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How to Make a Pencil Post Bed

Making the Headboard

Making a headboard can be a fun woodworking project that results in a beautiful addition to your home furnishings while potentially becoming a cherished heirloom as well.  Osborne Wood Products can help as we offer several styles of post suitable for use on this project.  To ensure success for the project you will need to do some prep work that includes actually having the boards for the headboard itself assembled beforehand.  Having selected your lumber, you would create the larger board by gluing and clamping the boards together.  You would need to allow these to set for twenty-four hours before you begin working with the large, assembled board.


  •     Jigsaw
  •     (2) long wood clamps


  •     Bed Posts
  •     Assembled large headboard
  •     Wood screws
Making a Pencil Post Bed
Making a Pencil Post Bed

During the time it takes for the large, glued up boards to set you can be creating a pattern for the design of the headboard.  You may choose simple, clipped corners or an inverted ogee; either of these is easily achieved by a novice woodworker.  Once the glue has set you can perform the additional sanding and finishing that will give your headboard a professional look. (Hint: further secure the glued boards of the headboard by attaching batten boards.  These are boards that will run vertically and be screwed to all the planks assembled to create the larger headboard).

With your large board ready, you will need the following:

Begin by routing the corners of the headboard with a 3/8″ round-over bit on both sides.  This is  done so the bottom of the headboard will fit snugly into the curve of the mortise on the bedpost.  If you prefer, you may route the front and back of the top and bottom of the headboard.  If you do this, take care that you stop at the top notch and end of the bottom.You will now 

Making a Pencil Post Bed
Making a Pencil Post Bed

You will now cut the mortise in the bed posts to receive the notch or tenon of the headboard.  (See Section “Mortising The Bed Posts”) You would create the profile by placing the tenon section of the headboard and then tracing the shape with a pencil.  You then route this area out.  You may as ask Osborne to cut the mortise notches for you when you place your order as custom work.  Either way, with the mortise cut, you insert the tenon of the headboard into the mortise of the bedpost to create a snug fit.It will help if you assemble your headboard on a table with batten board side of the headboard facing up.  If the batten boards are up, and the fit is snug, you may continue by boring and securing the posts to the head board with wood screws that are angling in from the headboard to the post.  Use a minimum of three screws per side. Your headboard will now be reading for painting or for staining and finishing.

Making a Pencil Post Bed

Mortising The Bed Posts

Mortising a bedpost is a necessary part of building a headboard.  Because it is a bit complex, we are presenting it in greater detail here than it appears in the instructions on building a headboard.  As with all projects the final success depends on having good instructions and the right materials and tools at hand.  In the instance of mortising a bedpost, you will be doing yourself a favor – and you’re your project much less complicated if beforehand you build a simple trough to hold the bedposts in place while making your cuts.  Further stability may be ensured by using a De-Sta-Co Carver T-Slot Clamp.  (De-Sta-Co is a patented clamp of specific design that provides rapid height adjustment and positive holding).  So the list a materials and tools you want to have at hand includes:


  •     Pre-made jig (for holding the bedpost in place)
  •     The bedposts


  •     Wood wedges (usually two)
  •     A plunger router with these bits:
  •     5/8″ diameter straight cutter
  •     3/4″ diameter straight cutter
  •     1/4″ diameter straight cutter
  •     A bushing
  •     Wood chisel
  •     Hammer

Headboard and Footboard Mortises

Making a Pencil Post Bed
Making a Pencil Post Bed

The procedure for making the mortise cuts for attaching the large board to the bedposts is the same for the headboard and the footboard.  You first secure the bedpost into the trough with the De-Sta-Co clamp and further stabilize it with the wood wed ges pressed horizontally between the post and the trough on end nearest the point where you will be cutting the mortise.  Remembering that you will be deepening the cut with several passes of the router (rather than trying to achieve the complete depth with a single pass) you begin by setting the depth of the router bit.  Preparing to move right to left, plunge the bit into the wood and move to the stop point on the left.  Then allow the router to spring up to the normal position before returning to the right to repeat the procedure.  This is repeated until the correct depth is achieved.

Making a Pencil Post Bed

Mortising Bedpost to Receive Side Rail Hardware

Making a Pencil Post Bed

Mortising bedposts to receive the side rail hanger hardware is slightly different.  The cut into the bedpost is set up the same as for a headboard or footboard (i.e. – secure the bedpost in the trough then clamp and wedge).  The only difference is that – rather than achieving the correct depth of cut with several passes – you will make this cut in a single pass.  The best way to determine the perfectly correct depth is to make practice cuts on a scrap piece of wood in order to ensure the cut will correctly receive the hardware.  Once you have found the correct depth, use this as the cut depth on your real wood.  Most often, you will sue the 5/8″ diameter bit to make this cut, and you should expect to perfect the fit with a hand chisel.  The alternative is to over-mortise the cut to make enough extra length so the shoulders of the hardware will clear the round end of the mortise.  This will work but the finished appearance is less professional that the initially described method.  (NOTE: Bear in mind that the hardware for your side rails will be dedicated left and dedicated right.  You need to make certain that you install the right hardware to the right rail and the left to the left rail).  A second cut will be made with the 1/4″ diameter bit in the center of the 5/8″ mortise.  This cut is 1/2″ deep allowing for the hook section of the bed hardware.

Making and Mortising Bedpost to Rails

Building your own side rails give you the opportunity to move away from merely having a nice handmade bed toward having a truly fine handmade bedstead.  The mark of any fine bed is matching wood side rails.  To complete this project you will need:

  • Two boards 1×6 boards cut to the length you desire
  • Four sets of bed hanger hardware (Note: each set will consist of a catch that mounts to the end of the rail and a receiving hangar into which the catch is inserted and affixed)
  • Two pieces of 1×2 boards that will be cut slightly shorter than the length of the side rails (Note: the 1×2 boards are going to serve as the “cleats” that on which the box springs will actually rest)


  • Saw
  • Hand router (sometimes called a laminate trimmer) used with the fence attachment
  • Note: You may choose to use a hand chisel in lieu of the hand router
  • Screw driver (for securing the parts of the bed hanger
Making a Pencil Post Bed
Making a Pencil Post Bed

Begin by cutting notches into the ends of the 1×6 side rail boards to receive the hanger hardware.  This can be done with either the hand router or the chisel as you prefer.  Having completed the notching, insert the hardware and secure with screws.  Do the same on the bed posts: notch with either the hand router or chisel and then insert and secure the metal hardware with screws.Next, take your 1×2 pieces that have been cut slightly shorter than the rails themselves and brush one side with glue.  Attach this to the point that will serve as the inside lower portion of the side rail.  Secure with pressure clamps and allow to dry for at least twelve hours.  These should subsequently be secured with wood screws placed at least every eighteen inches.

Your side rails may now be attached to the headboard and footboard.  They may be tapped into place with a rubber mallet.

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