Building the Handmade Roundwood Bed Frame

by ziggy on August 19, 2010 -- 9 comments -- Follow


Last week, after being sick of sleeping on a carpet with some blankets on the floor, I finally hunkered down and made a bed frame, not without some consistent prodding from April. The idea had been to use some osage orange logs for the corner posts, and I had cut some low limbs weeks ago, but I was nervous about the prospect of using something so round and irregular to make a very square piece of furniture. But it turned out to be quite successful, despite my lack of experience with woodworking.

Four osage orange logs, roughly three feet long, serve as the corner posts for this bed frame. Did I tell you how much I love osage? Beautiful orange hue, tough as hell, spindly, gnarly, branches full of beautiful twists and arches… Nothing ages quite as nicely, either. I love ancient osage fence posts. I actually wanted to use old fence posts instead of newer wood, but alas…


I rough skinned the osage and left a bit of bark on here and there. I love osage bark too much to have removed it all.

I did the carpentry work with a bit of actual knowledge and a lot of faith – that cuts would line up, that things would be plumb and level… amazingly, when we assembled the frame in the house, nothing needed tweaking: everything lined up perfectly and was as level as can be.

What I really did was cut flat seats into the osage to attach the 2×6 runners. The original plan was to have two levels: a lower platform for storage, and the upper deck for the mattress itself. The storage shelf was cut in to be about a foot off the floor (high up to prevent mildew and mold growth), and the bed platform about 30 inches high (yes, quite up there!). For the runners, I used reclaimed 2x6s. Mostly really heavy duty oak, with a few softwood sticks, too. I chiseled out the seats and slid in the runners to see how they sat, and checked for square.

Once the posts were chiseled with all of their necessary seats (the side runners were cut in on the inside face of the corner posts, and the head and foot boards were cut into the outside), I assembled the short sides of the bed (using screws), and then carried everything into the house and finally put on the long boards.

I used black walnut 1x for decking for the storage shelf. I hand-planed each board (roughly) and then oiled them, bringing out the gorgeous dark burnt red/purple/brown of the walnut.

Once the storage shelf was fully decked, we tried sitting on it with our thermarests… and decided, hey, this ain’t bad. The three upper runners were in place for the mattress platform, which made a nice support to lean against. What if we just scrapped the storage idea and slept on the lower deck? The bed would double as a sort of couch with the ability to lean against those runners. And that’s what we did. It was hard to give up the idea of having that much extra storage in the house, but the bed is so comfortable as it is that is really swayed us….

There ya have it. The plan now is to build a little shelf off the head of the bed to make use of the dead space between it and the wall (square things don’t fit so well into rounded corners, ya know?)…

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  • Josh

    Great job. I love the coloring of the decking!

    By using the lower shelf for the bed you could possibly string drapes/quilts around the tops of the posts to create a warm tent for winter.

    Great shirt in the second photo. Any idea who made it?

  • Josh in Iowa

    That’s a nice bed. Those roundwood posts remind me of the story of Odysseus and Penelope’s bed from the Odyssey—how he built the bed by cutting off a tree where it stood and using the living stump as the cornerpost, and then building up the house around the bed.

    “Ye were the Grecian cities then,
    The Romes of modern birth,
    Where the Missouri Husbandmen
    Have shown a Roman worth.”

    Sorry, I can’t help but wax Thoreauvian now and again.

    Anywho, very cool.

  • Beth

    Ziggy, what you have done is so very inspiring! I’ve just finished reading your entire blog. I’m a single mom and have been trying to decide on building with cob or strawbale when I take the plunge. I’d been leaning towards strawbale exterior walls and cob interior walls, but seeing your post on balecob intrigues me. Could you explain more about what that is? Or do I just have to wait and see as you post more about the four-seasons communal kitchen 😉

    Either way, my almost 9-yr-old son is ECSTATIC about the idea of actually building our own house and being able to get down and dirty in the process of it. I think I’ll definitely start out with a much smaller project like a cob oven (I’ve been drooling over those pix of your bread and pizza’s, btw) to get a feel for it. I’ve also been wondering if you would share your recipe for semolina bread?

    Keep inspiring others to live sustainably, and to not be afraid to do things themselves!

  • it’s beautiful! is that still the straw-filled mattress?

    i had dreams of building a light wooden bed frame even for our 8×12 tent when we were looking at 6 months at red earth before building. i think if i ever come back i’ll need to watch thomas for a while before attempting it. everything you’re doing with wood is looking stunning.

  • Josh: Hah… no idea. A friend found it in a dumpster behind a salvation army.

    Beth: Wow, great! Bale-cob is basically exactly what is sounds like: a mix of straw bale and cob building. Imagine a bale wall with up to 6″ of cob on the interior face, with some cob worked in between the bales for strength. It’s supposedly the best of both worlds: insulation and thermal mass.

    Joan: We actually haven’t put the straw mattress back on. Somehow, we’re comfortable with just the thermarests and have decided to leave them on for now, but we might full up the mattress again before winter….

  • Beth

    Thanks for explaining, Ziggy! Can’t wait to read your blogs on the kitchen and see the pix to truly get a feel for bale-cob. As I live in south-central GA, the straw in my cob (and maybe even my bales! – still doing research on that one) will be pine needles. Keeps with the sustainable theme, readily available with no trucking-in required…

  • Josh in Iowa

    Beth: I’ve been wondering about pine straw ever since my parents moved to FL. I was always concerned it would be too brittle for cob, but best of luck! If nothing else, it could be used to inexpensively stretch the straw supply.

  • Beth

    Josh in Iowa: I’ve never played with cob before, period, so it will definitely be a learning experience! We’ll see what happens on that cob pizza/bread oven I plan to build in the near future. 🙂 Clay, however, is my problem; all that red clay Georgia is famous for happens to be in NORTH Ga. My county’s two highest leading exports are pine straw and sand (and we’re nowhere near the coast!).

    I haven’t found anybody who’s used pine straw in bale walls; I have, however, found one post online (bookmarked on other ‘puter with dead power supply 🙁 ) where a lady is talking about making cob with pine straw. I’ll try to post that link once the power supply arrives. And the couple people I’ve e-mailed with lots of experience in SB building say they don’t think there would be any issues with using baled pine needles instead – it should have the same structural and insulative properties, especially after being plastered over.

  • Rory

    Seems a shame to put that lovely Walnut where no one will see it (presuming you replace the mattress). :-/
    Gorgeous bed!

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