.

Next Week: I will discuss the death of my novel “Legend ofthe Mystic Knights” and the Saratoga Springs International Film Festival.

As many of you know, my publisher is going out of business on May 31.  This means you have a limited amount of time to get “Legend of the Mystic Knights”.


  1. Hope you enjoyed your DIY project. Looking at the finished product, your bed looks stronger than the bed platforms sold in IKEA. Did you use a mattress and a bed topper? I would have thought that a bed topper would be thinner? Just curious.

    1. The topper I referenced was used above the slats in picture 2, as a separator between those slats and the mattress.

  2. Wow, William, I'm impressed. My husband is a professional woodworker and he has sold many of his woodworking projects but that was with all the latest power equipment. That you were able to do this with hand tools is terrific. I do know that hand drill - I think there is one or two of them in his shop - I always thought they were neat. The bed looks great.

  3. Great job, William. It's so satisfying and rewarding when you can make your own furniture with little money. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Go looking bed William. Now I know I can come to this site for carpentry advice as well as medieval history.

  5. That's quite the enterprising project, William. The finished bed looks good. Bravo for doing it on your own.

  6. Am impressed, William. I almost always manage to do whatever it is but your DIY project would be to much for me. Much easier to just make a trip to IKEA and get a new bed for little money.

  7. Good job on the design and the frugality.

  8. When I was in middle school, I made a little wood box in Shop Class. And that is about as handy as I get with a saw, a hammer and a screwdriver. I really enjoyed it, but my creations were always a little crooked. Needless to say, I'm pretty impressed with your DIY bed. Your the first person I know who actually made their own bed. In fact, I've had friends over the years who just slept with a mattress on the ground. So I'm majorly impressed.

  9. Impressive. It looks like a good solid bed.

  10. nice Post, can i try it in my home??

    1. I made it in my apartment, so I guess you can. Biggest points are, if you measure it right, get it cut or buy the right size, and make sure it is safe and secure.

  11. Wow! I won't pretend I'd ever undertake a project like this William, but that doesn't prevent me from appreciating what you accomplished. What a great feeling it must be to make a piece of furniture like this. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I had to take a shop class in the 8th grade; the second half of the spring semester was devoted to woodworking. (At my junior high school, all the boys took shop whereas all the girls were subjected to a "home economics" course - quaint, huh?) Unlike Erica, I didn't like shop class at all, which is not so surprising as I don't work well with my hands. But it might have been different with some one-on-one instruction; perhaps a Montessori-like school rather than a public school would have been better for me with respect to this sort of thing.

  13. This project is a great way to take everyday materials and turn them into something totally useful. The pictures you posted are extremely helpful in showing just how easy this project would be to finish. If you just add a comfortable mattress on top of this sturdy frame, you will be enjoying a rustic and durable bed in no time.

    Dylan Lovell @ Mattress Sale Liquidators