I didn’t start documenting the build for this until today as a few people from here and Facebook requested it (hence the extra info for non-woodworkers), so many steps have been skipped….including milling the parts from a huge 12 inch by 16 foot American White Ash board (I need another one for the headboard, luckily, my local supplier has a bunch of them and they are not selling well…good for me!)
Not many people like Ash due to its white color (looks cheap) and splintery nature, in fact, until fairly recently was considered a trash wood, but its too little too late for the American White Ash for in 2002 an Asian beetle was discovered in Michigan’s forests which is decimating our population of Ash. The larvae of the Emerald Ash Borer eats the inside of the bark and disrupts the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, thereby killing the tree. Over 30 million ash trees have been killed, and our entire ash population might be endangered.
At any rate, Ash is comparable to oak in weight and texture and is mainly used as (gulp!) firewood and cut into veneers to give people who buy Pottery Barn furniture a warm feeling inside. Most of the ‘fine furniture’ you see in PB or other high end stores is simply advertised as ‘solids’. They can say that all of their furniture is ‘solid wood’ because they make a lot of it from Rubberwood (fast growing latex producing trees which were, until recently, burned at the end of their life) wrapped in Ash veneer. Price out a truly solid piece of furniture these days and you will be shocked. An average solid handmade bed can easily fetch between $1200 and $5000.
I spent a lot of time making jigs for this project, like a crosscut sled to crosscut the rails and other long stock, a taper jig to do the 2 sided leg tapers and an MDF template for the curved head and footboards. The legs were then milled, tapered, and cut to size from some 8/4 and mortised with a hollow chisel mortiser….
For the non woodworkers, these mortises may look rough, but they are quite nice. The edges will be covered by the shoulders of the rails so perfect work here is unnecessary….A mortise this size in Ash (well fitted) will support in excess of 3000lbs)....
Next, the tenons were cut with a router and a straightedge after much agony on how to cut tenons on boards this long. In the end, Marc from the WoodWhisperer show pointed out that the router method with a story stick is probably the most painless and best way to ensure an accurate shoulder to shoulder length. I left the thickness a little strong and fitted all of the joints by hand using a shoulder plane and chisel.
After a dry fit, I sanded to 220, beveled the tops and bottoms of the legs with a block plane and glued up. I regret not having enough clamps, but whatever….
I was pretty pleased with the fit, all of the agonizing over the shoulder to shoulder lengths of the rails was worth it…..Doesn’t get much better than this….
Next, making the side rails/cleats and after I procure another 16 footer, the headboard glueup/finishing and assembly.
-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan