Double Single Bed #4: Deep Mortises

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Blog entry by ttocsmi posted 01-22-2016 03:57 PM 626 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: The Propane Powered Air Filter Part 4 of Double Single Bed series Part 5: Bed Bolts & Final Assembly »

Here’s an outline drawing I did for one of the headboards.

The post caps, curved top rail, & varying stile widths help break up the straight lines from my original design. Thanks to my wife and a few other LJ’ers for the ideas. (I’m definitely not a right-brainer.) The stiles fit into mortises on the top & bottom rails.

I didn’t foresee any problems at the time. Do you?

I cut the top and bottom headboard rails to size, cut the bottom rail tenons, fitted them to the post mortises, and marked the curves. I ripped the stiles & sent them through the planer for final sizing. So far so good.

How to cut mortises for the stiles, though? Hmmm. Here’s an idea: cut 2.5 inch deep mortises in top rail, cut curve with the bandsaw, clean up mortises, fit stiles, done. This was a GREAT idea, until I learned that the mortising machine clearance was only 4.5 inches.

FRACK. Now what? We came up with four options:

(1) Rip the top rail lengthwise, down the center, cut the deep mortises, & glue back together. Status: rejected; didn’t want to spend the time to glue it back together & clean it up. Too much work.
(2) Cut curve on bandsaw first, then mark & drill mortises. Status: rejected; seemed overly challenging, end of rail still wouldn’t fit under mortiser.
(3) Skip the curve and just use narrower rails. Stauts: rejected; didn’t want to make the design any more bland.
(4) Drill out mortises with forstner bit, cut curve on bandsaw, then hand chisel to finish. After drilling out 2×2.5 inch deep mortises and attempting to clean them up manually, I decided this was WWAAYY too much work. Status: Rejected; schedule constraint. During this process, I re-learned how to re-install the chuck into the drill press.
(5) This was my wife’s idea (she’s not the engineer): Cut off the top 2 inches of the rail and make a smaller, third rail. This way, the the curved rail will fit under the mortiser. GENIUS; this was the fix. To cut the deep mortises, I found it much easier to clean out most of the material using the drill press / forstner bit & use the mortising machine for the final cut. Status: approved.

For the bottom rail, I cut a 0.25 inch dado along top edge to receive the stile tenons. This was much easier than cutting a bunch of tiny motrises. We aligned them manually during glue-up to ensure correct spacing.

Only after I was satisfied with the design & how everything fit, I cut the rail tenons and mortises in the posts. Here’s a partial dry fit.

One note regarding the timeframe for this project: My wife and I built a king size bed frame in the same manner (bed bolts / solid headboard) a few years ago; we started in June, finished in December. For this project I needed to have two frames built, finished, & assembled in about three weeks.

Lessons Learned:
  • Start with 4 (not 6) inch top rails
  • Cut the curve first, mark & cut mortises after. This way, there is less material to remove, less cleanup work, & more time to do other things

-- Knight of Sufferlandria 2015

2 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


4827 posts in 2237 days

#1 posted 01-22-2016 05:12 PM

Ahhh yes. I used to hate that 4-5 inch height limit on my benchtop mortiser. I even purchased an extension rod for the hold-down, which increased the capacity a little. Even then, if you were using a larger chisel the board often wouldn’t fit.

I encountered the limitation often, so I upgraded to a floor standing mortiser that allows about 8” under the chisel. That is good for all of my projects except the wide lower kick-rails on doors, but I don’t make those very often.

I love having those problem solving discussions with my wife. My first solution usually involves an elaborate or expensive approach. Then she’ll say why don’t you just do it this way…
I’ll retort that won’t work because you see… er…um. I’ll be darned that just might work.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View judijudijudi's profile


2 posts in 776 days

#2 posted 01-25-2016 03:38 PM

I’m impressed with the beds and your journal. The kids love them – thanks Scott. Love, your artist/wife

next project – bookcases, a fireplace mantle, and stairs – the house will become a gallery for sure.

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