Easy-to-Build Sleigh Bed


Rachel turned 3 this fall, and as much as I hate to admit it, has outgrown her crib. (She probably outgrew it a year earlier, but we couldn’t live without her naps just yet. Without a crib, we worried she wouldn’t stay in bed for very long. I digress, sorry.) So for Christmas, I made her a sleigh bed.

The hardest part was deciding upon a design. I scoured the internet looking for ideas. I found a lot of examples, and in the end, created my own. Once I conceptualized the design, the next most difficult process was figuring out the measurements.

The building of the bed was fairly easy.

Here’s the material list:

  • 2″x6″x8′ (2)
  • 1″x”6″x8′ (3)
  • 1″x2″x8′ (4)
  • 1 sheet of 4×8 birch plywood
  • 5″ bolts, with nuts (8 each)

To put the material list into perspective, I spent double for the mattress than I did for the rest of the bed!

Building the Sleigh Bed

Disclaimer: I should first warn you that the directions here are purposefully sparse. If I were writing this professionally, then I would spend a lot more time detailing out all of the steps properly. Since I am maintaining Woodplay as a hobby, I cannot afford to spend that amount of time and still get everything else done. Instead, I try to give a basic overview with hopes it will be enough to figure out the rest by yourself, which I usually prefer when woodworking anyway. Good luck!

I started by cutting out the posts. I drew a pattern on construction paper. To draw the curves, I grabbed a mixing bowl and traced parts of it. Once satisfied the design looked right, I transferred it onto the 2×6 posts and then cut each out. The same pattern worked for both sizes of posts since the taller posts just have about 6 more inches of straight edge. The posts required some sanding with an oscillating sander to straighten out the cuts.

The main body of the head and foot boards were next. I cut the plywood at 37″ wide by 36″ tall for the headboard and 37″ wide by 30 1/4″ tall for the footboard. I then drew a new pattern on construction paper and used it as a guide to cut out the decorative bottoms. Most examples I saw of sleigh beds used a separate board for the decorative detail on the bottom of the headboard and footboard. To me, that seemed problematic and prone to break away, especially when one takes into account an energetic kid jumping on the bed. My design is more solid, but the detail can look nice too.

For the next step, I cut 2 pieces at 1x6x37″ for the cross rails, and beveled one edge of each at 30º. This edge gives the bed the “sleigh” look. I secured the cross rails to the plywood using biscuits and glue.

I attached the main body of the head and foot boards to their corresponding posts by drilling holes into the posts and then driving screws into the plywood and cross rails. To hide the holes, I drove plugs into the cavities.

I cut the side rails at 75″. I then nailed a 1×2 along the inside bottom edge of each, which I then used to brace the three slats that would hold up the mattress. The slats were made out of the same 1×2 and cut to 39″ each. I drilled pilot holes into the posts and then attached the side rails to the posts using the 5″ bolts. (To make room for the nuts, I drilled 1″ diameter holes into the inside of the rails.) By using bolts, I can then disassemble and reassemble the bed whenever needed.

To add further stability, I grabbed a leftover sheet of OSB and cut it to 75×35 inches. The OSB rests on top of the slates and under the mattress.

The Charm Is In the Details

There are several nice details to this bed. The posts have small toe kicks notched out of the bottoms and a small indent opposite of the main curves. The headboard and footboard have a pretty design carved into them. The crowning detail is the antique painting effect Sarah and Elsa did. Nice job, girls.

Not Without Its Challenges

A major accomplishment for me was that I built this bed using a limited supply of tools. I couldn’t build it in my shop, er garage, because I didn’t want Rachel to see and spoil the surprise, so the next best option was my dad’s basement. That meant I couldn’t use any of the big tools like a bandsaw or tablesaw. Instead, I relied upon a circular saw and jigsaw for the majority of the work. And if you are wondering, yes, the jigsaw chocked trying to cut 2x material…yet somehow it managed.


To view my crude plans of the bed, click here.


~ by Clearwater Hackle on December 27, 2007.

One Response to “Easy-to-Build Sleigh Bed”

  1. We put a big bow on it to surprise her Christmas morning. She got so excited she that at one point she bounced herself off the bed. Fortunately the newness has worn off and while she still loves the bed, she’s not quite as dangerous on it. 🙂

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