Building a bed with no glue or screw; how to make sure it won't crack and be noisy?

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Forum topic by djang000 posted 10-22-2012 01:55 PM 10109 views 2 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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67 posts in 2158 days

10-22-2012 01:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bed noise joint question

Hi all!

After 6 years of sleeping on the floor, I’m planning to build a bed platform this winter. I wanted something simple in look and after a lot of time and designs iteration, I proudly showed my sketches to my wife, whom happily trashed everything and found what she wanted after 15 minutes of google search… :D You know the feeling! :D

So here it is:

As you can see, the side of the main box is nice but doesn’t produce a joint at all. So I’m planning to joint them with a sliding dovetail and a tenon & mortaise so it fits tight. First obvious question to all the expert out here; would this type of joint be enough to hold by itself, or should I plan something else, knowing that I cannot glue (unless I build it in the room and it never leaves it) and I would like to avoid any apparent screws?

But most important; how to you build a wood bed that wont crack and wake you up in the middle of the night? Is there any trick I should know?

Also, since it’s my first real project (you know; with real wood!); other small question; I’m looking for something dark in term of wood. I’m in love with walnut, but it’s really expensive here. Any other alternative you’re thinking about?

Thanks all

18 replies so far

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2939 days

#1 posted 10-22-2012 02:04 PM

_”...Building a bed with no glue or screw; how to make sure it won’t crack and be noisy?...”

Answer—- Always sleep alone


-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Swyftfeet's profile


170 posts in 2197 days

#2 posted 10-22-2012 02:37 PM

Staining Alder or Maple seems to be a good way to simulate walnut…

I too am interested in whether massive sliding dovetails would allow doing this without glue. I am guessing pocket screws as the simplest, but wouldn’t want to use them on an heirloom piece.

-- Brian

View djang000's profile


67 posts in 2158 days

#3 posted 10-22-2012 03:39 PM

Mike; I’ll have to give up woodworking I guess! ;)

Brian : Yeah. I thought about maple as well. I’m hoping to avoid staining so I could go only with some oil and keep the wood as “raw” as possible… I’ll keep looking!
About pocket screw; I never used those but I saw everybody raving about them on the forums. I’m just not sure it’s a good bet for such a demanding application with such massive pieces of wood. And I’m a bit concerned about the long term as well; I want to be able to disassemble and reassemble the bed when I need to repaint the room, so over the year, I would be concerned about the wear around the fillets….

- sam

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3602 days

#4 posted 10-22-2012 03:57 PM

Just change the design a bit and use this type of hardware
sliding dovetails would have to be made buy coming from the bottom up of the head & foot boards and would only be held in place with glue .This kind of idea is the opposite of most bed designs that either use mortise and tenon or this type of hardware.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 2165 days

#5 posted 10-22-2012 04:20 PM

I second the hardware like that a1Jim posted. My bed frame (built by an Amish craftsman, not myself, unfortunately) uses similar hardware and it holds up pretty well. It’s starting to creak a little, but nothing that wakes me or my girlfriend up in the middle of the night.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3184 days

#6 posted 10-22-2012 04:28 PM


Not sure I get your question, but realize that none of the weight will be on the box. It’s strictly on the cross members, which also has the feet.

The box itself is notched and rests over the cross members. There should be box springs that rests directly on the cross members as well. The sides rest on the cross members and the head/foot boards rest on the sides. No real joints are required except to keep the pieces square. In fact, you could make this bed completely without joints of any kind, capable of complete disassembly…and that’s the way I’d keep it.

I see no problems making the box with permanent dovetails or M&T without any additional support, but that’d be a big mess if you decided to move someday.

-- jay,

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2202 posts in 3184 days

#7 posted 10-22-2012 04:36 PM

BTW, you could build this bed out of Lincoln Logs if they were big enough. And really, keeping the pieces square wouldn’t even be an issue because of the thickness of the stock. You’d just need a way to hold the pieces in place to keep them registered together, such as if the bed encountered lateral, side to side movements instead of the traditional up and down movements. If you are missionaries, then it’s doubtful you’d ever need fasteners at all.


-- jay,

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2386 days

#8 posted 10-22-2012 05:00 PM

Great looking design, but a real knuckle buster if you’re planning to tuck in the sheets, blankets, and cover. The beds I’ve made are all simple platforms with inset legs, out of 2x lumber. No squeeks after 20+ years.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#9 posted 10-22-2012 06:16 PM

It would not surprise me if the joints on the bed in the
picture are decorative and it is held together by screws
and cheaper wood inside the frame. Sliding tapered bed
frame connectors may be substituted for wood sliding
joints and the fit of them is reliable.

You can get them from Lee Valley,40842,41269&ap=1

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2994 days

#10 posted 10-22-2012 09:40 PM

I can’t imagine that bed frame has a sliding dovetail, even though it appears to have, it would be a weak joint in a corner – there’s very little material left at the end of the rail.
So for screwless, your left with wedged through tenons, which you’re bound to scrape your shin against…
What’s so wrong with hardware? Didn’t Archimedes invent the screw?
I’d have a look at this

Re timber choice, maple is nearly as much as walnut here, so I second the alder.

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2861 days

#11 posted 10-22-2012 11:37 PM

Jonathan probably has right for how the head and foot boards attach to the side rails. From there it looks like the side rails are just sitting on top of the actual bed. You can see the two boards sticking out of the side of the side rails which are probably just sitting on top of them. It is whatever those two boards attach to that will probably need the screws and to be bolted together. It looks like those two boards run across the top of the legs and then there are probably some crossbeams running between the front and rear legs. The plywood bottom and mattress probably rest upon those crossbeams; with the width of the legs you can probably have 4 boards running from front to back giving lots of support to the ply. But I suspect the boards running across the legs to the sides need to be screwed to the legs and the boards running front to back will need to be bolted to the boards on the legs. The frame won’t creak as it floats but everything else will without bolts.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View oldnovice's profile


6898 posts in 3393 days

#12 posted 10-23-2012 02:42 AM

Not to be contrary but if you use a Tempurpedic mattress this mattress needs to sit on a platform as opposed to rails unless you use a Tempurpedic “box spring”. This only applies to the Tempurpedic mattress!

I converted a waterbed (anyone remember those?) to a platform bed for the Tempurpedic mattress.

My wife DID NOT want a frame around the mattress to make it easier to tuck in the sheets and, for that matter, make/strip the bed! I made a platform that sat on top of the waterbed drawers and attached the platform to that. But before attaching it I put Teflon tape on top of the existing drawer frame to eliminate any potential squeaks … and so far, no squeaks. Needless to say that this bed sit low, only about 22” of off the floor.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View djang000's profile


67 posts in 2158 days

#13 posted 10-23-2012 02:13 PM

Wow. I’m always astonished by the community here on lumberjocks! I opened the laptop this morning to discover so many answers! :D

Jonathan; that is exactly what I thought about for the connection. That plus maybe a small mortaise & tenon at the top (or even just a metal dowel) to prevent any big vertical movement that could stress out the sliding dovetail.

But I must admit that I never, ever, thought about hardware made especially for that task! It removes a lot of challenge to the build and make things probably simpler and stronger. What a shame; I was really glad at the idea of trying sliding dovetails! :D

So I guess I’ll have to think about it a little more.

Rev, Jay; you’re probably both right in the way to envisage this build. I need to start with the 2 massive leg, lay some cross beam (standard 2×4 should do the trick) that would be screwed to the legs and lay on top of it the plywood. 90% of the stress will sit on this. Then, it’s more a matter of attaching the box to the cross beam (tenon & mortaises) and use the head of the bed (I’ll build something a bit bigger) to strengthen everything.

I’ll work on a sketchup this week and update the post to get your feedbacks! :)


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67 posts in 2158 days

#14 posted 10-23-2012 02:16 PM

Renners; I’m thinking of having 2” of stock thick mapple or walnut. You really think a sliding dovetail wouldn’t be strong enough?

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2540 days

#15 posted 10-23-2012 02:30 PM

I’ve always wondered why Mike calls himself “Horizontal Mike”.
Now I have a little insight…I like the way he thinks!

As far as the frame, it has to have a way to get it apart or you get the “built the boat in the basement” syndrome. If they used sliding dovetails on the ends, it seems to me that over time the mattress would go back and forth and loosen them. Mattresses slide over time, I don’t care what anybody says. I think this thing is screwed together with possible steel L joints inside the frame, or even possibly has a steel angle iron frame inside that the wooden frame attaches to, and also holds the mattress in place.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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