Two Techniques for Bed-Bolt Alignment
Learn how two simple jigs can make installing bed bolts a breeze
If you read Martin McClendon’s article about making a Greene and Greene bed in Fine Woodworking #231 (Feb. 2013), you might have asked yourself how he lined up the hole in the bed rail for the bed bolt with the hole for the barrel nut. That’s a great question, because it can be hard to do. Here are two different ways to do it, and both work equally well. Regardless of which one you choose to use, start by drilling the couterbore and clearance hole in the leg (both at the drill press), then put the leg on the bed rail tenon and use a handheld drill to make the bed bolt hole in the bed rail. (The leg acts as a guide to keep the hole as perpendicular to the rail’s end as possible.) Drill as deep as you can, take the leg off, and then finish the hole. Now you’re ready for a jig.
The notch in Christian Becksvoort’s jig allows you to quickly mark the centerpoint of the bed bolt barrel nut’s hole.
Insert a bolt into the stretcher, and the jig hugs the bolt to align itself with the hole you drilled. The jig’s dimensions are determined by the length of the bolt you use and the thickness of the post.Make the jig from scrap. Two tabs on the underside, equal in length to the thickness of the post minus the counterbore for the bolt head, will straddle the bolt.
Designate a front end of the jig, insert the bolt between the tabs, then mark and cut a notch in the front edge at the point where the bolt protrudes. In use, the notch will be aligned over the bolt’s centerline, and halfway along the threaded area. Mark the stretcher at the notch to establish the nut-mortise location.
Using a square, mark in the mortise dimensions, then drill and chisel out the mortise. Repeat the process for the remaining bed bolts.
On Mike Pekovich’s jig, the edge of the block represents the centerline of the bed bolt hole. Measure along the edge to locate the nut hole’s centerpoint, then you can quickly find it’s centerpoint on the bed rail.
I drill the bed-bolt hole into the end of the bed rail as straight as I can, but you don’t need to drill the hole precisely at 90° to get the holes for the bed bolt and its nut to intersect precisely. Then, with a dowel and a simple layout jig, I locate the centerline of the hole and the center of the bed-bolt nut.
The jig consists of an 1/8-in.-thick hardboard piece glued into a kerf cut in block of wood. The kerf is set in from the edge of the block at half the diameter of the bed-bolt hole.
I insert a dowel the size of the hole in the bed rail, then snug up the jig against the dowel. The edge of the guide block gives me the bolt hole centerline, which I draw on the inside face of the rail. Along this line, I locate the center of the hole for the bed-bolt nut. This guarantees good results even if the bolt hole is off a few degrees.
More from FineWoodworking.com:
- Chris Becksvoort’s How to Build a Shaker Dining Table
- Building a Sleigh Bed
- The Pencil Post Bed
- Arts and Crafts Bed