Most young girls have heard of an American Girl Doll or even own one and once purchased the inevitable catalog will find its way to your mail box. This is what happens in our household and of course our daughter likes to see what new clothing and furniture is available. She always gravitates to the beds and bedding and once asked “What do you like,” she replies, “An American Girl Doll bed,” so that Julie had somewhere to sleep. Julie is her American Girl Doll, so my first step was to check the website and find out what price we were looking at and if there were by any chance, a sale going on. Further research showed the price was in the range of $125.00 with bedding, I liked what I saw but I felt that the quality, though good, was very basic, and for me a nice woodworking project!
I said to my daughter, “Would you be interested if I made the bed for Julie?” And with a sparkle in her eye she said “Only if it is can be like my bed!” I already had the basic sizes that were given in the catalog to give me a general feel for what I was taking on, but I decided to measure my daughters bed anyway, to compare sizes. The bed in quarter scale came very close to the manufactured beds in the catalog so using these two sets of dimensions I set out to find suitable wood to start the project.
I had various off-cuts of light colored timber such as Maple, Birch and Bass wood which I use in my Lovespoon carving so using pieces of this made perfect sense. It would be a little more labor intensive to cut the strips to the thicknesses required on the bandsaw but I was in no hurry. The scale required thicknesses of 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ and these strips could be glued together to form wider boards as required. I know that 3/8″ and 1/2″ boards can be purchase from Home Depot in Poplar, Birch and Red Oak so if you decide that this is a challenge for you, you don’t have to go through the process of gluing strips together, just purchase it instead.
I decided I was going to make this scale bed with just wood, glue and wood dowels, I didn’t want to use any nails and screws because being so light weight and fragile, splitting could be an issue.
I had pre-planed Maple that was 3/4″ thick and cutting 1/4″ strips off and sanding would take some time but this was the task I had set myself. The base would consist of side rails 1 1/4″ x 21 1/2″ long and have an overall width of 13″. Each rail would have a stringer to support the crossmembers, and each crossmember would be pre-drill at each end to accept a 1/8″ wood dowel. The seventeen stringers were placed evenly along the length of the side rails, glued in place and left to dry. Later the hole in each stringer was drilled through the side rail support and dowels glued in place. Once the glue had set I was able to trim the excess dowel flush with the crossmembers giving a ridged framework that would be the carrier for the mattress.
The finished frame would be stained and coated with a polyurethane finish to give it a furniture finished look and this would be done when I have completed the head board and tail board and after final assembly.
The next part of the project was to build the head board and tail board. They both required inset panels with a round top head rail, for this I would use 3/4″ dowel rod.
The main inset panels were to be made from 1/4″ Maple that I had, I decided to scribe each of the two panels with 1/2″ spaced lines with a marking gauge to represent boards that had been placed together. This would give the headboard and tailboard a more realistic look once stained without the added labor of gluing strips together.
As you can see from the image of the footboard I have used several different kinds of wood that I had available. The insets were Maple, the top and bottom rails were Birch, the dowel rod was Beech and the two legs were Maple. The dowel rod had a flat sanded to create a face for the top rail to set against giving it a snug fit. All of the parts were pre-drilled with a 1/8″ drill bit before gluing together so that I could then drill the mating part after the glue had dried to accept the 1/8″ dowel rod to give additional strength. As you can see from the image, the legs have two drilled holes in each of them ready to mate against the base frame when gluing time comes.
This pre-drilling helps to avoid any mismatch through drilling parts together when loose, pre-drilling one half of the butt joint, then gluing, helps guide the drill into the mating part, giving it a clean joint every time.
The footboard shows the inset panels and the dowel rod that makes up the top rail. As you can see the rail is slightly offset to give the footboard more dimension. The detail of the footboard covers one of the dowels that secures the top rail in place and as you can see the other dowels used to hold the center panel are in full veiw.
The detail is represented by a flower that is carved from 1/8″ thick Bass wood. To achieve this thin material I used double sided tape to stick the piece to a more manageable piece of wood before cutting and sanding to size. This method helps to reduce injuries from cutting and sanding with power tools and helps hold the delicate piece while the carving takes place.
Once again, you can see from the headboard the various types of wood I have used, the headboard is taller that the footboard but of the same design. The same methods have been adopted, pre-drill, glue into position, drill and dowel. The finished panel is strong and light weight ready for final assembly.
I did try to fill some of the scars left from the planer that ripped up some of the uneven grain. As you can see it did not quiet match the color and eventhough it had been sanded to match the surface of the wood it left a reddish residue after. You can just make out the scribe lines from the marking gauge on the inset panels and once I stain and coat with polyurethane these should stand out giving the effect of tongue and groove boards.
The next part of the process is to assembly all the finished panels and to glue and clamp the base frame to the head and foot boards, for this I will have to make a cradle to support the base frame in position while the glue sets. This will be covered by American Girl Doll Bed Assembly