Bed Post and Rail Connections

Considerations on the structure of a wooden bed frame. July 3, 2008

I'm building a bed for a customer. Bed includes frame and panel head and foot boards and side boards. Their desired look includes four posts that are about 4" X 4" in cross section. Looks like I'm going to get about 1 1/4" out of my stock for the rails and panels and side rails.

The question is where to make the connection for the side rails and head and foot boards into the head and foot posts. If I center the head/foot boards and the side rails on the posts, which I think would look best, I will have a 1 1/4" triangle from each post protruding into the mattress area. Looks like this might get into the way of the mattress. However, if I pull the posts "outward" from the head/foot board and side rails, they will look too bulky. What do you folks think? I've made beds before, but not with such large posts. Always centered the panel/rail on the post, or nearly so, and it looked and worked fine.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor P:
Could you make the tenons off-center to take up some of that corner? I think I'd be concerned about not centering the mortise. It seems to me that if the occupants of the bed get a little rambunctious, the torsional force would be increased if the mortise is off-center, and this could create a problem.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the response. I realized after I typed the question that mattress corners are rounded. From looking at my own mattress and several other mattresses and beds in a furniture store this afternoon, I can see I was worried about something that is not an issue. I'm going to center it!

From contributor F:
Here is a picture of the side-rail cross section. I set my bottom screwhole at about 8.5 " from the bottom of post and the top hole at 11" from the bottom, that allows me 6" clearance. It can be any height you want.

I inset the hardware about 1.25" in from the inside of post, that gives me about 3/8's to .5" of play for the mattress. I also make my siderails an inch or two longer then the mattress length to allow for thick bedding or comforters.

Click here for full size image

From contributor F:
I make a similar bed to what you are describing and I found that using basic 2x6 and a 2x2 made into an L shape works good with this type of bed. I have to ship a lot of these so I use hardware from It is the non-mortise bed rail fittings, they work good because the tab fits into the keyhole slot and when weight from above is applied it tightens up in the slots. Also we can flat-pack and ship the beds easier. And when it comes time to move they can break it down.

Click here for full size image