Building a Cherry Queen Bed #3: The Headboard

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Blog entry by jonah posted 06-28-2016 11:19 AM 777 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The Footboard Part 3 of Building a Cherry Queen Bed series Part 4: Side Rails, Center Rail, and Slats »

I started on the headboard, naturally, with milling (and milling, and milling) the various parts down to just larger than their final size. I neglected to take a picture of my wood pile before I started, so you’ll have to use your imagination and picture this pile about eight boards high by two across. This picture is after I got done with the headboard pieces:

I had to get parts for the two posts, a bottom rail, and an upper and lower rail for the panels at the top of the headboard from my 8/4 lumber, and a middle stretcher that primarily serves to prevent pillows from falling behind the headboard from 4/4 stock. Here’s an intermediate photo of the fruits of all that milling. I wish there was something better to do with sawdust than to bag it up and throw it out.

Each of the four horizontal pieces needed a mortise and tenon, and things were further complicated by the fact that among those four boards there were three different thicknesses (1 3/4”, 1 1/4”, and 3/4”), which meant three different mortise and tenon sizes.

I ended up decided to use a 3/4” mortise/tenon for the bottom, largest rail, a 1/2” for the upper and lower panel rails, and a 3/8” for the middle pillow blocker. Once I got the router and edge guide set up, it actually went fairly quickly with my daughter helping me keep the chips somewhat under control. Despite cutting all the pieces to the exact same length and using the exact same setup on the table saw (aside from blade height) to cut the tenons, somehow I ended up with a couple of gaps on a couple of the pieces where the shoulders did not fully sit tight to the post. Initially I thought it was because the tenons themselves were too long, but that proved to not be the case. What happened was that somehow one or more parts of the shoulders of various pieces ended up being cut too narrow, so the post bumped up against that and prevented the other sides from sitting flush.

I tried finessing things with a shoulder plane and got it a bit better, but eventually gave up because of the difficulty of test fitting, finessing, test fitting, et cetera. The pieces are really heavy! I think this bed might be a bit overbuilt.

Once I had the posts done and the tapers cut and smoothed there, I moved on to the panels. My wife and I spent a good amount of time deciding exactly how I should cut the walnut veneered plywood panel to best showcase its grain with the cherry. I think we came up with a good solution. I had to cut a groove in the top and bottom rails and stub tenons in the stiles to go between them. The stiles also needed grooves, and the panels cut to fit. That all went fairly smoothly.

I decided to use those little rubber balls (Space Balls, Rockler calls them) in the groove to keep the panel centered yet allow it to move freely. I don’t expect the plywood to move much, but better safe than sorry. Here’s the stiles, rails, and panels dry fitted together. I love how it looks and can’t wait to get finish on it. I think the wife will be shocked how good the walnut and cherry look with a clear finish on them.

One decision left: gloss or semi-gloss finish? I plan to use Arm-R-Seal, which is my go-to for clear finishes. I had the idea to put on two or three gloss coats followed by a semi gloss to finish it up. Any thoughts on that?

6 comments so far

View gargey's profile


393 posts in 195 days

#1 posted 06-28-2016 11:56 AM

Nice of you to include all the pictures, fun to watch. Gloss vs semi-gloss: Match the rest of the stuff in the bedroom.

View ttocsmi's profile


25 posts in 808 days

#2 posted 06-28-2016 12:08 PM

Very nice. Looking forward to seeing the finished product.

-- Knight of Sufferlandria 2015

View CaptainSkully's profile


1407 posts in 2978 days

#3 posted 06-28-2016 01:17 PM

IMHO, the less glossy the surface, the more you’ll be able to see the depth of the wood. Since you’ve added walnut to the mix, that’s a nice, deep, rich wood that I wouldn’t detract from with glossy reflection. Also, only the top coat really matters, so unless you are just trying to strategically use the product you’ve already got, go with all the same.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View htl's profile


2015 posts in 579 days

#4 posted 06-28-2016 08:02 PM

Great start to a fine finish!

-- There's a hundred ways to do anything, alot depends on the tools at hand.

View JimYoung's profile


219 posts in 1007 days

#5 posted 06-29-2016 04:23 PM

Nice work so far. These large projects can be a pain moving and test fitting.

I like Arm-R-Seal as well. I’ve done pieces in Satin and Semi-Gloss. I echo the Cap’n on glossy finishes detracting from the wood. On my desk I used semi-gloss and rubbed it out with wax to help get rid of the dust, and I like how it came out.

My $0.02

-- -Jim, "Society is well governed when its people obey the magistrates, and the magistrates obey the law." -- Solon

View jonah's profile


687 posts in 2718 days

#6 posted 06-30-2016 09:42 AM

I have a half can of semi gloss left, so I’ll probably use that. I will end up needing more though, which is why I thought of doing a few coats of gloss for maximum protection underneath the semi gloss. I’ll probably end up going with just the semi gloss, but I’ll do a test piece first to run it by the wife.

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