I am approaching the final phases of production of this cherry bed. A combination of two styles, it is being fashioned entirely from lumber milled from a log felled on the client’s property some years ago.
Constructed of solid cherry and encompassing panels with vertical grain, particular attention needs to be paid to grain direction and seasonal expansion differentials. Solid wood generally expands and contracts twice as much across the grain as with the grain, meaning that where opposing grains meet allowances must be made to permit the wood to move freely, and adequately. Otherwise, in dry winter or humid summer conditions, the panels will rip the bed apart or, at the very least, crack and split. Many mass produced pieces avoid this problem by using veneered plywood or MDF panels which are (largely) dimensionally stable. Hence the oft-encountered term, “made from solid wood and wood products”.
In the case of this bed, the headboard and footboard panels are about 55″ wide, meaning that they can seasonally expand and contract by as much as 1/2″, or more. To account for this, the panels are seated into overly long grooves within the rails. This is hidden by a notch hand cut into the panel. Because the upper rails are curves the grooves cannot be hidden in the same manner but rarely do we examine bed rails from below.
To ensure that the panels fit perfectly into the rail mortises, I cut the panels just ever so slightly oversized. Then, with a sharp block plane, I create a imperceptibly shallow chamfer along the edge of the panels, stopping when the panels will enter the mortised groove perfectly.
If all goes well, this bed should be ready for delivery by the end of next week.