I’m looking to build a bed soon. We both liked the farmhouse bed from Ana White, so wanted to go with that general design, but we’d like it to be made from hardwood. I picked up a load of rough sawn cherry locally (air dried). My question is about board thickness. I already plan to laminate for the posts, but I’m thinking of the side rails. Is 4/4 going to be strong enough (6” wide)? should I laminate boards for that, use additional support posts around the middle of the side rail, or should it be good?

The plan is to use mortise and tenon for the side rails to attach to the posts, and also will have ~2x3 board behind the side rails running the length as support for the slats that I can also attach to the posts.

Long term, I’d like to place a hardwood dowel in the joint, but not until we buy our house, where it doesn’t need to be taken apart again.


Edit: Link to inspiration plans http://www.ana-white.com/2017/11/free_plans/modern-farmhouse-bed

  • It would probably help a lot to share some of the design specifics. If the design is one you've purchased and can't share, at least link to the source so others can see what you're talking about. – FreeMan Sep 21 '18 at 19:43
  • Thanks, the inspiration is here, also added to post. ana-white.com/2017/11/free_plans/modern-farmhouse-bed – SonicSteel Sep 21 '18 at 20:19
  • Just curious, how are you planning on holding the mortise and tenon for the side rails into the posts if you're not going to pin it with a dowel? – SaSSafraS1232 Sep 21 '18 at 20:26
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    The size of the rails etc. in this design are more important for rugged appearance than for strength. There should be no need to laminate boards to get greater thickness. I would venture to say that rails of cherry in 1x6 should be more than adequate. I have seen plenty of beds with similar rail sizes. Unless you want the bed to have a heavy appearance consider lightening everything up. You can go to a furniture store to see how commercial beds are put together. BTW be sure to round off edges to make projecting parts softer on the skin. – Ashlar Sep 22 '18 at 1:18
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    Your idea to use M&Ts and glue eventually is sound on paper but I think it would be a mistake to go head with this plan. There's a reason almost all beds use some type of KD fixings (the most obvious of which are actually called bed hangars). This means that at most the headboard and footboard are built sections, but the rails remain permanently separate. This allows the bed to be disassembled any time that would be helpful or needed, but if built up into a single assembly even in a home of generous proportions it couldn't even be moved to another room without being sawn apart. – Graphus Sep 22 '18 at 16:26

Is 4/4 going to be strong enough (6” wide)?

That should work but is worth checking Sagulator as Sassafras suggests. Assume that the weight of both of you will be placed at the center of one side. Design based on extreme loads, not just usual loads.

and also will have ~2x3 board behind the side rails running the length as support for the slats

Realize that this is a major part of the support and needs to attached firmly to the rail (gluing will do fine, glue and screw will be even better).

use additional support posts around the middle of the side rail,

The diagram of the ana-white bed shows a center rail. It is being asked to carry half the load and should definitely have a center support.

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  • I am planning to glue and screw the boards in place against the side rail. I was definitely planning on a center rail, but I was thinking an additional post at the midway point under the 2x3’s against each side rail, if that was necessary. The Sagulator estimates less than 0.004in per foot, 0.02 in total, if I input it correctly. – SonicSteel Sep 21 '18 at 23:42

A 6" wide board of 4/4 cherry should be fine for the side rails of a bed. If you want you can run the calculation through Sagulator, an online calculator designed to tell you how much a board will sag under load. (Just be sure that the "depth" is 1" and the "thickness" is 6" since the board will be on edge.)

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  • That’s an excellent resource! The sag seems minimal even with more weight than I’d imagine. – SonicSteel Sep 21 '18 at 23:37

I was looking at that design and noticed that the horizontal structure pieces (sides + head + foot) are in a T shape. If you glue each of those up, then each will give strength in their weak dimension to the other (neither will allow the other to bend).

I would stick with traditional bed frame hardware for holding it together. Even if you do not ever plan on moving again, you may need to replace carpet or some other reason to break it down. If you don't feel that you will get sufficient support for the bed hardware on from your existing boards, you could laminate the last 12" or so of each board to give more depth for the fasteners to connect to.

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