completing my cherry bed - what to do?

Hello all, I have completed all cutting and shaping steps on my bed and am ready to sand, finish, and assemble the bed- not necessarilly in that order. The head and foot boards each comprise 17 slats, mortise and tenoned into upper and lower rails plus the headboard contains a stretcher. The slats fit snuggly into the mortises and are equally spaced (no mismatches) and the rails and stretcher are tenoned into the posts. Sanding all is my first step but I can't decide if I want to install the slats without glue - requiring me to finish first - or glue them in and finish the completed bed. Also, I am undecided on how to finish the bed. It is unstained Cherry, both highly figured (all rails) and straight grain (posts and slats). Our house is not airconditioned and we use wood heat. I do not know if these factors are important to what finish I apply but I thought I would mention it. All advice is welcome. Thanks in advance, Marc
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Sounds like the woodsmith magazine cherry bed plans from about 1997 or so. When I built mine, I finished the slats prior to assembly, and of course left them loose. This also means finished the cove molding and tops prior to assembly as well. Remember to install the slats before gluing the top on (DAMHIKT).
Whatever you do, don't stain it! Cherry doesn't need stain. I used Danish oil followed by blonde shellac. Super easy finish and completly repairable.
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Hello Brian, Yes,it started out from that issue but I abandoned the idea of making half mortises almost immediately so I cut mortises in head and foot boards and machined up the 34 slats. (My bed barely resembles theirs, except for hardware placement and a few key dimensions) Today I dry assembled both "boards" outside and was pleasantly surprised how tight the fit is at all joints. Fininshing the slats first became evident as I went through the remaining operations in my head. Oh, and you don't have to caution me about not staining. I feel that staining good wood is worse than putting catsup on steak. You can always wash off the catsup. Thanks for your reply. Marc
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I second the oil, then shellac finish. You might try tung or BLO and various shades of shellac to get a look you like.
The shellac is tough enough for a bed and totally repairable. You can use a very light coat of shellac, use some steel wool and wax to take the glare out and have a really nice protected piece that still feels like wood.
Regarding staining, for Cherry I generally agree but I have added color using every type of stain and dye one can think of to most types of wood I've used from Pine to Oak to Cherry, Mahogany, Alder, Poplar, Maple. Maybe not on Ebony, Bubinga, Purple Heart, Lace Wood, Teak. And just like steaks come in all sorts of flavors, I've had a few that needed ketchup.
I did a Cherry and Mahogany table, sort of a federal moon with spindly little Hepplewhite legs and I dyed the whole thing to a deep brown red and rubbed it out with shellac and it was one of the best looking finishes I ever did. It looks like 200 year old Cherry.
On Jun 16, 6:46 pm, brian_j snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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Yep, I built mine from white oak, and followed the plan quite closely except for the bed rail fasteners (basically made my own). Anyway, I finished everything before assembly, with masking tape over the tenons and the ends of the slats. Then I glued everything up. I know the glue in the slats isn't structural, but I didn't want to take the chance on anything rattling at all, so I dabbed in some glue before inserting the slats. Most of my slat mortises were tight enough that they shouldn't have rattled, but I didn't want the slats to be able to move up and down, or rattle if they shrunk a bit. Overkill, probably. But it's been almost a year since I finished the bed, and it hasn't even squeaked, much less wiggled (despite my best effots...) In summary, given the number of slats, rails, and resulting inside corners, I think masking and pre-finishing was far easier than post- assembly-finishing. Good luck, and post a picture when you're done, Andy
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