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Ideas from Ed: A Bedtime Story (Volume 7, issue 5)

I “kind of” remember when I was just a little kid that my cousin Sonny and I were jumping on Aunt Helen’s bed and having all sorts of trampoline fun.  Aunt Helen reminded me many times as I grew up that I broke her bed with the bouncing.  I don’t know exactly what broke, but Uncle Joe was quite the handyman and apparently fixed it.


This month I’m showcasing repairs to a bed that an acquaintance broke.  She says all she did was sit on it to read a book and it gave way.  (That’s her story, anyway, and she’s sticking to it!)


Most often, a bed repair is replacing or at least re-inserting one of the wooden cross-slats that span the space between the side rails, under the box spring.  Those often break or shift out of position and fall out.  I’ve even been known to drive screws through them to hold them in place if they are ones that tend to slip out easily.  The repair I’m tackling now, though, is a bit more challenging.  One of the side rails itself has broken through the anchor point on the headboard post.  See the picture below.  The flat board in the photo is NOT the side rail, but a crossmember between the headboard posts.  The side rail would protrude outward from the photo at a right angle to the back crossmember. 

The side rails have 2 thin “hooks” protruding from them.  The headboard post should have 2 metal pegs inserted through it. The rail hooks slip into one of the vertical slots on the headboard (and footboard) and let the side rail “hang” from the posts.  Not all headboards have dual slots, but having them allows you to slightly modify the width of the bed frame to accommodate the particular box spring/mattress you’re using.  As can be surmised from examining this damaged post, the outermost slot was used.  When the post wood broke, the metal peg on the bottom fell out and the top one dislodged from its position, allowing the hooks to slip out and the bed to come crashing down on one side.


I originally hoped to completely rebuild the bottom of the post, but reasoned that if the pegs were installed in a fashion that could support the weight and the post re-glued together, the post would be functional with a minimum of effort.


The first thing I did was clean the pegs.  It just seemed like the right thing to do, given that they had a slightly rusty coating.  I used my invaluable brass wire wheel and buffed them clean in less than one minute.

I took note that the inside of the holes which support the pegs were pretty solid.  Because the outer slots were used, the downward leverage had damaged the outer slot and the receiving holes for that end of the pegs.  I then had the idea, right or wrong, to anchor the pegs in place.  I drilled small holes through each one so that a headless nail could be hammered through into solid wood.  Thus, each peg would be supported on the strong inner hole, in the center with the nail, and just a bit by the damaged outer hole.  (I did use a small drill bit, turned by hand, to slightly deepen each outer hole so as to engage the pegs just a little more.)  A nail has a surprising amount of shear strength, and with the broken wood re-glued (perhaps with a few nails and screws) I figured that the repair would be strong.


I used a V-block to hold each peg while I used a prick punch to indent where the hole would go, allowing the drill bit somewhere to “bite” without slipping off of a rounded surface.

Here’s the upper peg inserted and ready to nail into place:

I nailed each peg, and used a small paintbrush to spread wood glue into the crack in the post where the wood was starting to split.  I used a clamp to hold things tight while the glue dried.

I drove (after pre-drilling) finishing nails through the outer post section, just below the pegs, to give additional support to the downward force that the rails and bed weight would exert.  I could have drilled through the outer ends of each peg (and maybe should have) and driven the nails through instead of below.

When I glued the broken center post section back in, I used a super-strong adhesive, and inserted additional  nails not only to hold the piece tight while the glue set but to also add additional points of support.  Note those nails are directly below the pegs.  I also used a screw to help hold things tight.

Once the side rail is attached, 98% of this work will be covered over and invisible.  It could easily be scuff-sanded and re-stained.  I’ll leave that for another day, after testing this for a while to be sure it’s strong enough. 


I hope all your projects go well.  Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!




If you’d like to download a PDF of this “Ideas” column, click here:

Ideas from Ed 2024_July_a_bedtime_story
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