good stock lumber to use for bed rails?

nasjJune 26, 2006

What would people recommend for (relatively) available and inexpensive bedrails? I am generally putting a skirt over them and/or painting them so aesthetics are not an enormous factor (though obviously they shouldn't be warped or scratchy or hairy) -- the main factor is the ability to span the length of a bed and also support a live body or two.

Generally I'd be using either a cleat on the inside with boards across; alternatively I'd have a platform of plywood screwed down through the ply into the rail. And bedbolts countersunk into the headboard and footboard. I'm doing twin or full only in this fashion.

Is a 5/4 x 4 enough? And structurally how would pine/cedar/fir stack up (not really fir, I think, but douglas fir)

Most rails I have on older or purchased beds are a bit deeper but not as deep as an Xby6". (and the deeper the rail, the less you can store under the bed!) :)

Many thanks.

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5/4 x 4 is pretty narrow, but with a cleat, it might work. Glue and screw a cleat. I think the worst that could happen is that it would sag; not break. Doug fir is used for floor joists and very strong.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 5:44AM
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Hardwoods have a significant advantage over softwoods (that does not mean that you cannot find a softwood stronger than a hardwood).
The strength ofthe rail increases as the cube of the height, but directly with the thickness.
A hardwood 5/4 x 6 would be fine for a twin, but needs more hight for a double (and even more for a king).
If you want more storage space under the bed, increase the height of the mattress.

I use solid cherry 2 inches by 8 inches for queeen sized pencil post beds.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 7:00PM
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5/4 oak, maple, poplar, walnut, will all be fine.

The ply screwed into a cleat will strengthen the sides considerably.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 10:35PM
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handymac, 5/4 by what?

Poplar is very available and inexpensive; cheaper than clear fir I think

Also, I suppose at some point (full or wider?) I need to hang a joist-like member between the headboard and the footboard to support the slats -- mostly I've been making twin (or jr. twin) sizes so this hasn't been an issue. hmm..

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 7:20AM
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I wouldn't trust narrow poplar. Oak is the true workhorse. Watch out for knots.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 11:21AM
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5/4 by 6" or wider for oak/hard maple that is knot free. 8" wide or more for poplar and walnut. Just my opinion---no engineering knowlege behind those figures. I made my grandsons(10 and 4 at the time) bunk bed using 2x6---used a round over bit on all the edges and sanded the boards well. Half lap joints and bolts. Lasted 4 years.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 12:37AM
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Hmm. Did something calamitous happen in year 5? Or were the beds simply retired from service at that point?

And what have people used for the slats? Or perhaps some use a boxspring in which case you could use angle irons instead of cleats -- though a cleat would probably be stronger

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 8:28PM
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Only been 4 years---bed is still doing fine. :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 5:44PM
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I have built several beds imy life (I'm 80 + now) I always use 6/4 (1 1/2 ) X 10 inches and I havent had a failure yet
hope that helps some

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 8:51PM
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At 6/4 you can go down to about 4 inches in firsts and seconds grade for many hardwoods.
Poplar is not very strong at all, comparable to many softwoods.
The link below is to the Wood Handbook by Forest Products Lab. It contains everyhting you want to know about wood (and a lot you probably do not care about).
The strength of wood for soans like a bed rail is a function of Young's Modulus for the most part, listed in table 4-3a as Modulus of Elasticity. Coimpare the numbers to get an idea of relative material strength.
TYhe other thingto keep in mind is that the stiffness of a beam varies as the cube of the height. If a 2x4 has a strength of 1, a 2x8 is 8 times stronger (8/4)^3. It varies directly with the width, so 2 2x4s are stiffer than 1 2x4.
In both examples the load is applied to the narrow edge.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood Handbook

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 9:28PM
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I'm perplexed. I have an old headboard and footboard that at one time probably came with a nice set of wood rails. The rail slots in the headboard are just over 52" apart yet a full mattress is 54" wide. How do you make rails that will fit the mattress? Thanks in advance for any help.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 9:22PM
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If you have a real lumberyard, shop for price. One nearby used to have "miscellaneous hardweeds." You can often get less common woods such as ash, Kentucky Coffee, Sycamore, or soft maple for quite a bit less than the more popular cherry, walnut, white oak, etc. I've gotten some less than $1 b.f. Most places now, at least in the midwest, are liquidating red oak for less than their cost as it's slow moving.

Brickeye is right about height^3. Better to go wide than thick.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 8:05PM
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