It’s Simply Better in the CountryComments (0)
By Kerry Pierce
Those big beautiful beds from the 18th and 19th centuries easily dominated the big bedrooms they occupied. For today’s homes with smaller bedrooms, this country bed retains all the appeal of its ancestors, but in a size more fitting.
Bedrooms in 18th- and 19th-century homes were often quite large, with ceilings sometimes reaching 10'. They were appropriate settings for the also-quite-large four-post beds of the period. But contemporary bedrooms are smaller with typical ceiling heights of 8' or less. Contemporary homes are, therefore, less comfortable settings for grand period beds or even country four-posters.
Our bedroom is even smaller than most. It measures 11' x 12' with 7'3" ceilings, so when my wife expressed a desire for a four-post bed, I realized I’d have to design one with relatively modest dimensions.
We looked through some furniture books. I did a little sketching, and we settled on a fully turned post with a country feel rather than a period flavor, one embellished by a simple arrangement of beads, coves and vases.
The problem with turned posts is that most modestly priced lathes have only a modest distance between centers, usually 36". Our small four-poster would require longer posts than that.
This was a problem I had already solved because many of the chairs that make up most of my business have back posts between 40" and 46". Years ago, when I went shopping for my first – and only – lathe, I bought one that accommodated an extra mounting foot for the lathe’s tubular bed. I then built a lathe stand that put the tailstock of my lathe almost 48" from the headstock. To do this, I had to pull the bed tube from its mortise in the headstock assembly and mount the headstock end of the bed on the extra mounting foot. If you look at Fig. 1, you’ll see what I mean.
If you’re interested in building this four-post bed, put some thought into how you might lengthen the bed on your lathe. Even if it isn’t a tubular-bed lathe like mine, it’s likely that there are techniques you can employ.
Plus, the posts on this particular piece of furniture are designed so that turners with access to only short-bed lathes can still produce these posts by turning them in two segments and joining them with a 3/4" turned tenon in the top of one segment which will fit into a 3/4" mortise drilled into the bottom of the other. (See the drawing on page 41 for details.) This two-part construction works well with these posts, because all the joinery is cut into the bottom portion of the post below the location of the mortise-and-tenon joint. As a result, the mortise-and-tenon joint isn’t load-bearing.
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