Bed Report

An indepth report on wooden beds and bed making by Jim Macmillan.
Here is my guide to choosing a wooden bed that is right for you–a bed that is an investment not a liability that will need replacing in a few years.
Oh, and the one thing to look out for when shopping for a new wooden bed is the presence or otherwise of floor struts which support the center spar!
Have a peek under the bed if it has floor struts this means that:
  • The center spar is not strong enough!
  • Moving the bed will be very awkward with these struts catching the carpet!
  • If your floor is uneven then your mattress will be uneven!
  • If the manufacturers are saving on material (money) here-what else are they stinting on?
  • Do not invest in a bed that has floor struts holding the center spar up!


Sorry for showing off! The bed was fine but I did not like the way those big supporting beams were bending! Click on the picture for a closer look.
If you want to look at the video again you can find it here. Riverwood Video

How bed slats should look.

Riverwoods bed fittings–Strong enough to support the weight of a car and used in all of our beds!

Here is the Center Spar on our Nevis Bed, this one is 25x 125mm (1 x 5ins). Our other beds use 25x 100mm (1 x 4ins) spars.

Check that yours is at least 25 x 75 mm (1 x 3 ins Oak)


Most bed retailers even the high end ones will give a guarantee of one year. Great!

A bed bought directly from bed makers in the Uk will (or should have) a much better guarantee say 5-10 years. This is because we have control over what goes into our beds and how they are put together, we also have pride in our work- something that large mass production factories will lack.

Our beds carry a lifetime guarantee! This is simply because there is no component part of our beds that is ever likely to fail under normal use. This means that our customers and myself will both  sleep easy at night as I do not want to be traipsing round the country fixing broken beds!

Why buy a bed made in the UK instead of a factory made import? (Apart from the obvious reason!)

Imports from the Far East, mainly China can be of good quality, but read on. After being bought by the wholesaler your factory made bed has to be shipped thousands of miles to the UK. This is expensive and leaves a large carbon footprint. The wholesaler will then sell your bed to a retailer after usually doubling the price that it was bought for. The retailer has staff and an expensive High Street showroom to pay for so has to sell you the bed for at least double what was paid to the wholesaler. So guess who pays for all of this. Yes! its you the customer but only a fraction of your money goes on the value of the bed. A bed from us goes straight from our Glasgow workshop direct to you giving you the customer great value. Your money goes on your bed not on cumulative overheads!

First of all the Choice of wood
Let me say that there is no “wrong” wood to use in a bed construction ( as long as the wood comes from a sustainable source ) but there are certainly design considerations to be aware of when matching a particular timber to a design of bed frame.
Hardwoods such as Oak, Walnut, Beech and Ash are among the strongest of woods and perfectly suitable for bed making while soft woods like Pine are although not nearly as strong as the hardwoods mentioned are fine for making bed frames as long as certain design standards are met.Basically what this means is that Pine beds should be made using substantially larger timber sections than the same bed made in Oak.The bed you see on the left was made by me about 25 years ago, it is a Pine bed and is as good as new with no movement in the frame and totally solid.
This was achieved by 3 methods.
1. By using tried and tested traditional construction techniques.
2. By utilizing the correct size of timber for the bed frame.

3.Using properly fitted angled steel brackets for the bed fittings.

Recommended Dimensions of the Main Bed Components.For a good strong bed frame–one that you would expect to last–here are some minimum sizes to consider.1. Bed Posts:
These are the vertical timber components that support the head board and are connected to the side beams that support the mattress.
They generally range from 50 x 50mm ( 2ins x 2ins ) up to 90 x 90mm ( 3.5 ins x 3.5 ins )For a Pine bed these posts should be no less than 75 x 75 mm ( 3 ins x 3 ins )
( my old Pine bed has 100mm x 100mm posts )For an Oak or other hard wood bed these posts should be no less than 60 x 60mm
giving a support area of 60 x 60 = 3600 square millimetres.( Riverwoods Windermere bed has 45 x 150mm posts—while the Nevis has 100 x 150 posts! )

2. Main Side spars:
These are the components that support the mattress ( and you! )
Most Pine beds have spars that are woefully undersize. The ones I used on my Pine bed were 200 x 30 mm ( 8 x 1.5 ins ) and I would recommend if you are considering buying a pine bed then spar thickness of no less than 30 mm and a depth of no less than 150mm ( 6 ins ) be considered.

For an Oak bed the side spars can be smaller in section but a recommended minimum size is 25mm ( 1 ins ) wide and 150mm ( 6 ins ) deep.

The ones we use on our Oak beds are 25mm ( 1ins  )  wide and 180 mm ( 7 ins ) deep.
The Nevis bed has spars not much bigger at 33mm ( 1.5 ins ) wide and 180 mm        (7 ins ) deep and these can support the weight of a car! Please do not try this!

3. Center Spar:
Most wooden bed frames will have a center spar which supports the bed slats in the middle.—If the bed doesnt have one –walk away!
This component is not usually seen by potential customers and, as so often in the consumer world, what you do not see is where manufacturers will tend to stint on.
This center beam is important so ignore the sales person, lift up the mattress and take a look!
If it is a pine bed then you are going to need a minimum of 30 x 125mm ( 1.5 x 5ins )
If it is an Oak bed then 25 x 75mm ( 1 x 3ins ) will be Ok.
We use 25 x 100mm ( 1 x 4ins ) just to be safe!
Our Nevis bed has 25x 125mm (1 x 5ins)
Oh Dear! Some beds have center spars that need to be supported by struts to the floor—this I would not recommend!

4. Bed Slats:
This is the point where your friendly bed maker ( me! ) starts to rant and rave!
Never a week goes by when some unfortunate person arrives at my workshop clutching a broken bed slat ( not one of mine I hasten to add! ) and needs me to fix or replace it.

Pine is Fine! for bed slats ( it would be a waste of timber to use hardwood ) but you need plenty of slats and they need to be robust enough.

Check under the mattress: slats of 90mm x 20mm ( 3.5 ins x 0.75ins ) x ten will be Ok.
Our slats are 100mm x 20mm and we give you twelve of them just to be on the safe side!

Note: Many bed frames nowadays have sprung slats that is small curved slats with a bit of spring in them.
This is fine if you want to sleep on a trampoline! but mattress manufacturers design mattresses to sit on a rigid bed frame—-let the mattress do the work not the bed.
Also, these slats are very flimsy and do break. I know this because of the number of repairs I have done for people who have not read this report!

5. Bed Fittings:
Most bed fittings are one of two kinds.
a) The dowel and bolt connection.
b) The angled bracket connection.

The dowel connection is commonly used in cheaper beds and is usually two small hardwood dowels and one bolt holding the whole thing together. As you can probably guess this system is not recommended. It is not strong enough and is likely to fail!
Also you tend to get an unsightly hole in the front of the bed post where the bolt is inserted!
So for a decent bed connection go for angled  metal brackets every time—-make sure the brackets look robust enough and that the bolts go into machined threads in the bed post.

The brackets we use are specially made for us and the ones used in the Nevis bed
( which can support a the weight of a car ) are used in all of our beds!

Thats all for now and if you have any questions please drop me an e mail and I will get right back to you.

You can get me at or on Free Number 0800 068 0261

Best wishes


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