Woodworking - shortening bed legs made of mango wood?
February 4, 2021 8:48 AM   Subscribe

We just bought this bed. We had measured to confirm that we could fit the headboard through the door, but we neglected to measure the clearance of the staircase going to our master bedroom - the headboard is just barely too big to fit up the staircase. If we trimmed the legs by just 2 inches or so, we could get the whole thing to fit up the stairs. I have zero woodworking experience - is it a bad idea to try cutting the legs myself?

There are a lot of posts online about trimming Ikea beds with a handsaw, the only difference here is that the bed is made of heavier mango wood. In this video, a guy uses a double-edged pull saw along with some clamps and a low-edge block plane for a table, which seems like it would work? The legs that I'd be cutting are two inches thick. Are there any useful guides/important things I should know for a project like this?
posted by UncleBoomee to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd ask around for help from a woodworking friend if at all possible. This isn't a terribly difficult task, but the painted finish will be intolerant of mistakes; it will mar easily, and chips will be conspicuous.

Don't buy a block plane unless you plan to start a woodworking hobby. Expensive high-end tools excepted, new planes are effectively kits rather than functional tools.
posted by jon1270 at 9:02 AM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Looking at those pictures there's all sorts of stuff going on at the legs, you could end up with whatever facing material they've used hanging loose. But here's how I would do it:
-Wrap the legs in masking tape where you need to cut them.
-Mark cut line on at least the two outside faces.
-Using any old saw (seriously, a cheap coping saw, big rip or crosscut saw, whatever you've got handy) do your best to cut across squarely. The masking tape will keep anything that comes loose from flying away, and help stop chips where the saw exits.
-Make your cut entrance on the outside face, then any chipping is more likely to happen where it won't be seen.

Figure out cleaning up the legs once it's inside. If the cuts are nice, and it's solid wood all the way through, you might have a decent chance of joining them back together.
posted by Jobst at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

It looks like the bed frame bolts to the headboard (instead of having its own legs). Is that true?

If not - just do the think that nork889 suggests in that reddit thread. mark some lines and cut with any saw (pull saws are nice! ones with lots of tiny teeth will be easier to work with). A light scoring before cutting (with a knife) will help reduce the likelihood of an ugly cut.

If it is supporting the bed frame, you have 3 options
1) just cut the headboard legs and always sleep with your feet uphill - use trig ratios to get just the right cut for this. Much fancier.
2) cut all 4 legs (do the headboard ones first for practice because the foot of the bed will be more visible)
3) cut the headboard legs and then return them to their original length.
3a) ask someone with woodworking experience for help (unless they are a magician, this will be a visible repair), or
3b) buy some "bed lifts", and cut the legs shorter by [height of lift].

The plane in the video was about preventing chipout when sliding the table. I don't think you'll be sliding your bed often. You can accomplish the same thing with sandpaper or a hand file, and it is way simpler to do (unless you want a woodworking hobby as suggested above! It's fun!)
posted by Acari at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Planing is a real skill, and relies in sharpening and aligning the blade correctly. If you don't already use a plane, would not plan on using one for this. You can chamfer the edges of the cut pretty easily with sandpaper or a file instead. This is worth doing because it discourages the wood from chipping and catching if the bed needs moved.

Personally I have always cut legs by measuring carefully, scoring with a blade along the cut line to guide the saw (and discourage paint chipping), clamping the leg to *something* and then cutting with a handsaw. If I understand correctly, the bed is not assembled? I would be wary of trying the block trick shown in that video unless you are sure you can hold the headboard firm and absolutely upright somehow, otherwise wobble will ruin your cut.

Cutting legs is absolutely something an amateur can do, if you are slow and careful, but if you have a woodworking friend they will be much better at cutting straight.
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:30 AM on February 4, 2021

Bonus Paul Sellers telling you how to cut straight
posted by Acari at 9:33 AM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Looking closer at the bed - it seems like it has actual inlay on the legs of "faux bone" and a resin finish. That does seem like it could cause some issues cutting if bits start popping off. It will also affect the look of the bed more than on most. I would definitely find an experienced friend if you can.
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:36 AM on February 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

First, get bed risers. Then cut the headboard by exactly as much as the bed riser. Put the bed risers under the head of the headboard, don't mess around with the legs at the feet. You won't notice them at all if you have side tables and aren't looking for them. You could even paint the risers grey to match. Whoa, these 3" risers almost look perfect in "whitewood"!
posted by amanda at 9:43 AM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seems to me that you have three options. One, return the bed. Two, alter the size of the headboard. Three, alter the size of the opening where it is getting stuck. I have run into a similar issue but with a spiral staircase and a desk. At the end of the day, I was able to remove the stair railing which allowed me to rotate the desk up the stairs. I was considering making a notch in the wall which is just sheetrock. I thought it would be easier to repair the wall than to cut the desk. Sheetrock, spackle and paint are pretty easy to do compared to altering the size of a nice piece of furniture. Obviously, I do not know if this is an option, but if it is, consider it strongly.
posted by AugustWest at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the input, everyone - this is all super helpful.

One additional question then - I'd probably need to hire someone because I don't think I know any woodworkers. I'm OK with spending a little money on this because my wife is in love with the bed - any idea what a fair price would be for a task like this?
posted by UncleBoomee at 11:06 AM on February 4, 2021

A japanese style pull saw is a good idea, with the painters tape on the cut line. you could get some one by ones or two by twos at home depot, or just any scrap, and practice cutting. They would be pine and softer (probably? Confess I have not looked up your bed's wood), but you'd have some practice ! If you have a woodcraft store by you, you could not only buy the store brand of block plane there (which is not the fanciest, but would be adequate for your needs!) , but you could also get some extra advice if you need it. If you're into further wood projects the block plane might be fun ..if you're not, you could probably accomplish similar goal (presumably to chamfer the edges?) with some sand paper on a block ..the block you wrap the sandpaper around has to be made up of a material that is *harder* than the wood your bed is made of though. If you do go the block plane route practice the chamfering on your practice scrap. You can do this !
posted by elgee at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2021

Is there a large enough window in the master for the headboard to be moved in that way? Or elsewhere on that level of the house? You might be able to find a local moving company that has experience hoisting large furniture items up to the second floor. I know this doesn't directly answer the question of how to cut the legs, but if your wife loves the look of the bed, the proportions of it are part of its appearance which will change if you (or a paid professional) cut it down.
posted by danielleh at 11:40 AM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Are you sure you can't disassemble it to get it up the stairs? There are assembly instructions on the HD site. These are for the Queen size but I'd assume the King is basically the same.

Looks like you'd just need an allen wrench. Or am I misunderstanding how the staircase is limiting the headboard?
posted by macfly at 1:08 PM on February 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

Judging by the picture the head board comes off. I have NEVER worked on a bed that didn't have a detachable headboard.
posted by Max Power at 2:29 PM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a Victorian full-size headboard that's about the same height as me with its crown removed, and it was a gotdang nightmare getting it up my stairs. I can walk up the stairs no problem, but that's because I'm about 18" front to back, while the headboard is 5' tall AND 5' wide.
Anyhow, my suggestion would be to either borrow or invest in an inexpensive circular saw. It is so much easier (and quicker) to get a straight cut with a circular saw, and the price will probably be less than hiring someone to do it for you. And then you've got a circular saw, in case you ever need to do something like trim a shelf board or whatnot. The suggestions to wrap it with masking tape and cut only the headboard and then replace the missing height with bed risers are good ones. Replace the general-purpose blade with a fine-tooth one for a cleaner cut.
posted by drlith at 5:00 PM on February 4, 2021

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