Recently, my youngest daughter turned 9. One of the things on her list of requests for presents was a bed for her American Doll, Grace. I’m sure that these things are available for sale but I wanted something more personal. It seemed like a great chance to build something using some of the scrap pieces from around the shop. I used the following process to make an Oak Doll Bed.
Preparing the Stock
The wood that I used for the project was all oak. I used a combination of off-cuts from other projects and some parts (apron and legs) from an old end table. The plan was to create four posts with the head board and foot board stretchers as well as the side rails mortised into it.
The side rails were ripped from the aprons. I decided to keep the remainder of the aprons intact as they looked like they could be used later as handles for other projects if needed.
I used the table saw and jointer to square up the legs which would become the bed posts. To keep the dimensions as large as possible, I didn’t completely remove the tapers. I’d work the not squared areas into design details later in the process.
Finally, I cut the all the posts and side rails to size and got ready to do the joints.
As I mentioned, all the joints were mortise and tenon (1/4″ in all cases). I started by putting 45 degree chamfers on the corners of the top of the posts as a design feature. This was followed by cutting the various mortises after marking them out with marking gauge.
Then, before moving on, I decided to add some 1/4″ beading to the corners of the posts. The was probably overkill but gave me a chance to try out my 1/4″ side bead plane. I picked it up at the antique market a few weeks back. After working to tune and sharpen it, I wanted to test it out.
Aside from the design feature, there is something sort of magical in watching the profile of the bead appear more completely after each stroke. By alternately running a bead on both edges of each face, I ended up with the desired pattern running all around the post.
This was followed by cutting the tenons and tuning them to final size with my Veritas shoulder plane.
I have to give props to Veritas here as the plane is wonderful. It is easy to hold, which is not always the case with shoulder planes, and the set screws for the blade make it easy to control side projection of the blade.
For some of the smaller stretchers, I didn’t even bother to pull out the saw and just used a knife and the shoulder plane to cut the tenons to size.
The last step was to test the fit. Things came out pretty well though, with these very small parts, getting things to perfect square can be a bit of a challenge. Even very small errors cause very noticeable problems.
Aside from the final outcome, the project was a success in that it forced me to be more careful in how I cut these joints. I think this will serve me well in future projects.
Assembly was straight forward.
It was at this point that I realized I’d need some supports running across the bottom of the frame to hold the “mattress”. I hadn’t actually thought through what to do for that yet though.
I set the supports into notches in the side rails so that they were flush with the surface. Then it was just a matter of gluing up and clamping.
You may also notice some lighter patches along the side rails. As the wood for these was scavenged from the old table aprons, they had screw holes through them at regular intervals. I used epoxy wood putty to fill the holes as I was doing the glue up.
Mid-course Design Change
After I had sanded everything and put a coat of orange shellac onto the bed frame, I started trying to figure out how I was going create the mattress.
While the 3 middle supports worked well, there was no support at the head and foot of the bed. To rectify this, I took a piece of 3/16″ plywood that I had laying around, cut it to size and notched the corners to fit around the bed posts. I then gave it a quick coat of shellac to help it blend with the rest of the bed.
The shape of the piece allows it to drop on to the bed from the top. The notches and the bed posts keep the panel in place.
I still haven’t figured out exactly what to do for a mattress but this will have to do in the meantime.
The Finished Product
The final result was a success and Anneliese is very happy to have a bed for Grace now. She seems to be quite comfortable sleeping on it with her pet dog.
I love the fact that Anneliese left her an apple and made her a tiny box of tissues. It’s there beside the bed in case she needs to use one during the night.
For now, all seem to be happy. I’ll post an update later if I figure out a way to make a mattress for her.
If you’re interested in seeing any of the other woodworking projects that I have posted, you can find them here. Thanks for reading!