William's Cot

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Project by Craig Ambrose posted 09-15-2009 01:16 AM 1870 views 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This cot, made of pink birch, is inspired by one sold by touchwood cots . It’s my first project where the timber has been dressed exclusively with hand planes. The birch boards I were using were planed at the mill, which made it less work than using rough sawn timber, but they were by no means straight and square. Most of the planing work was done with my veritas low angle jack, and an old stanley number 7. I don’t have a good smooth plane yet, so the finish is mostly just done with very fine shavings from the jack plane, and yes, there are still some lines from the edge of the blade. I didn’t want to camber my jack plane blade just yet.

The joiner is all mortice and tennon (about 100 of them), with a couple of nice big dovetails holding the base together. I started doing the mortices by hand, chopping them with a chisel, which was good fun but I did use a router to do the mortices for the slats, in order to get the thing finished. The tenons were all cut with hand saws and cleaned up with a shoulder plane.

The cot is glued together with liquid hide glue, so although I think it’s strong enough to last an age, when something does eventually break it’ll be able to be steamed apart and replaced. That’s how we create the antiques of the future.

9 comments so far

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3965 days

#1 posted 09-15-2009 01:31 AM

She’s a beauty – and soooo many mortises! I think you absolutely have the right idea to build for a lifetime but ensure that repairing is possible. If more things were done this way again…

By pink birch, I assume you mean red beech? or something else?

Very nice in any case.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View a1Jim's profile


117160 posts in 3628 days

#2 posted 09-15-2009 01:37 AM

Is william the bear? great job looks super.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Innovator's profile


3584 posts in 3465 days

#3 posted 09-15-2009 01:41 AM

Great work, very nice details.

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3724 days

#4 posted 09-15-2009 01:54 AM

Very nice work!

View Craig Ambrose's profile

Craig Ambrose

47 posts in 3623 days

#5 posted 09-15-2009 02:00 AM

daltxguy, you’re not the first person to look at that wood and say “beech”. I bought the wood as a lot of construction grade timber from a builder, via trademe. He said the wood was “pink birch”. Not knowing much about such things, I’ve googled it, and I see that there is wood being sold as “pink birch” that comes from pacific islands (eg this link). Now you know as much as me. I’ve been calling it birch just because that’s what I’ve been told.

From the woodwork perspective, it’s lovely to work, whatever it is. Straight grained and easy to plane, except near a knot. I hard both heartwood and sapwood, the heartwood being a much darker red. Not a lot of strength across the grain, as you’d expect from any wood with a straight grain, and a tendency to crack quite a bit at the end of the original boards, where the moisture differential had pulled it apart.

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3965 days

#6 posted 09-15-2009 03:38 AM

Hmmm, ok, pink birch it probably is then. I have heard our (NZ) red beech ( nothofagus fusca) referred to as red birch, pink birch, cherry beech so this is what made me think of it. Red beech is also straight grained and the heartwood is relatively brittle ( like many durable timbers) and darker red than the sapwood ( one of these days, I’ll post some pictures).

This just demonstrates why these ‘common’ names are so ambiguous. If your pink birch is really the Soloman islands variety(or PNG or Aussie), then as your link suggests, it is Schizomeria Serrata, which of course isn’t a true birch either ( all birches being Betula’s)!

In any case, it looks to have been a good find. It’s a shame it was being sold as construction timber.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Craig Ambrose's profile

Craig Ambrose

47 posts in 3623 days

#7 posted 09-15-2009 04:18 AM

Yep, you should definitely post some pictures Steve. Got any wood milled down at your place yet? I’d love to come down at take a look sometime.


View moshel's profile


865 posts in 3735 days

#8 posted 09-15-2009 04:44 AM

Craig, you are far better man than I am. After the horrific experience I had with making a crib (and my wife delivered 1 month too early!!!), I gave up on all these mortises and bought a cot….

Its very pretty and clean and looks much stronger than the commercial ones. well done!!!

Poor Steve can’t mill – the mill is still in Christchurch. I plan to hop for a visit sometime and bring it over.

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3965 days

#9 posted 09-15-2009 07:52 AM

No wood milled yet. As Moshe said, the mill is in Christchurch at the moment. Still a ways from getting everything in place to mill some beech.

If you are keen to get some beech timber, however, I can recommend Glenhope Native Sawmill in, where else?Glenhope. You can PM me if you want details as they are so modern as to be neither in the phonebook nor on the internet but I do have contact names and numbers.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

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