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The bed The fasteners

This is a for queen size mattress. I have a shelf system in the head end of the bed. All fasteners are the same and offset vertically so as to avoid screw collision. Top rail pieces are 1x8, bottom rail pieces are 2x8. Corner posts are 3x3x~74 I was contemplating embedding a dowel in each of the rail pieces so that the screws for the fasteners aren't just going straight into end grain.

Dowel join

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    Hi, welcome to StackExchange. Any particular reason you think these wouldn't be enough, given this is what they're made to do? Is it the four-poster aspect of your design that gives you pause?
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 20:57
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    Re. screws into end grain, these aren't as weak as they are commonly made out to be so reinforcement may not be needed. See previous Q&A. Given screws are generally stronger than the requirement 75% of that strength can be sufficient. However if you want to do something extra for peace of mind go for it; cross-dowels are an option, but note that as normally the dowel goes across the width that requires the boring of some very holes. So as an option I'd select longer (and possibly beefier) screws than you would otherwise have gone with.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 21:07
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    @Graphus yes, I think I'm concerned about the extra leverage on the joints due to the long arms. Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 21:12
  • That's a legitimate concern, although as the top isn't functional per se (it is essentially a decorative feature) the loads imparted to it should be minimal. But we do have to build for the what-if eventualities, not the best-case scenarios. You might consider doing away with the bed-rail fasteners for the top joints and use them for the base only; you could use some variation of cross-dowels as the joinery rather than only to add strength to screws securing hardware in place.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 21:30
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    This has been very helpful. Thank you! Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 22:06

1 Answer 1

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Are these bed rail fasteners enough to hold this bed together?

I don't think there should be any particular reason not to given that holding a bed together is specifically what they are intended to do.

Obviously the four-poster nature of the design changes things somewhat, but fundamentally the top isn't functional per se, and as essentially a decorative feature the loads imparted to it should be minimal.

However — as with much furniture — we overbuild for the what-if eventualities, not the best-case scenarios. Based on this you might consider doing away with the bed-rail fasteners for the top joints and keep them for the base only.

There are multiple joinery options that can be used instead that retain the important knockdown aspect of a bed (so important in beds because of their size). As you're already familiar with cross-dowels and screws why not go with them? These can be used as your joinery instead of just to reinforce the grip of screws holding other hardware.

  • Use hardwood dowels and go fat1.

  • They don't have to be especially long, 2" projection from the posts is probably enough.

  • Round the tips of the dowels or add a heavy chamfer, this will make putting everything together much easier.

  • Use machine screws or bolts. In addition to these having an even better hold in wood than conventional wood screws (with careful piloting) they are also noted for their ability to be withdrawn and reinserted from wood many times with very little wear to the wood threading2.

  • Lubricate your screws with soap, oil or wax before insertion.

  • You can successfully force threads into wood (even harder hardwoods) but if you want to avoid the chance of twisting off a screw head you can quite easily convert one or more of your screws and tap the holes, see tip here.

  • If you don't want to see the screw/bolt heads on the underside of each rail/stile set them in deep counterbores; you have plenty of wood to play with on a 2x8 so they can be particularly deep. Or alternatively use decorative wood plugs/buttons.

I was contemplating embedding a dowel in each of the rail pieces so that the screws for the fasteners aren't just going straight into end grain.

Screws into end grain aren't as weak as they are commonly made out to be so reinforcement may not be needed. See previous Q&A. Given screws are generally stronger than the requirement 75% of that strength can be sufficient, and it should be noted that almost everyone using such bed-rail hardware is screwing into end grain, not taking any precautionary steps and subsequent issues are rare.

Rare isn't unheard of however, so if you want to do something extra for peace of mind go for it! One rarely regrets taking the time to overbuild a piece of furniture that is intended to last.

Cross-dowels are an option, but note that normally the dowels go across the width. Here that would require the boring of some very deep holes, so if you go this route I'd suggest using two shorter dowels which will make for a much easier drilling job. Alternatively I'd suggest you simply select longer (and possibly beefier) screws than you would otherwise have gone with. Both increased length and larger gauge increase screw holding strength and both together give a pronounced improvement.

Do be sure to carefully drill your pilot holes for the wood type you're using, both for max hold and to avoid the chance of splitting the wood.

  • In hardwoods you want the pilot hole larger than in softwoods for obvious reasons. The pilot can be roughly equal to the minor screw diameter.

  • In softwoods the pilot should be smaller, approximately 80% of the minor diameter should be fine.

  • Softer hardwoods should be piloted more along the lines of softwoods.

  • Ideally the pilot hole should be drilled slightly deeper than needed, but in practice this isn't absolutely critical for any screw that has a point unless you're way too shallow or the screws are particularly thick.


1 You won't regret using 5/8" oak dowels here, even if the frame is pine.

2 Even with frequent and regular use they can last years. On a bed that is taken apart infrequently expect them to last the full lifetime of the bed.

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