Gather Willow Branches to Make a Homemade Bed Frame

Gather willow branches to make a homemade bed frame, includes detailed instructions, diagrams and materials list to build this classic bed frame.


| April/May 1997



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Once you have a feel for bending willow, you can have the satisfaction of constructing something a bit more grand, such as this rustic double bed.

PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Build a classic bed frame from gathered willow branches to make a homemade bed frame for your homestead. (See the willow bed frame diagrams in the image gallery.)

My Labrador and I have gone out to gather willows from our willow patch in every season. Rain or shine, we get together a sack lunch, boots, insect repellent, a saw, and pruning shears, and head for the patch. Here in Wyoming, one of the most abundant willows is called sandbar willow, and we find it growing in river bottoms, along irrigation ditches, and in areas with fluctuating water levels. Every trip offers a new adventure. During the spring and summer months, deer and upland game birds find a comfortable bed within the shade of the willows. As we selectively cut, we open new trails for these deer to follow. My most memorable wildlife encounters throughout the years have been with shade-seeking prairie rattlesnakes, skunks, and (my dog's least favorite) the porcupine family. Summer outings may also include waist-high damp grasses, a haven for mosquitoes, and other flying, biting pests. Now you know the reason for the boots and insect repellent.

Many species of willows grow in bottom lands throughout the U.S. Most willows readily re-sprout, making them a renewable resource, and offer a unique building material. When green or freshly cut, they are very pliable and can be bent to form artistic curves. Larger diameter pieces will dry into sturdy frames. I started working with willow by constructing relatively simple projects like plant stands and shelves. Once you have a feel for bending willow, you can have the satisfaction of gathering willow branches to make a homemade bed frame and constructing something a bit more grand, such as this rustic double bed. I'll walk you through it.

First of all, when gathering in the late spring or early summer, let the materials sit a week or two prior to use. You'll find a lot of moisture between the bark and inner core during these growing periods. Without some drying time, the bark may split while bending. This rule does not apply to the larger diameter pieces used for the frames. You won't be bending these frame willows, so you can use them immediately, or cut and store them.

Select insect-free pieces that appear healthy. The straighter the willow, the easier it will be to build with. When making your cuts in the field, take care not to leave any sharp edges or points to injure wildlife or livestock. And, as always, when you take from nature, do so sparingly and responsibly. If you completely clear your willow patch, you'll change a small ecosystem for the worse. You must also make sure you have permission to gather willows if you are venturing off your own land to find them.

WILLOW BED FRAME BUILDING TIPS

To minimize splitting and cracking of wood, it's important to drill pilot holes before nailing or screwing. A pilot hole is a hole drilled slightly smaller and longer than the nail or screw to be inserted.





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