The first project to roll out of the new Wood Whisperer shop is the Dogon Platform Bed! This bed was built for a client and represents several month’s worth of back and forth communication. This particular client is very cool in that he comes to me with a particular idea and let’s me run with it. As long as I stay true to his original concept while adhering to my own personal quality standards, he’s a happy camper. It also doesn’t hurt that he loves exotic African hardwoods!
This project is currently being presented in the Wood Whisperer Guild and there’s an abbreviated version available on the free site too. What makes this build a little different than previous is that I focus quite a bit on the evolution of a design and what it’s like to work side by side with a client. Check it out if you’re interested!
So here it is in all its glory! This queen size platform bed features solid Bubinga with a Wenge raised panel headboard that slants back at a 20 degree angle. There were a number of construction challenges along the way but in the end, I am very happy with the finished product.
All beds have to break down to some extent so it’s necessary to include hardware. My goal was to incorporate the hardware in a way that would have minimal visual impact. After trying a few different threaded inserts, I decided to employ a trick we showed a while back: tapping threads in wood. Bubinga is a very dense wood and threads quite nicely. Once the hole was drilled and tapped, all I had to do was cut a length of threaded rod to serve as my bolt.
On the underside of the rails are a couple of access holes for installing the bent washers and the nuts. Because the space was still a little tight, I modified/sacrificed one of my wrenches and gave it to the client upon delivery. You gotta do what you gotta do! The back of the bed received carriage bolts and although their heads would only be seen from behind, I wanted to make them look a little nicer. Some matte black paint did the trick.
One thing you may notice in these pictures is the oil spotting. I took the photos on the same day I applied pure tung oil to the project and the oil likes to creep out of the pores all day long. So please forgive the appearance in the closups.
One of the biggest challenges in this project was to provide enough support for the bed while maintaining the floating platform look. This was achieved by bracing the rails with extra stock (which also gives the appearance of a thicker rail) and by including a center support rail. The center support rail received a series of notches that interlock with the maple support boards. You’ll also notice the extra support block under the center rail. I convinced the client that for the long-term viability of this design, the bed needed at least some direct contact with the floor. So I constructed two supports that not only support the underside of the center rail, but also the horizontal maple support that rests above it.
One of my favorite details on this piece is the integral French cleat system I used for the center support rail. I really didn’t want to employ hardware on a piece of that size so I created two solid wood cleats that were screwed to the headboard and footboard, and the center rail itself was cut so that it would nest perfectly into the cleat. I also made an effort to have grain continuity wherever possible. So you’ll notice that the vertical headboard legs were cut from a single board and matched back up after cutting the bevel. This minimizes the impact of a cross-grain joint. I did the same thing for the horizontal lower headboard rail, only the cut was with the grain and resulted in a perfect match after the final glueup. It’s details like this that help set your work apart from the crowd, so never forget the power of grain continuity!
The piece was finished off by burning in my initials and the date. I know some folks have much fancier ways of applying their mark to a finished project, but something about the raw nature of the burn-in really appeals to me. I usually use a Sharpie to sign it first and then follow the lines with the burning tool.
This was a great build and it’s one that I’m proud to remember as the first project to come out of the new shop. This client is looking to have an entire bedroom set made to match so there’s probably going to be a lot of Bubinga in my future.
One question I seem to always get when I post a finished project like this is “How much did you charge?” I am happy to answer that as best I can. Keep in mind this project was filmed and posted as a project in the Guild. As a result, it took about four times as long to make. Also, because of the filming process I didn’t even bother to track my time. The best I can do is give a VERY rough estimate. I can tell you that the wood alone approached the $2000 mark. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because Bubinga and Wenge aren’t cheap and I needed to buy a lot of it to get the grain I was looking for. If I had charged the customer full price, I doubt I would be able to charge less than $6000. That isn’t what I charged my client, however. The fact that I am publishing the project in the Guild makes me feel a little weird about “double-dipping” with the client. So he received a screaming deal on this one!