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Building a Rustic Outdoor Bed

John and Jimmy DiResta bring the comforts of home to the great outdoors when they build a king-size Adirondack-style bed frame. They start with 8-foot white birch logs and use special tools and techniques to notch and peg the birch.


25 to 30 raw, unpeeled birch posts ranging in thickness from 2 to 4" and in length from 8 to 10'
One 1" dual-steel-blade tenon cutter (*Requires a 1/2" chuck drill with a minimum of 7 amps and a maximum of 700 RPMs. The 1" tenon is for posts up to 2-1/2".)
One 1-1/2" dual-steel-blade tenon cutter (*Requires a 1/2" chuck drill with a minimum of 7 amps and a maximum of 700 RPMs. The 1.5" tenon is for posts up to 3".)
One king-size mattress and box spring
One spool of off-white thread
Five yards of off-white burlap canvas (used for upholstery)
Five yards of furniture batting
20-square-feet of 1" high-density foam rubber
10 pine 2x4s
Two 8-foot, 8-inch wide 3/4" oak planks
Three sheets of 4x8 3/4" birch plywood
One sheet of 4x8 1/2" birch plywood


drill with 1/2" chuck, minimum of 7 amps, maximum 700 rpms
ratchet straps
thick rope
chop saw
band saw
table saw
measuring tape
sewing machine

Figure B


1. The headboard and footboard are constructed using a mortise and tenon method. Create pegs on the ends of the posts using the 1" and 1-1/2 dual-blade tenon cutter mounted on a drill (figure A).

2. Drill properly sized holes into the accepting post to fit in the peg. As you begin to notch the posts, use screws, ratchet straps or thick rope to clamp the posts together. Use a mallet to secure posts, and a saw to trim pegs. Screw posts into place (figure B).

3. To create the two side-rails connecting the headboard and footboard (one on either side), cut the 3/4-inch oak planks with a chop saw to fit between the corner posts. On one side of the planks, running the length, cut 2-inch thick birch posts half length-wise using a band saw. Screw the birch into place.

4. Use braces at either end of the rails to attach the side-rails to the head and footboards (on the non-birch side). Take the pine 2x4 and cut a triangular chunk of wood that lines up with the edge of the oak plank and protrudes 2-3 inches and slopes down toward the plank 1 to 1-1/2 inches. Use three screws to connect the protruding portion of the brace to the corner post.

Figure E

5. Take the burlap canvas and cut 36 9-inch squares with a razor and a straightedge: 27 of the squares will be exposed within the headboard in a 9x3-foot grid. Sew the squares together into a 9x4 grid using an off-white thread (figure C).

6. Place a fitting piece of high-density foam on a 24x72-inch piece of 1/2-inch plywood and top with some upholstery batting. Wrap the canvas around the batting and staple into the back (figure D). Work from the center to the corners to prevent wrinkles. Use screws and staples to attach the cushioned canvas.

7. To create the frame of the platform, use pine 2 x 4s to construct two pieces parallel to the side rails (one under the rail, one at the middle of the bed) and four pieces parallel to the headboard (one under the footboard, one under the headboard and the two others equally spaced across the middle portion of the bed). The six pieces of pine, in total, make up one frame of the platform. The two frames meet in the center of the bed (figure E). Each frame of the platform is about 3-1/2 feet wide to create the 80-inch width. Screw it into place.

8. Cover the two platform frames with 1/2-inch birch plywood, using a table saw to cut them. Use two equal plywood sheets for each frame. Screw everything into place.

9. Use a chop saw to cut small legs from pine 2x4s to fit from the bottom of the platform frame to the floor. They should be 6 to 8-inches high. Use at least 8 legs (4 for each platform frame) to support the weight. Screw them into place.

Figure G

Dimensions for Birch Ends:

  • The birch posts will vary in straightness and length, and natural materials are subject to variability (figure F).
  • The headboard contains two 3-1/2 to 4-inch corner posts and four 2-1/2 to 3-inch horizontal posts (working from the bottom up): one that is 10 inches from the bottom, then a 12-1/2 inch space, then another post, then a 24-inch gap (for the cushion), then another post (figure G).
  • Leave a 12-inch gap, then another post. Between the top two horizontal posts space nine 2 to 2-1/2 inch thick vertical posts 6 inches apart.
  • The footboard contains two 3-1/2 to 4-inch corner posts and three 2-1/2 to 3-inch horizontal posts (from the bottom up): one that is 5 to 6 inches from the bottom, then a 7 to 8-inch gap, then another post, then a 20 to 24-inch gap, then another post.
  • Place nine 2 to 2-1/2 inch thick vertical posts between the top two horizontal posts. Space them about 6 inches apart.
  • The four corner posts are 7-feet tall. The overall length and width are 80 inches by 80 inches.

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