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  • Fred

The most complicated pieces of the most complicated thing I've ever built.

That's a long title, but it sums up the pieces in the photo. What you're looking at are the bed side rails for a Murphy bed that my brother-in-law has commissioned me to build.

I've never built anything quite this large (well, the lean-to doesn't count -- that's construction, this is furniture). The side rails have several things that make them really complicated. Quite frankly, they were a joy to build. I love a good challenge and am very happy when I come out on top.

The shape of the rails themselves is a bit of a challenge. It's a long rectangle (simple) with a specific radius curve on the end (not so simple). In this case, the curve is 3 1/8 inches in radius and must smoothly transition from the top to the side. Remember, this is furniture, so I can't just grab a jigsaw and have at it (well, I could, but that's NOT going to be perfectly round).

What I did was build a pattern out of a piece of scrap that I had laying around the shop. I drew the radius using a compass left over from high school (or perhaps a careless navigator left it on his station and I made off with it). I cut just outside the line with the aforementioned jigsaw. I then took my trusty random orbital sander and carefully, carefully snuck up on the line until I had the perfect radius.

Now that I had a pattern, I could copy it using a flush trim router bit. To do this, I traced the pattern onto my final piece, grabbed that jigsaw and again cut it outside of the line. Believe me, there's NO WAY it would have looked good if I had tried to just cut it on the line. My rough cut was ROUGH. Now, I clamped the two pieces together and used the pattern to replicate the curve on the final side rail.

The way a flush cut bit works is there's a cutting bit that spins super fast, but on one end or both ends of the bit there's a bearing like an inline skate bearing that sits exactly flush with the cutter head. You set the depth of the bit on your router so that the bearing rides on the pattern while the cutter does its work in the final piece. The other great thing about using a pattern is that both pieces came out EXACTLY the same. Even if I was off a little bit, it looks like I'm right on.

This radius will be clearly visible when the bed is in the sleeping position (as opposed to the stored in the cabinet position), so I needed to cover up that unsightly plywood edge. To do this, I ripped some thin strips of maple on the table saw. Thin is an understatement. This needed to be thin enough to curve around that radius, but thick enough to not just get sanded through when finishing the piece. You can see my fancy clamping method in the picture. I found that there's just enough springiness in blue painter's tape to provide tension while gluing edge banding to a workpiece.

So, that was the fun part of the bed (there were other fun parts, but this was the best). I also got to drill some holes and stuff in that piece. Not quite as fun, but fun nonetheless.

This vision belonged to my brother-in-law, but I like to borrow it and try to advance the ball down the field to making it a reality.

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