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The challenge & solution of a personalised oak 4-poster bed

How do you get this beautiful hand carved English made oak four poster bed, into one of the guest rooms of this wonderful 13th century Sussex manor house?

Hand carved 16th century style oak four poster bed brought up narrow spiral staircase

It's easy we hear you say, it all comes apart. Quite correct. In fact, they always did, even in the 1400's. But coming apart into normally manageable pieces is one thing, getting those components up a very tight spiral stairs is quite another.

The Challenge

Oak spiral staircase in 13th century Sussex manor house

Of course the bed could be made so it comes completely apart, in much the same way as it was before being assembled in the workshop, right down each linenfold panel, for example. Although not impossible, that option is rather impractical. 

What we normally do, is separate the posts from the surrounding framework. The side and end mattress rails shouldn't pose any problems, but you still have to be careful with the larger area panelled sections. The tester ceiling we usually split in half and the headboard panelled part normally separates away from the long horizontal pillow panel and lower rail. This leaves three large panelled sections which, under most circumstances, we can successfully negotiate around most domestic obstructions. 

However, tight oak spiral staircases, like the above, are not normal domestic obstructions.

So, to make sure we don't end up with a possible embarrassing situation, we worked out the size of the largest panelled section, made a mock up (a sheet of chipboard will do) and tested it (or get it tested if too far away) on site. In this particular case, the largest section was the headboard panelling, as it usually is, and no, it wouldn't go up the stairs!

The Solution

The fact is, it did almost go, but needed to be just a shade smaller. Here's how we did it. We made the both the top rail and bottom rail of the panelling to each be in two parts, but in such a way that it was impossible to detect the join once assembled. The split was made right at the edge of the moulded part of the two rails. See the following diagrams and photos.

Working drawings of oak four poster bed headboard components
Cad drawing showing the normally one piece panelled headboard section split into three components. The bulk of the top rail is separate from the narrow remaining part, which is permanently mortised and tenoned into the main panelled section. This is repeated for the bottom rail.

Detail of hidden joints in 16th century style oak four poster bed headboard
Cad drawing showing the tongue and groove joint between the two sections of top rail and bottom rail, with the split occurring right at the edge of the moulded section, making it impossible to spot, when assembled.

The Skill 

The following photographs show how the headboard assembly breaks down into five sections. When they're all bolted together, the narrow tenons of the rails attached to the panelled section, are trapped by the main rails, in the post mortise holes. 

Hand carved oak four poster bed headboard assembly
All five components of the headboard assembly can be easily maneuvered up around the spiral staircase. Just to make sure, before anything was made, we tested the re-sized chipboard mock-up on site. This time success!

Disguised lower frame joint on hand carved four poster bed headboard assembly

Disguised upper frame joint on hand carved four poster bed headboard assembly
See how the joint is disguised on both rails, and how the narrow tenon is trapped by the larger one, once it's in the post mortise hole and bolted up securely.


The rather out of place and too narrow Victorian 'Tudor Revival' bed, which our client wanted to replace with something more befitting this stunning stone windowed and oak beamed guest bedroom.

The Result

Below is the complete bed, successfully carried up the tight staircase and assembled here in the guest bedroom. The 14th century style bespoke oak chest was also commissioned by our client, to store the metal window shutters, when not in use.

Four poster bed and oak chest in 13th century Sussex manor house

To see the full size photos, in our 'Inspiration' collection, click:
Tudor style oak four poster bed in 13th century manor house and
15th and 16th century style oak furniture in manor house

To view the bed on our product pages, with dimensions, options more photos and prices, click: 
Four poster bed early Tudor style

The Personal Touch

As well as clever technical and workshop solutions, we love to add the personal touch wherever possible. In this magnificent manor house, we found a host of details that we could incorporate into the bed, making it unique to our clients home.

Carving details, including those unique to our client, for our Tudor style oak four poster bed
Details for our highly skilled master carver to incorporate onto the square knops on the four posts of the bed (yes, this bed genuinely has four identifiable posts). Some of the devices were captured from architectural details around the house and the remaining ones are Medieval woodworking details taken from our own reference books.

Tudor style oak four poster bed  headboard post carvings
How some of the designs were transposed on to the headboard posts.

For a geographical personal touch, we came across a symbol relating to the local church and reproduced it on the headboard top rail. You can see more detail photos of this bed and close up photos of numerous other pieces we've made for clients all over the world, here: Period style oak furniture up close.

Personalised carved headboard symbol
Subtle local church symbol on the linenfold carved bed headboard, with parchemin panelled tester ceiling above.

After seeing this example of the Personal Touch, why not Get In Touch!

To discuss a special period style piece you have in mind, or a particular challenge that requires our expertise (or both for that matter), do get in touch.


All our prices include VAT and free mainland England delivery.   Details here of our UK and overseas delivery service

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