When my daughter and her partner moved into their first home, they were faced with a challenge that comes with many compact, older houses: bedrooms that are short on space. Put a queen-size bed in there and the room gets tight. My solution is a captain’s bed with drawers that make use of the space beneath the mattress, along with two matching nightstands that act as mini dressers. Together, the trio boasts generous storage space.
While it would be easier to build the base as a single unit, I decided to build two base units. The two sections allow the bed to be broken down and transported more easily from my workshop 300 km away.
The bed’s side panels are made with 1⁄2"-thick maple-veneered plywood, the drawer boxes are 1⁄2"-thick “good two sides” (G2S)softwood ply and the internal partitions are made of 1⁄2"-thick fir plywood. While it would have been simpler to build the bed’s base as a single unit, I decided to make two separate bases. As with many older houses, there’s not enough room to carry large pieces of furniture down the halls and into the rooms. Building in two sections also allows the bed to be broken down and transported more easily from my workshop 300 km away. The two base units are mirror images of each other. Each module is a low cabinet that contains drawers and supports the mattress. During final assembly, the head- and footboard join the two halves into one solid piece.
To retain the beautiful grain that flows the full length of the two maple-veneered plywood base side panels, I cut the drawer openings in each of the 20"-wide x 773⁄4"-long pieces rather than creating the sides piece by piece. For tips on how to handle this challenging job, see “Retain the Grain: Drawing and Cutting Drawers”on page 38. You should end up with drawer-face pieces of wood that measure 233⁄4" long and either 51⁄4" or 63⁄4" wide. Save these for use later as the drawer faces.
Drawer boxes are made of 1⁄2"-thick G2S fir plywood–butt-joined with glue and 11⁄2"-long finishing nails. The plans show how the maple-plywood drawer faces extend beyond the drawer boxes to hide the full-extension mechanical drawer slides. Your drawer boxes should be a total of 1" narrower than the size of their drawer openings, allowing the standard 1⁄2" of clearance required by most mechanical drawer slides. When you’re ready, fasten the drawer faces from inside the drawer boxes using #6 x 3⁄4"-long countersunk screws.
The drawer pulls are 1⁄2"-thick solid maple strips, with all outward-facing surfaces rounded over using a 1⁄4"-radius router bit. Cut each drawer-pull strip 21" long, then round the ends. Use a 1⁄4"- or 3⁄8"-radius cove bit to rout finger grooves along the bottom front edges.
Eventually, the drawer slides need to mount on the 1⁄2"-thick fir-plywood vertical dividers that extend from top to bottom inside the bed base. There are six of these dividers for each of the two base units. All 12 measure 25"-wide x 191⁄4"-long, while the back base panels are 191⁄4" x 771⁄4". Cut these plywood parts now, then install pine strips around the perimeter of eight of the 12 vertical dividers. Use 3⁄4" x 11⁄2" pine for the horizontal edges, and 3⁄4" x 3⁄4" pine for the vertical ones. (See the plans for strip placement.)
Begin assembly of the two bases by joining one vertical centre strip to the back face of each side panel, and a corresponding vertical centre strip to the inside face of each of the back base panels. Use screws for this job. These strips provide a way to secure two vertical divider panels, one on each edge of the centre strips, to begin one of the base sub-assemblies. Attach two more vertical dividers to the inside faces of the side and back panels using glue and #6 x 11⁄4" screws driven through those 3⁄4" x 3⁄4" pine strips you installed along the panel edges. Fasten the remaining vertical divider panels at the ends of the base side and back panels using glue and screws. Be careful not to let the screw tips penetrate the outer face of the base.
Later on, during final assembly, the large and small top pieces will cap the two bases and support the mattress. I had to make the top in two pieces because plywood doesn’t come large enough to cover the whole area on top of both bases. Use glue and screws to secure 3⁄4" x 11⁄2" strips of pine around the inside perimeter of the base units to provide support for the large and small top pieces. Mount these strips 3⁄4" below the top edge of the base side panels, but flush to the top of the shorter back panels.
With the two base sub-assemblies taking shape, mount the drawers using mechanical slides. This job takes patience, but you’ll find the work easier if you cut spacers of 1⁄4" plywood or hardboard to support the slides temporarily as you screw them to the vertical dividers. Most slides include oval holes that allow for up-and-down adjustment later.
These are made of maple-veneered ply and include solid-maple corner posts for good looks and durability. Cut the plywood parts now, then use your tablesaw to mill a 3⁄4" x 3⁄4" rabbet along one corner of the entire length of each of the 11⁄2" x 11⁄2" corner posts. Use a 1⁄4" radius roundover bit on a table-mounted router to mill the other three corners.
Use glue and screws to secure the corner posts to the head- and footboards, then install the headboard cap and undercap. Trim the top and bottom edges of the side, foot- and headboard now using 5⁄8" x 11⁄4" maple. These pieces fit between the corner posts and look best with rounded outer edges.
It’s easiest to stain and varnish this project before assembly. I used a stain to match the aged maple floors in the house. Leave the insides of the drawers bare to avoid clothes picking up finishing odours while in storage.
Assembly of the complete bed components doesn’t take long. Set the two base units parallel to each other, with the footboard inside the ends of the base side panels. Position the headboard against the other ends of the base side panels, and then fit the corner posts against the butted ends of the sides, footboard and headboard. Draw everything together tightly with a rope or strap clamp, and then drill and countersink screw holes. A few screws driven from inside the base units to the headboard and footboard will tighten these parts.
Both 3⁄4"-thick plywood top pieces fit down flush inside the perimeter of the panels, resting on the 3⁄4" x 11⁄2" horizontal divider strips and the top edges of the vertical divider panels. Secure these pieces with #8 x 2"-long screws every 6" to keep the bed quiet. You’ll find the plywood top pieces also square up the bases nicely. Finish up by making final adjustments to the drawer slides, and then set the mattress in place. Now, you have a place for a well-earned rest.
This bed is made to accommodate a standard 60" x 80" queen-size mattress, but length and width dimensions don’t tell the whole story. Mattress thickness is also a factor. The one I used here is 8” thick, and coupled with the 20"-high base, the top of the mattress sits 28" off the floor–relatively high, as beds go. Some mattresses are even thicker, so take thickness into account as you plan your cutting. Shorten the base sides, drawers and footboard if needed.
This bed base has drawers on both sides–four per side, totalling eight–and, therefore, a lot of storage. Will you be placing one side of the bed against a wall? If so, make drawers on one side only.
While this was a queen-size project, yours might be fit for a king, double or two twins. The overall dimensions of the base allow the mattress to overhang each side by 1", with another 1" of overhang at the foot. If you modify the plans for another size of mattress, don’t forget the overhang. It makes it more comfortable to climb into and out of bed.
|Part||Material||Size (T x W x L*)||Qty.|
|Base side panels||maple-veneered plywood||1/2" x 20" x 77 3/4"||2|
|Base back panels||solid-fir plywood||1/2" x 19 1/4" x 77 1/4"||2|
|Footboard||maple-veneered plywood||1/2" x 20" x 55 1/2"||1|
|Headboard||maple-veneered plywood||1/2" x 38" x 56 1/2"||1|
|Large top||solid-fir plywood||3/4" x 48" x 55 1/2"||1|
|Small top||solid-fir plywood||3/4" x 29 3/8" x 55 1/2"||1|
|Vertical divider panels||solid-fir plywood||1/2" x 25" x 19 1/4"||12|
|Horizontal divider strips||pine||3/4" x 1 1/2" x 25"||16|
|Horizontal centre strips||pine||3/4" x 1 1/2" x 23 1/2"||8|
|Vertical divider strips||pine||3/4" x 3/4" x 16 1/4"||16|
|Vertical centre strips||pine||3/4" x 3" x 19 1/4"||4|
|Footboard corner posts||solid maple||1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 20"||2|
|Headboard corner posts||solid maple||1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 38||2|
|Side trim||solid maple||5/8" x 1 1/4" x 76 3/4"||4**|
|Footboard trim||solid maple||5/8"x 1 1/4" x 55"||2**|
|Headboard cap||solid maple||3/4" x 3/4" x 60"||1|
|Headboard undercap||pine||3/4" x 3/4" x 54"||1|
|Small drawers sides||G2S*** fir plywood||1/2" x 5 1/4" x 24"||8|
|Small drawers ends||G2S fir plywood||1/2" x 5 1/4" x 22"||8|
|Large drawers sides||G2S fir plywood||1/2" x 6 3/4" x 24"||8|
|Large drawers ends||G2S fir plywood||1/2" x 6 3/4" x 22"||8|
|Drawers bottoms||G2S fir plywood||1/2" x 22" x 23"||8|
|Large drawer faces||maple-veneer plywood****||1/2" x 6 3/4" x 23 3/4"||4|
|Small drawer faces||maple-veneer plywood****||1/2" x 5 1/4" x 23 3/4"||4|
|Drawer pulls||solid maple||1/2" x 1 1/4" x 21"||8|
|Drawer-slide pairs||self-closing, full extension||24"-long||8|
|**Trim to fit|
|***Good two sides|
|****Cut from the base side panels|
* Length indicates grain direction