April 18, 2012

Woodworker's Journal Q&A Issue 299

How to Refurbish an Heirloom Tool Chest?

I have a tool chest with all tools which my great-great-great-grandfather used as a cabinetmaker in the shipbuilding trade in England and which he brought to the U.S. in 1832 and started working as cabinetmaker in Rochester, New York, shortly thereafter. The inside of the top is inlaid with a design (marquetry, I think it is called). It is currently painted black, but it appears to have been green at one time based on some earlier paint showing through. My question is whether it would be appropriate to strip the paint off and put some kind of clear coating on the chest. This would show the wood and probably make it a better piece to have in a room in the house as opposed to a very dark piece -- it measures 44" length x 28" width x 28" height. Also, some veneer on interior top-level drawers has come loose and a few pieces are now missing -- should I have someone repair the veneer and replace missing parts like a puzzle, or leave it alone? If you have other sites for information specifically about tool chests or books related to the topic, I would be interested in knowing about them. - Bob Stiles

Tim Inman: What a prize! I'd take my time and do some homework before I did anything. Consult with professional restorers and conservators. We're actually pretty nice people, most of us, and we enjoy sharing our knowledge whenever we can. It is both good for business, and good for the material assets that draw our interest to the trades. We like to see things taken care of, and we generally like the people who are interested in doing it. Seeing the project is the only way to get and give good advice. That said, many of these chests started out life as "training samplers" in the apprentice stage of the owner's life. Building a tool chest can be an excellent training vehicle for an exercise in just about any phase of joinery, marquetry, boulle work, carving and turning. Often, the outside of these chests appears to be pretty plain and simple. They are frequently painted on the outside. Open the box, though, and on the inside it is like seeing Aladdin's cave. Fancy joints, inlays and the works. As the apprentice became more skilled, he (almost always he) pressed higher and higher with his art to show what he could do. Cabinetmaker's chests usually do not have handles on the outside. These chests lived under the cabinetmaker's bench, mostly. Carpenters and other "on-the-job" specialists had handles on their chests. I own the tool chest made and used by the German-American cabinetmaker, August Werner, of 1800's wooden helicopter fame. It is one of my prizes! The worn cupped surface of the mallets matches the mushroomed wooden handles of the chisels. They tell a story all to themselves, and I wouldn't repair one thing about them.

Judicious repairs would be my rule: structural repairs, definitely and first. Cosmetic repairs would need more thought before action. Loose and chipping veneers happen because the glue/adhesive is failing or has failed. If the adhesive problem is not addressed before repairs are made, then you've just put a Band-Aid® on the problem. Unless a skilled and qualified person does the veneer repair, it is likely that worse damage will happen during the repair than if the site were just left alone. You can learn to do this, but don't practice on this piece! Practice on scrap until you become highly proficient, and have complete confidence in what you're doing. This chest is a gem, and needs to be cleaned and polished like one, too. Don't start regrinding the facets on the emerald just yet....


To Bleach or Not to Bleach (My Floors)?

I have bought a 1915 house that is structurally sound, but it was badly abused by a previous owner who let dogs urinate on the hardwood floors and did not clean the stains. I read an article about bleaching wood in the "Finishing Secrets" Special Issue of your magazine (Winter 2011) on page 34. According to the advice given there, it seems like two-part wood bleach just might work to remove the urine stains. The man refinishing the floors says he will very lightly sand before I try to do anything to try and bleach them out. Three of the floors are 1/2-inch thick oak inlay, hence the most vulnerable. Two others are 3/4-inch quartersawn heart pine. The stains are extensive and very dark but I really want to try and "save" the old wood. It would be too costly for me to replace these floors. - Bettie Bradshaw

Tim Inman: Do NOT use two-part bleach except as a last resort solution. It is very aggressive and irreversible. It may "eat away" the wood fibers in your floor and worse. There are two issues to address here: One is color and the other is odor. Sanding should take care of staining and color problems. I live in a house made starting in 1903. Aged wood is part of the enjoyment of getting to live in an old building. We enjoy the photo developing chemical stains in my grandfather's bedroom closet. It reminds us of him as a little boy. Pets and spills -- and the evidence they leave -- are part of living in old houses. Odor is another thing, though. I don't want to smell dog and cat pee every time the humidity goes up; unless you do something, you will. I would suggest talking with your local small animal veterinarian or pet expert. There are some very fine enzyme products available to cure just what you're up against. A good "soaking" with one of these solutions prior to refinishing your old floor would be my first choice. Let the enzyme soak into the wood as far as the urine has been allowed to go in. Kill it all while you're at it. I'm just not a big fan of bleaches.


How Do I Hide the Hinge Barrel Mortise of a Rule Joint?

(Our experts asked for further clarification from this reader who had a question in the Q&A section of eZine 298, and here is his expanded explanation. - Editor) Regarding my question on the rule joint and countersunk hinges, let me explain my problem further. When I countersink the entire hinge, the notch appears at the bottom on the roundover side of the rule joint, just where I have to countersink the barrel of the hinge. How do I avoid the notch if I want to countersink the entire hinge? - Jim DiRenzo

Tim Inman: You can't. (See eZine298 for the full discussion.  Here's the link to it: )

March 9, 2011

Woodworkers Journal 270 Q & A's

Removing Rust Rings from Cast Iron?

Could someone tell me how to clean rust and rings left by someone leaving glass on my table saw? It made a real mess and no one is admitting they did it. The rust is my fault. I look forward to your eZine. Lots of tips and just plain good old advice to us wood-be woodworkers. - Bob Bean

Tim Inman: There is a pleasure in having and using a perfect, bright, shiny table top on our tools. It is often, sadly, a short-lived one. Those stains can be very very difficult to remove. A simple sanding with very fine wet-or-dry sandpaper (400- or 600-grit) will remove the roughness. A good paste waxing rubbed in with #0000 steel wool will make it slick again. But the chances are that you'll always be able to see that visual blemish. That said, I have many antique tools in my shop that aren's so much "lookers" as they are great to use. My late 1800s Crescent brand jointer is one example. It was salvaged from the Beloit Wagon Works factory, in Beloit, Wisconsin in the early 1980s. It had been relegated to a leaky storeroom and was just one huge rust bucket when I found it. It is now polished, painted, and fully functional - but the top shows the rust stains to this day. It also shows the hand scraper marks where the original top had been HAND worked flat and true; something no new tool in a wood worker's shop would show today. I wouldn't trade it for a shiny brand-new one, ever.


Anchoring a New Railing?

My son has a split-level home and the upper living room has a wrought iron railing along the stairs. I want to replace it with a walnut railing, but I’m not sure how best to anchor it so it will provide proper support and safety. Any suggestions? - John Blessing

Tim Inman: There are some very well designed commercial anchoring systems available. Rockler is one source I have used personally.You are right to want a well-anchored installation. The balustrade must be more than an ornament. It is a functional safety system which should be supported by the framing members (joists, headers, stringers, etc.) of the building whenever possible, not the facia or mop boards!


How Thick Should a Butcher Block Countertop Be?

My son has asked me to build a butcher block countertop for the new kitchen in their newly remodeled home. Will build it out of soft or hard maple. It needs to be 50" x 90". Question: on a top that large, is it appropriate to build it in 12' - 13' sections that then are glued together for the final phase? Also, how thick does the butcher block top need to be? I've seen plans that look to be about 1" or 1-1/2' thick. It has been suggested that the top should be 2" thick because of the large size. Should that contribute to the thickness of the project?- Doug Selfe

Tim Inman: One man's butcher block is another man's (or woman's) idea of just another wooden workbench top. There are differences in definition. Traditionally, a "butcher block" was made so the end grain was the working surface. This involves gluing up thousands of little blocks to get the end product on a job like yours. Expansion and contraction is the enemy, and the "force majeure." The top made this way will be stable in the vertical dimension, but it will swell and shrink like crazy in the horizontal directions. A lot, and often.

Most often, the "butcher block" countertop is actually wood pieces laid up with quarter cut wood, so the swelling and shrinking is directed more to the vertical dimension, like an old-fashioned wooden porch floor, making the counter more dimensionally stable along the horizontal dimensions.

Either way you make it, dimensional stability is your goal, and your worry. Making small workspace-sized pieces that can insert into a visually pleasing frame system that will tolerate some movement is a great idea.Whatever you do, allow for wood movement so you won't be disappointed a year or two after the installation.

February 11, 2011

Here are some Q&A's from my Woodworker's Journal Ezine replys.

Saving Spongy Wood?

I am restoring an old oak rocking chair that has been outside in the weather. I have sanded down the chair, removing the old dirty surface. The oak wood seems to be unusually soft on the surface. I plan to use spar varnish on the new surface. Is there anything special that I should do to prepare the chair for finishing? - Bill Barker

Tim Inman: That soft surface is evidence, more than likely, that the wood fibers have been broken down by the sun. Ultraviolet light and weather destroy everything. UV light attacks the lignin that holds those wood fibers together. Then, the actual cellulose of the fibers begins to decay. Water just hurries things along. Sometimes one can sand off the ruined surface and expose a nice new one to finish and enjoy. Other times, the damage is too deep. Varnish alone will not "consolidate" the surface and make it hard enough for use. There are things like epoxies and polyesters which can be used. Caution: Test first to be sure this will be right for you. The damage you're seeing is part of the history of that chair. Maybe you could keep some of the damage, and tolerate the imperfection, without doing further damage to the wood.


Sun-burned Woodworking?

The recent mention of the pyrography book reminded me of something I had read recently – solar wood burning. I can see some benefits from using the sun and a magnifying lens to burn wood, such as low operating cost and the burn point will glide effortlessly over opposing grain and other bumps or uneven surfaces. However, I am wondering if the concentrated spot of light will be damaging to eyes, and what sort of precautions may be reasonable to take before trying this. Your thoughts are appreciated. - Lance Gardner

Tim Inman: As a boy, I remember fondly learning of the energy of concentrated beams of light focused by my grandmother's magnifying glass. What power I had in my hands. The ants, however...

Yes, solar power can be concentrated to the degree needed to burn wood. Laser cutters are, after all, nothing but concentrated and highly specialized forms of light. If I were interested in doing artistic woodburning, and willing to spend the time to execute my designs, I think I would opt for either a laser, or a conventional burning knife setup. Skimping on my tools has never worked to my benefit, in the long run. It might be fun to try the solar option, though!


Right Speed for Bowl Sanding?

I have read Betty Scarpino's article on Lathe Sanding Secrets [on woodworking.com] and would like clarification on one part of it. When hand sanding a bowl, she recommends sanding at a slow speed. Can you be a bit more specific, please? 300 - 500 - 800 ? After turning a project at 1,800 rpm or better, everything to me seems slow. Appreciate your help and keep up the great work! - Gary Kostick

Tim Inman: Well, this might give everybody a headache, but let me just say two things about speed and sanding: One, sanding speed is a very personal preference based upon the operator (you), the wood type, the size and shapes of the object in question, and the results you're after.

Two, rpm gets all the press, but it is actually fpm that is more important. Here's the headache part, because math gets involved. R stands for revolutions. This is easy to measure and understand: how many times per minute does the object spin around? The answer is the same for a thimble as it is for a big punch bowl. Easy to count. But the really important issue is F, which stands for feet per minute. This varies depending upon the diameter of the object being turned. In other words, how many "feet" of wood surface actually show up to be sanded in one minute? If the object is a thimble, with a diameter of .5 inches, then the fpm would be something like 65 fpm at 500 rpm. On the other hand, if you're turning a punch bowl with a diameter of 18 inches, then the fpm would be about 2,355 feet at 500 rpm: over 35 times as much sanding surface in the same time spinning on the lathe. Considered another way, the thimble represents running a piece of sandpaper the length of your shop and back in one minute. The bowl means you need to run that same sandpaper almost half a mile in one minute!

Fpm is important to understand because not only is there more surface to sand on big projects, the faster that surface passes under the sandpaper, the hotter that sandpaper gets - and heat is ultimately what kills sandpaper and spoils good surface prep. Use the slowest speed that does the job the way you like it; that's my rule.

January 25, 2011

Here are some more of my Q & A's.  These are from Woodworkers Journal 267 

How Often to Clean Saw Blades?

I know a clean table saw blade will cut better, but I've never read anywhere how often I should clean my blades. Once a month, once a week, every other day? - Max Harnisch

Tim Inman: The best answer I can possibly give is this: Clean it when it is dirty. Without being impertinent, it is a matter of judgment and objectivity. If you're doing the finest of fine work, you're going to notice your blade needs cleaning frequently -- probably daily. If you're making chicken coops from scrap lumber, you may not notice much difference whether the blade is clean or not. Clean, sharp blades are not only a pleasure to use, they yield better work -- and they are a lot safer!


Fixing Indentations on Faux Wood?

I have refinished over 300 dining room chairs for two hotels. I learned a lot doing them and have done some other simple wood restorative projects. I have run across a very complicated challenge to repair scratch marks on a wood table that were not deep but looked more like indentations. It is the newer products being sold now that are manufactured rather than the old style of wood that is finished. I tried to do something with it but found that it is not like restoring actual wood. Usually these types of manufactured wood furniture are with a satin look and act more like resin. Is there any way to repair these types of damages? Thanks if anyone can steer me in the right direction. - Darlene Betterton

Tim Inman: If we could see a picture, it would really help. Otherwise, I feel like a blind man with no hands trying to solve your problem. So many ways, so little time...


Getting the Hang of Hanging Doors?

I have a question about mounting cabinet doors. I normally make my cabinets with full overlay doors. My problem is mounting them. Is there an easy way to hold and mount the door so you have the same 3/8" overlay all around? I mount the hinges to the door first but have difficulty holding the door to mount it to the stile and maintain the proper overlay. - Ron Bohland

Tim Inman: Here are a couple of approaches. If you're just fitting one or two, I would use a piece of old-fashioned blackboard chalk and draw a line around the opening where you want the door to be. Fit to the lines. The chalk will wipe off cleanly when you're done, and nobody will be the wiser. (Use a piece of sandpaper to "sharpen" the chalk to a nice chisel point to make your line as fine as it can be.) If you're setting a lot of doors, then it might be worth your time to make up a little jig to hold the door while you do your work. Keeping the top and/or bottom edges of the doors in a nice straight line is important. You can do this by just clamping a scrap along the bottom edge of the cabinets. Set the doors on the ledge, which will set the vertical positioning, and then align "left-to-right" as needed so you can set your hinges.

October 26, 2010

Woodworker's Journal 260 Q&A's

Q & A

Best Option for Hanging Dresser Drawers?

I've been a subscriber for over two years now and have been very pleased with your magazine. I plan on building a Craftsman style dresser using all solid wood and traditional joinery. I also plan on hand cutting the dovetail drawers. Needless to say, this project will take quite a while for me, and I want it to be as functional as it is beautiful. I like the smoothness of ball bearing slides, but I don't want see metal slides when I open a drawer.

My question is: How did they make drawers slide smoothly back then? How can I do it now while maintaining the traditional look?- Shane

Tim Inman: Shane, the way they made those
drawers slide easily was by quality construction, and
fitting them properly! When I was learning how to
build drawers, my instructor's standard was the
“one-finger push” rule. It worked like this: When I
was ready to be graded, he pulled the drawer out to
one-third of its length. Then, using only one finger,
he pushed the drawer back into place until it rested
correctly against its stops -- all the way around the
opening. The trick was that his finger pushed at all
four corners of the drawer, in turn, pushing the
drawer back into place. First, he'd push on the top
right corner. If that worked, he'd try again and push
on the bottom right corner; then top left, bottom
left, and I'd get a grade. Any resistance or binding,
and I got a ' ”do-over” and a scowl!

If the drawer fits too tightly, it will bind. If the
drawer has too much play, it will also cock off to
one side, and bind. I discovered that a piece of
cardboard from the back of a yellow legal pad gave
me about the right clearance. So, that cardboard
'”feeler gauge ” became my best friend as I constructed drawers. When I had that much space between the drawer and the sides of the cabinet guides, and when the drawer was properly waxed with a candle or beeswax, it worked every time.

How can you do it? My recommendations: Plan A: Do it just like the old masters did. Build the cabinet well, and fit the drawer properly. Plan B: there are metal ball bearing guides that fit underneath the drawer invisibly. Plan C: There are a number of polymer glides and tracking materials available that will improve the drawer operation. See Option A.

Chris Marshall: I agree with Tim. There's a lot of original Stickley furniture with drawers still being put to good use. Think of how proud you'll be to build a set of drawers with traditional supports and have them work as well as Tim points out. I would give it a "go" to build your dresser as traditionally as you can. But, if practicality is the primary motivator—and that's sometimes the wisest choice—I'd try undermount drawer slide hardware.

What Are Double Profile Doors?

What, my friends, is a double profile door? Does that mean it is just as fancy inside as it is
outside? - Jerry Fischer

Tim Inman: I'm not sure, either. I suspect it is a term of art in the kitchen cabinet marketing world to mean both the top and bottom rails of the door are shaped, or “profiled.”
Chris Marshall: You've got me there, too. Can any other eZine readers help out with this terminology?

Turning Toy Wheels?

I have been making quite a few pull and ride-on toys for my grandchildren lately. They all need wheels, which I have had to purchase, since making multiples of the same size by hand with a band saw and sanders is extremely difficult. Also, finding the larger size wheels is difficult or very costly. Can the wheels be made on a lathe and, if so, how would I do it? I have just purchased a mid-size lathe and basic tools so I am a newbie to turning -- what other accessories would I need? - Kaare G. Numme Jr.

Tim Inman: My answer is a combination approach.
I'd use the band saw and a “circle jig ” to rough cut
the wheels. There isn't a faster way to do a lot of
wheels, and make them the same size, that I know
of. If you know the axle size for your wheels, you
can set up your circle jig with an axle sized pin for
your rough cuts. Drill the wood blanks to the axle
size, then slip them over the axle pin in your circle
jig. Cut the wheel.

A side note about band saw circle jigs. The design is
common and readily available in good woodworking
books. One simple change I have made is to mount
a guide rail on the bottom to fit the miter gauge slot
in my band saw fence. This lets me slide the jig and
rough blank into the cut, much like a crosscut sled.
When my jig hits the “stop” and is firmly in position,
I can then finish cutting the circle.

Once you have your blanks roughed into true circles, then, I'd set up a wooden sacrificial faceplate system on your lathe with that axle pin
size for a mandrel. You would then be able to place the rough wheel concentrically onto the face plate, and cut the final profile and do the finish sanding, etc. If your setup is well planned, I think you could
turn out nice wheels right and left! Good luck!

October 8, 2010

Free WoodFinishing & Furniture Restorers Guide Available


Another FREE ISSUE of our magazine, WoodFinishing & Furniture
Restorers' Guide, is now available!  Volume 1, Issue 4 is yours free for the taking, no strings attached.

Get your FREE ISSUE here.

We're giving away one free sample issue each month (more or less).  Just for full disclosure, we're offering the free issues as 'Bait' to intice you to buy the whole set.  If you don't want to buy it, and if you're really patient, you can have the whole set free - eventually.  But please consider buying the set if it is helpful or interesting to you.  It's the only way we can continue to bring this kind of information to you.  Somebody's gotta help pay the bills.....

I've just posted WoodFinishing & Furniture Restorer's Guide Vol 1, Issue 4 for you. Click on the 'Articles' menu button, and you'll be ready to download it. You can download it free. It is in .pdf format, so use Adobe Acrobat, which you probably already have, and you can read it on your computer - or print your own paper copy. Vol 1, Issue 3 is no longer available for free download.

If you'd like to purchase the entire CD collection of these out-of-print issues of the little magazine we produced in the 1990's, they're ON SALE right now, and for the next week. I've taken $10.00 off the price, so the whole CD set is only $19.95, which includes FREE SHIPPING.

NEW! Now you can SAVE EVEN MORE by purchasing the DOWNLOADABLE VERSION for just $10.95 for the whole set.

So why buy the CD's? The CD set is electronically indexed so you can search for any word or topic across the entire 19 volume set. The downloadable issues are not indexed - but they're cheaper!)

Happy reading!

Tim Inman

Woodworkers Journal 259 Q&A

Is Cove-cutting on a Table Saw Safe?

I want to build coved, raised panel doors, but I do not have the equipment. I have seen several articles on the Internet where the table saw blade mills a cove on the panel's edges. This entails perpendicular movement of the panel blank across the table saw blade. I see this as a safety hazard without a blade guard, but what about the blade itself? Is it safe to use a table saw blade in this application, and can damage occur to the blade? - Don Horton

Tim Inman: This is a procedure for very highly skilled, very highly accomplished and experienced woodworkers. It can be done safely, but it is also a dangerous operation if not done correctly. Passing wood at an angle more or less “perpendicular” to the saw blade can indeed cut coves. The cut is NOT done all at once. Rather, the cove is cut by making multiple, progressively deeper passes. The exact angle determines the parabolic arch of the cove. A circular cove would indeed be passed at 90 degrees. An elliptical cove (more common) would be passed at some other angle. This operation requires shop-made auxiliary fences.

I do not recommend you attempt to make your panel door edges with this technique. If you have a number of panels to make, consider purchasing the correct tooling, or finding a friend that can help you. If you have only one or two, why not carve the coves? This isn't as difficult as you might imagine. A very sharp carving chisel or two, and some time, and you'll have your coved panels - and all your fingers left!

Chris Marshall: Don, as Tim points out, cutting coves on a table saw is definitely doable. Dialing in the correct angle of approach on the blade is what establishes the precise curvature of the cove, and that takes some mathematics or trial-and-error to get right. It's actually a pretty cool technique, and one I used to create a large picture frame in our December 2009 print issue. Take Tim's advice to heart: this is a technique that requires very shallow passes and a sturdy fence setup to execute safely, but it definitely can be done. Find a woodworking book that covers the setup process step by step, and follow it. Use a full-kerf blade for maximum stiffness. You won't bend the blade or turn your workpiece into a missile if you keep each pass limited to about 1/16 inch of material removal (or less) at a pass. Certainly, this is one of those techniques that doesn't lend itself to most typical guard styles. Use push pads and push sticks to keep your hands safely clear of the blade. Keep the wood pressed firmly down against the table at all times.


Repairing Chair Leg Joints

I have a kitchen chair with loose legs. How do I fix them? - Kenneth Belcher

Tim Inman: The very best way to repair those loose legs is to completely disassemble the chair, clean the joints, and reglue it. There are alternatives, but they have shortcomings. I'll review two alternatives. First, If the joints are not too loose, or filled with layers and layers of paint, one possible alternative is to flood the joint (very carefully!) with cyanoacrylate glue. (Super Glue is one common brand name.) I prefer a CA that is “alcohol” thinned for this, because it will find its way deep into the joint through capillary action It will take care, patience and skill -- and more than one application. It works well. (WARNING: Somewhere on the label will be the words, "Bonds Skin Instantly." They ain't kiddin'.... Be very careful.)

Another alternative is to drill a tiny hole into the bottom of the joint, and inject an adhesive using a syringe. This, too, can be effective, depending upon the joint condition, the cleanliness of the joint and the kind of glue used. It can be difficult to force the glue throughout the joint. With both these methods, the joint is never cleaned. This ultimately spells trouble.

Better, though, is suggestion Number One. Take the chair apart, and do it right the first time. Clean the old glue away, fix any broken wood, and enjoy a long-lasting repair job. One little trick I can offer is to put two small pieces of removable masking tape at each joint. Number them "1" "1", "2" "2" and so on. This helps get the exact part back in the exact location when you are ready to apply new glue and reassemble. Just match up the numbered pieces and joints - and it all comes back together like magic.

Another secret weapon I use for regluing chairs is “shrink wrap.” I think you'll find a four-inch roll available at building stores, etc. It is common. Use it to replace clamps. It works like giant rubber bands or tourniquets. Shrink wrap banding makes bar clamps pretty much obsolete for chair gluing. It is better, faster, and easier. Make multiple “turns” until you have the pressure needed. Every “lap” adds more compression force. Be sure to set the chair on a flat surface to dry. Put a weight on the seat to hold all four legs down evenly.

Chris Marshall: With all of the forces a chair must resist (tension, compression, racking) as we drag them around, plus the weight of holding people, I'm skeptical about the strength of glue joints. Sooner or later, that glue will probably fail if the chairs get hard use. You might consider pinning the tenons in their sockets with a dowel driven into the chair legs perpendicular to the tenons. At least the dowel would provide a mechanical connection to reinforce the glue joint. If the glue does give way eventually, the cross dowels will still hold the joint together. But, you'll see the dowel ends with this approach...that's the price you pay for added insurance.


Resolving a Rickety Bed Frame

I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA), and we do a lot of camping. Because neither my wife nor I can sleep on the ground without waking up in a lot of pain, I built a queen-sized bed using glued together 2x4s as corner posts (since the only 4x4s that I could find that weren’t pressure treated turned out to be rotten), side rails made out of 2x10s, head- and footboards made from 2x12s (two boards, one on top of the other to make a tall headboard), four slats topped with three-quarter-inch plywood underneath a queen-sized futon mattress. The 2x0s, the 12x12s and the 2x4s I used to make the corner posts are all of white pine.

In order to make this bed easy to take apart for transport, I used hardware that is similar to that used on beds used in the house (fingers that fit into sockets). Unfortunately, the bed was very hard to set up: it fell apart on my son several times as he tried to set it up. To try and fix this, I replaced this hardware with hinges so that I could pop the pins out when I wanted to take the bed apart. However, the bed is not as stable as I would like. Can you give me any suggestions on what I can do to make this bed more stable? We will be using the bed the end of this month on a camping trip, but I am planning on rebuilding it from the ground up this fall/winter.

Since the bed is used for outdoor camping I was also thinking of using pressure treated 4x4s for the corner posts. - John Bridges

Chris Marshall: It sounds like the hinge hardware still allows too much play when the pins are installed to keep the framework tight and stable. I would want a better solution as well. You've also tried the bed rail fasteners, but with disappointing results. I have two ideas — both for you to consider when/if the time comes to rebuild that bed. First, consider using bed bolts run through the corner posts and threading into captured nuts in the rails. Tightening up this hardware should take the "slop" out of the bed frame and still give you the knockdown convenience you want for transport. You can see a photo of those bolts here. Rockler sells them, as do other woodworking suppliers. Another option would be to connect the rails to the corner posts with long through tenons, then use a wedge tusk to lock the tenons against the back sides of the posts (think of a traditional trestle table base). This would also give you a way to disassemble the frame, but building the frame would require more sophisticated woodworking at the outset.

Tim Inman: All that lumber is overkill, John. But, if that's what you want, then you have to deal with the consequences. There is no way in my mind that much lumber can be made lighter and easier to handle. Short of building the bed on a trailer, permanently, I'm at a loss. If it is just comfort you're after, why not use a nice inflatable mattress that folds up when you're done with it?