Side Rails for Your Antique Iron Bed
September 5th, 2012

What do you do if your antique iron bed doesn’t have a pair of side rails ….. or the set that came with it doesn’t fit? Usually I’d tell an inquiry with such a dilemma that their goose is cooked. But in fact, you do have a couple of options open to you.

Ebay has been a great resource for extra side rail sets. Go under the section “Antiques”. Then go to “Beds and Bedroom Furniture”. Then do a search for “iron bed rails”.  Expect to pay anywhere from $25. to $150. for a pair. It will depend on the dealer and also on the rarity of the particular pair of rails. Some are more prolific and common than others. There are people in this world that will collect every and anything……..even old antique iron side rails. Lucky for those who are in need of a set that there are such people.

Because iron beds side rails were not universal, the likelihood of you finding a pair that fits your bed isn’t a good bet. But…….if you can manage to find a pair that’s larger than the opening of the cast iron “hitch”, your bed happens to have…….. you can grind it down to size.

To do so, you’re going to need an electric rotary grinder. The aren’t expensive and if you take into account how valuable your head and foot board are, and what they’ll be worth if you get a set of side rails to complete them, it’s a real drop in the bucket and well worth whatever the grinder costs you.

Get yourself a heavy duty pair of gloves. If you’ve never done this before, you’re going to want the protection.

Know going into this, that you’re going to need to take your time and continually  keep fitting the side rail into the hitch……to see your progress.

Now slip the side rail down  into the hitch to see how much bigger the end o the side rail is and where it appears to be hitting and touching first…….Thats  obviously  where you’re going want to start to grind away. But remember……..less is more. Never do a lot at one time…… alway small amounts

If you go overboard with your ginding, you rails will be loose and your head and footboard will wave in the wind.  Quite disconcerting.

It helps if you spray some white paint on the inside of the “hitch”. Then everytime you test the fit of the side rail into the “hitch”, the place that it is still needs grinding will rub off a little of that white paint on the end of the rail…….that will tell you were to continue grinding. Remember…….grind small amounts off the end of the rail and continue to fit the rail into the “hitch” to see if you’re grinding is allowing it to settle down in better. This process can take time. So don’t get frustrated. Take your time.

The trick is to continue to keep trying the fit of the side rail after you’ve done a small amount of grinding. Patience…………….

Eventually the top of your side rail should be flush with the top of the “hitch”. If done properly your side rail will be good and tight.

A word of caution: Do not attempt to force the end of the side rail into the “hitch” with the use of a hammer. Because the cast iron end on the side rail is between 150 to 200 years old, it may be “brittle” and crack if hit.

Best of luck with finding antique iron beds side rails. Then best of luck getting them to fit properly.

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